When Is a Store Liable for a Slip and Fall in New Jersey?
We’ve certainly all taken a tumble or two in our lives, but a serious fall can create huge medical bills and pain and suffering, especially when there is head trauma, back and spinal injuries, or broken bones. When a “slip and fall” (as they are frequently referred to in personal injury lawsuits) occurs on the property of a store or other commercial establishment in New Jersey, the law may impose liability on the owner, meaning the store could be liable for a fall victim’s medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering.
Speak to an experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney as soon as possible after a slip and fall to determine your legal options, as it is often necessary to act quickly in collecting physical and eyewitness evidence to improve your chances of recovery. Here are a few broad points relating to slip and fall liability in New Jersey.
The Duty Commercial Property Owners Have to Guests
A person visiting a store or other commercial property open to the public in New Jersey is considered an “invitee.” You are considered an invitee so long as you are legally on the property (e.g. you are not trespassing after hours or going to an employees-only part of the store), and this is true whether you purchased something or not, and even if you have no intention of purchasing anything.
The legal duty that commercial property owners (as well as those who lease space) owe to invitees is to use ordinary care to prevent hazardous conditions from occurring, to make hazardous conditions safe or to provide warnings (e.g. putting a barrier and obvious signs around puddles on the ground), and to take reasonable steps to inspect the property for hazardous conditions such as spills on the ground.
Notice and Constructive Notice in New Jersey Slip and Fall Law
When the defendant or its employee in a slip and fall lawsuit causes the hazardous condition to occur – for example, a grocery store worker allows a freezer to leak fluid all over the ground – then the store should be liable if it did not clean up the spill or create adequate warnings.
But when the hazardous condition is created by another party, for example a customer who spills milk all over the floor, then the question for determining the store’s liability will be two-fold: 1) Was the defendant on notice about the dangerous condition?; and 2) If the defendant did not know about the dangerous condition, should it have known?
Because defendants will want to limit their liability, they will often try to claim they had no notice of the hazardous situation leading to the slip and fall, but the second question goes to whether there is constructive notice, again meaning it should have known.
An experienced slip and fall attorney will fully investigate the facts to make a strong showing that there was indeed constructive notice, which can be shown through a number of ways, including looking at how long the hazardous situation existed, what the store’s policies and practices were, the foreseeability of the accident occurring, and so forth.
For this reason, it is again important to contact a slip and fall attorney as soon as possible after an accident occurs to help in the process of collecting the evidence necessary to win your claim.
Call a New Jersey Slip and Fall Attorney Today
The experienced personal injury attorneys at Judd Shaw Injury Law have won over $90 million in compensation for our clients, and we are here to stand by your side as your allies and champions in winning the recovery you deserve from all potential defendants. Contact us today to speak to a personal injury attorney about your slip and fall and what our team can do to fight for maximum recovery on your behalf.