Baldwin & Briscoe P.C.
301-862-4400
22335 Exploration Drive Ste. 2030
Lexington Park, MD 20653
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Baldwin & Briscoe – Experienced Slip and Fall Attorneys

          Baldwin & Briscoe’s experienced attorneys handle slip and fall cases, trip and fall cases and other varieties of premises liability cases.  Generally, a slip and fall case is where the person encounters a slippery surface, such as ice or a liquid, causing them to lose their balance.  A trip and fall case is where due to some problem with the floor, such as a raised tile, a hole, or an object left on the ground, the person trips.  Baldwin & Briscoe offers a free consultation on slip and fall and trip and fall cases involving an injury.

          Business owners and property owners can be held legally responsible when they act negligently and that negligence results in a person falling and getting injured.  In order for the property owner to be responsible for the injury, there must have been notice of the dangerous condition prior to the injury.  Property owners have a duty to correct or warn individuals about dangerous conditions on the property that they know about, or should know about.

          Falls indoors can be caused by any number of dangerous conditions, including the presence of a liquid or sticky substance on the floor or ground, wet floors, floors that are not level, torn carpeting, raised carpeting, worn carpeting, inadequate lighting, changes in the height or depth of stairs, malfunctioning escalators and the presence of objects, such as cords.  Outdoor falls can be caused by cracked or broken sidewalks, ice, snow, inadequate lighting, lack of handrails and holes or depressions in the ground.

          Any fall case, like any injury case, is going to have two major components – liability and damages.  There are two questions that need to be addressed in assessing the case.  First, did someone do something or not do something that constitutes a negligent act?  Second, what injuries or damages were proximately caused by that act of negligence? 

Liability

          Under Maryland law, a property owner must take reasonable steps to maintain the safety of their property.  Generally, to recover the injured person, i.e., the plaintiff will have to show that the property owner actually knew of the dangerous condition or that if they had been exercising reasonable care that they would have or should have known about the dangerous condition.  If a customer spills liquid in the grocery store moments before you come around the corner and slip and fall, your chances of recovery are small.  If however, a customer spills a liquid, notifies an employee, and the spill is still there three hours later when you come around the corner and fall, your chances of recovery have increased significantly.  Most cases fall somewhere in the middle.

          The general rule is that property owners, as well as their tenants must take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the premises.  Although the general rule applies to everyone, there are additional rules that may apply in particular cases. 

·         Duty owed to trespasser.  Under Maryland law, the only duty owed to a trespasser, that is someone who is on the property without permission, is to refrain from intentionally injuring the trespasser.

·         Duty owed to invitee.  An invitee is a person who is on the property for the benefit of the owner, such as a customer in a store.  The owner/occupier must use reasonable and ordinary care to see that those portions of the property which the invitee reasonably may be expected to use are safe or if not safe to give the invitee reasonable notice of the unsafe condition.

 

If the owner/occupier of a rental property sets aside a portion of the property for the common use of his tenants he owes the tenants a duty to exercise ordinary care to keep those portions of the premises in a safe condition, or if not safe, to notify the tenants of the unsafe condition.   Also further the landlord or occupier who has agreed to make repairs may be responsible for the injuries resulting from his failure to make such repairs.

 

The duty owed to an invitee cannot be delegated.  That is, while the owner can hire a third party to take care that the premises is clean and safe, the owner is ultimately responsible to the injured party if it is not.  Although the invitee is owed a higher duty of care than others, the owner is not an insurer of the invitee’s safety and there is no presumption of negligence that arises when an invitee is injured on the property.

 

·         Duty to a social guest.  A social guest is a licensee by invitation and is owed a duty of reasonable care.  A social guest must also be warned by the owner of any dangerous conditions that cannot be reasonably discovered. 

 

·         Duty owed to licensee.  A bare licensee is a person who enters the property with the owner’s permission, but for their own benefit rather than for the benefit of the owner.  No duty is owed to a bare licensee except that the owner may not wantonly or willfully injure or entrap the licensee.  Further landowner may not create new and undisclosed sources of danger without warning the licensee of their presence. 

          It is important when a slip and fall occurs that the injured party does what they can to preserve evidence of the cause.  This would include taking photographs of the substance or object that caused the fall as well as gathering names, addresses and phone numbers from anyone who witnessed the fall.  Witness statements should also be obtained at the time of the fall, because people’s memories fade quickly.

          A slip and fall or trip and fall case is a specific type of negligence case.  For more information on negligence cases, generally, click here:  http://www.baldwinbriscoe.com/sd/pgs/Negligence.aspx

          In a negligence case, the plaintiff must prove four things: (1) that the defendant owed some duty to the plaintiff; (2) that the defendant breached that duty; (3) that the defendant’s breach of the duty was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries; and (4) that the plaintiff was, in fact, injured and the extent of those injuries.

          Establishing liability for a slip and fall case is the critical first step toward recovery.  There are a number of things that the injured party or those present with the injured party can do to help establish liability.  First, it is important to take photographs of the scene, including the substance or defect which caused the fall.  Photos should also be taken of the injuries and the clothing, especially footwear, of the injured person.  These photographs can be very important evidence if the case goes to trial.

