If you slip, fall, and injure yourself in Maryland, are you owed compensation?
Not necessarily. Maryland slip and fall law is based on a fault system. This fault system means businesses and property owners are not automatically liable whenever someone falls and injures themselves on private property.
Instead, property owners are only responsible for dangerous conditions they are aware of, or should be aware of, but did not correct or warn guests about.
Every day, someone in Maryland is injured in an indoor or outdoor slip and fall accident.
Common reasons for indoor falls include sticky or slippery substances on the floors, unleveled flooring, torn/raised/worn carpeting, poor lighting, narrow stairs, defective escalators, obstructions like cords, boxes, fallen debris, etc.
The most common causes for outdoor falls include cracked, broken, or uneven sidewalks, slippery conditions due to snow, ice, or water, inadequate lighting, the absence of handrails, holes or depressions, and debris.
All slip and fall cases typically boil down to two things: proving liability and identifying damages.
Proving liability in slip and fall cases
When someone is liable, it means they’re responsible for whatever conditions caused the accident.
An individual or business may be liable for maintaining the sidewalk in front of their shop. Failure to clear snow from that sidewalk could cause a visitor to slip and fall.
Of course, as mentioned above, you can’t automatically assume that a third party is liable when you injure yourself on private property. In Maryland, that’s not always the case.
Instead, Maryland law requires private property owners to take “reasonable” steps to provide a safe premises for visitors.
One of the first steps of a premises liability case is determining the class of the visitor. Visitors typically fall into one of two different classes:
-Invitees: Invitees are on the property for the benefit of the property owner. A friend may be coming over for coffee, or a customer may be entering your business. You owe these visitors the highest level of care under Maryland slip and fall law.
-Trespasser: You owe trespassers very little under current law. In fact, your only obligation is to not create conditions which intentionally injury the trespasser.
Ultimately, it comes down to the injured individual proving liability in order to win compensation. Typically, this is done with the help of a lawyer.
The strongest slip and fall cases are when the property owner knew of the problem or should have known of the problem.
A parking lot may have numerous burned out light bulbs, for example, or the sidewalk in front of the store may have a large crack which has gone unfixed for years. These problems have been around for a long period of time. The private property owner either knew about these problems, or it’s safe to assume they should have known about these problems.
But this leads to a grey area and some difficult-to-prove situations.
If you’re walking through a grocery store, slip on a puddle of milk, and hurt your back, you may think you’re owed compensation.
But the puddle of milk was spilled by a customer just 30 seconds before your arrival. The grocery store cannot have reasonably known about this issue in such a brief period of time, which means they’re not liable for your fall under Maryland slip and fall law.
Defending liability claims
Property owners (or more likely, their insurance company) will typically defend liability claims using two different defenses:
Maryland is one of four U.S. states with this harsh rule. Contributory negligence will immediately defeat your claim. This rule means that if you contributed to your fall and injury in any way – even just 1% – then you are not entitled to receive any compensation under Maryland slip and fall law. You may have worn high heels when walking around on a skating rink, for example.
-Assumption of Risk
Similarly, assumption of risk means that you put yourself in a dangerous situation voluntarily and assumed the known risk, which can also defeat your claims to compensation. You may have walked outside on a below-freezing day, for example, which means you’re assuming the risk of walking on slippery surfaces.
To give your case the best chance of success, identify any possible witnesses – especially in the moments immediately after the incident. Write down all the details of your fall, including the shoes and clothing you were wearing at the time and the lighting in the affected area.
How much are you owed?
Your compensation amount depends on a few different factors, including the seriousness of your injuries, the length of time you’ve suffered (or are expected to suffer) from your injuries, and whether or not you will ever fully recover.
Typically, with the help of a good lawyer, you can win full compensation for your medical bills, the full amount of income lost as a result of your injury, and additional compensation for pain, suffering, and inconvenience.
Conclusion – How to proceed and win compensation
Maryland slip and fall cases can be complex. Because of Maryland’s slip and fall law, injured individuals are not automatically owed compensation.
Instead, you and your lawyer must prove that the property owner was aware of the condition (or should have been aware) and took steps to avoid fixing, alleviating, or warning visitors about that condition.
If you can do that, then you may be able to win compensation for your slip and fall case in Maryland. Since 1936, Hoffman, Comfort, Offutt, Scott & Halstad LLP has provided intelligent and thorough legal support to residents across Maryland. Contact us today to schedule your case review session.