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Slip and Falls on Small Business Property

UPDATED: June 19, 2018

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If you are injured in a slip and fall accident on property owned by a small business, proving the owner is responsible will require the same fault analysis as other locations, but how insurance companies or courts interpret the situation may be different.  Although small businesses owe the same duty of care to customers as big box stores, the challenges of operating a business with fewer employees could change whether or not the business was reasonable in keeping  its premises safe from slip and fall accidents.  As with any slip and fall accident case, consulting with an experienced attorney will give you the best chance to pursue the damages you deserve.

NOTE:  A large difference between small businesses and big box stores is the post-accident process.  You will likely not have to fill out any reports or file official notices, but will need to be mindful of legal deadlines and consult an attorney with any questions.

Reasonableness and Small Businesses

A property owner is responsible for slip and fall accidents if he knew about the condition or should have known about the condition, and was responsible for the condition existing at the time of the fall.   Most slip and fall lawsuits will depend on whether or not the property owner reasonably should have known about the condition and reasonably can be considered responsible by either causing the condition or failing to cure it before an accident occurred.

When analyzing whether or not a small business is responsible for a slip and fall, it is important to determine if the store owner and employees should reasonably be held accountable for what happened.  In a big box store with several hundred employees and regular maintenance routines, it is easier to argue that a spill causing hazardous conditions should not go unnoticed.  However, in a small shop with one or two employees working, a spill or wet floor or icy walkway could easily, and reasonably, go unnoticed for an extended period of time.

Small businesses typically do not have the resources to pay close attention to the property, however, you can still pursue a slip and fall claim.  You will need to argue that the condition was one that even a small staffed shop or restaurant should have noticed and fixed before your injury.  Doing so is not always easy, and a good lawyer can be a valuable addition to your team.

Key Questions for Small Business Liability

As part of your work after a slip and fall accident  on small business property, you should ask some important questions to determine whether or not the store is liable:

  • How long had the dangerous condition existed?  Although not easy to determine exactly, a condition may have been there long enough for others to notice it before your accident.
  • What are the maintenance procedures at the business?  An attorney or an expert can help determine if those procedures should have noticed the condition, or were insufficient given the size of the shop.
  • Who caused the condition?  If an employee caused the condition, then it will be easier to argue the small business is liable.
  • If the condition was permenant or by design, were adequate measures taken to ensure safety?  If you slipped on a display in the store or tripped over a permenant hazard on the property, whether or not the business erred in its designed layout or planned safety measures is important.
  • Was lighting a problem?  Lighting is something that could cause slip and fall accidents, and a business owner should be able to recognize dangerous areas within his store.
  • What happened after the accident?  If an employee of the small business said or did anything that indicates the store knew about the condition, take note.

Depending on the circumstances of your accident, there could be other key pieces of evidence that help determine whether or not a small business is responsible for your injuries.  You can help yourself by after your accident by gathering evidence in the form of photos and witnesses to the accident.  If you have specific questions or have been injured in a slip and fall accident at a small business, consult an experienced attorney before taking action.

TIP:  Even a small business will likely be prepared to defend a lawsuit through its insurance company or an attorney, and you will likely be asked to recall the even to an adjuster or lawyer.  If you decide to speak with them, be careful about what you say as one wrong phrase can jeopardize a claim.  You can take the time to consult with an attorney before speaking with anyone about the accident.

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