          Second, the injured party should obtain the names, telephone numbers and addresses of those who saw the fall or the dangerous condition that caused it.  These individuals may need to be subpoenaed as witnesses at some point in the future.

          Third, the injured person should speak with the property owner or manager and request that an accident report be filed.  This will ensure that important facts are not left out of the record of the event.  You should ask the manager for a copy of the accident report before you leave the scene.

          Finally, you should preserve any evidence.  If it was an object that you fell on, save the object.  You should also preserve the shoes you were wearing at the time.  If there is any substance stuck on the shoe, take photographs, and then seal the shoe, with the substance still attached in a plastic bag and tape it shut so that you will have it if needed for purposes of litigation.

Defenses to Slip and Fall/Trip and Fall Cases

          There are a variety of defenses that may be raised in slip and fall cases. 

Lack of Negligence

          The property owner or their insurance company may simply deny that they did anything wrong.  Since it is the plaintiff’s burden to prove both liability and damages, the property owner may simply wait and see if the plaintiff can prove negligence and damages in court.

Contributory Negligence

          A few states, Maryland among them, adhere to an old, rather harsh rule, known as “contributory negligence.”  In a state which has contributory negligence, if the plaintiff has contributed to the injury in any way, the plaintiff is barred from recovery.  This means that even if the plaintiff was a little bit at fault – even 1% or less – that the plaintiff cannot recovery for their injuries.  Unlike Maryland, most states have abandoned the contributory negligence doctrine in favor of some form of comparative negligence in which the plaintiff’s recovery is reduced by some percentage based on the degree to which the plaintiff is at fault.  In Maryland, the defense of contributory negligence is still available. 

Assumption of Risk

          Assumption of risk is a defense that prevents recovery where a plaintiff knowingly and voluntarily encounters a known risk.  For example, if you walk across an icy parking lot, where you can see the ice, and then slip and fall, you may not recover against the property owner.  The Maryland law holds that if you knowingly chanced it, that you have to live with the consequences and cannot hold someone else accountable.

Damages

          If you can prove liability in a slip and fall case, you are entitled to recover damages.  Damages is a general term that refers to monetary compensation awarded by a court for your injury.  Under Maryland law, there are two types of damages that you can recover when you are injured, economic damages and noneconomic damages.

          Economic damages refer to money that you have paid out, or will be required to pay out for expenses relating to your injuries.  Typically the economic damages in a personal injury case consist of medical bills and lost wages, but could include other types of monetary loss directly attributable to the injury.

          Noneconomic damages refer to money that is awarded to the plaintiff for things other than out of pocket expenses.  This may be money awarded for pain, suffering and inconvenience associated with the injury, mental anguish, disfigurement, physical impairment and damage to your marital relationship (loss of consortium). 

          The amount of damages that can be recovered for your slip and fall claim depends on the severity of your injury, the length of time it takes you to recover, the type of injury sustained, and whether there is a permanent injury, that is one that will requiring ongoing medical attention.

          In many cases, the defendant may contest the amount of damages, even where liability is conceded.  While this happens more often in automobile accident cases, it can apply to slip and fall injuries as well.  Often insurance companies will try to attribute your injuries to a different accident or fall, either before or after the one that is the subject of your case, to degenerative or other physical impairments, or to any number of sources other than the negligence of their clients.

Medical Payments Coverage

          In Maryland, some business and private property owners maintain medical payments coverage insurance.  This allows an injured party to recover for medical expenses for injuries that occur on the property without relation to fault.  That means that you can recover regardless of why you fell or who caused it. 

          The attorneys at Baldwin & Briscoe regularly handle trip and fall and slip and fall personal injury cases.  Call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.  We will meet with you and discuss your case and provide an opinion on whether you may be able to recover for your injuries.  There is never a fee for personal injury cases unless we are able to recover money for you.  Clients may be responsible for costs.

The Law Offices of Baldwin & Briscoe, P.C. also offers these services:

Bankruptcy and ForeclosureBusiness LawCivil LitigationCriminal DefenseEmployment, Disability, and Consumer RightsFamily LawGovernment Contracts LawIntellectual Property, Personal InjuryReal Estate, Social Security Disability & Workers’ Compensation and Wills, Trusts, & Estates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact Us

The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C.

22335 Exploration Drive

Suite 2030

Lexington Park, MD 20653

301-862-4400 Phone

301-862-3009 Fax

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Our Attorneys

Samuel C.P. Baldwin, Jr., Esq.

Janice Briscoe, Esq.

Richard J. Steinmetz Jr., Esq.

David J. Hebb, Esq.

Sandra Kaufman Jonasen, Esq.


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With an office conveniently located in Lexington Park, The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Stienmetz, P.C. serves clients in the counties and cities of Lexington Park, Leonardtown, Hollywood, Mechanicsville, Loveville, Helen, Breton Bay, Chaptico, Charlotte Hall, Golden Beach, Avenue, La Plata, Waldorf, Newburg, Port Tobacco, Port Charles, Solomons Island, Prince Frederick, Chesapeake Shores, Hughesville, Benedict, Nanjemoy, Lusby, Port Republic, St. Mary's County, Charles County, Calvert County, Prince George's County, Southern Maryland.


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