& 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?
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
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
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:
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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
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