In Fayetteville and throughout Arkansas, we are blessed to have generally pleasant weather conditions. However, northwest Arkansas does receive its fair share of snow, ice, and winter precipitation. In most cases, the snow and ice melt quickly or is cleared and people are able to go about their day-to-day tasks without worrying about injury. However, in some instances, the snow and ice may stick around for several days or weeks. When snow and ice remain present and a steady melt and re-freeze cycle begins, the risk of a slip and fall that produces serious injury increases.
However, snow and ice are just two of many possible risks and many potential clients are interested in whether the location of a slip and fall can impact their chances at receiving a settlement or a jury award. More specifically, they often want to know if it makes a difference if they slipped outside of a store or outside of a residential location such as a friend or family members home.
Understanding the Basics of a Negligence Slip and Fall Claim
Before we can delve into the question at hand, we must first cover some of the basics regarding premises liability law. Since Arkansas does not have a specific state law that requires home and business owners to remove snow and ice, claims for slip and falls are based on traditional negligence law. In addition to damages, a plaintiff must prove three things to sustain a valid slip and fall personal injury claim:
- The defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff
- The defendant breached that duty
- The breach was the proximate (legal) cause of the plaintiff’s damages.
Thus, your ability to bring a claim is affected by the facts and circumstances surrounding the claim. One of the factors that can impact your claim is whether the property is being used for residential or commercial purposes. Furthermore, your purpose for coming onto the property – including whether you were authorized to do so – is also taken into account.
A Court Will Consider the Duty Owed to the Injured Person
One of the first steps in the analysis for a slip and fall premises liability claim is whether the defendant owed a duty and the extent of the duty. Arkansas follows traditional forms of premises liability classification meaning that an individual could be viewed as:
- Trespasser – A trespasser is not authorized to come onto the property and is not generally able to recover.
- Licensee – A licensee is a person who comes onto another person’s property with permission for their own benefit. A common licensee is a social house guest.
- Invitee – An invitee is a person who comes onto another person’s property with permission for the benefit of the landowner. There are both public and business invitees. A public invitee is someone like a shopper who comes onto the property for the purposes that the land is held open to the public. A business invitee “is invited to enter or remain on the property for a purpose directly or indirectly connected with the business dealings of the possessor of the property”
To a licensee, a landowner owes a duty to prevent injury to the licensee through willful or wanton conduct. By contrast, an even higher duty of care is owed to an invitee. Under this heightened standard, a store or other business must ensure that reasonable care is exercised. The business must disclose the presence of all dangerous conditions it is aware of or should be aware of.
Thus there is a clear difference in the duty owed to a licensee or an invitee. Individuals who can qualify as an invitee are granted a more expansive duty and are more likely to recover. Individuals who slip and fall while at a business or at a location for business purposes are more likely to be classified as a an invitee. Therefore, it is more likely that a slip and fall on ice or snow or other materials at a store or business will result in a jury award or a settlement.
Work with Our Arkansas Premises Liability Lawyers
If you have suffered a slip and fall accident in Fayetteville or elsewhere in northwest Arkansas, Fayetteville AR personal injury lawyer Ken Kieklak can help. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, call (479) 316-0438 today.
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