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Slip and Fall Injuries / Premises Liability

Under New Jersey law, a property owner is legally responsible to properly maintain their property, building or residence. When a person is injured on someone else’s property and that injury is caused by the owner’s negligence, the victim can file a personal injury claim seeking compensation, such as the cost of medical treatment, loss income and pain and suffering due to the injuries.

A man signing a document with one arm broken after a slip and fall injury

Slip and fall accidents can happen when you least expect it. Slips, trips and falls can often lead to severe injuries, permanent disabilities and worse. If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, Epstein Ostrove is here to help. Some common causes of slip and fall accidents include:

  • Foreign substances or debris on the floors.
  • Snow or ice covered walkways and parking lots
  • Uneven pavements, walkways and sidewalks
  • Broken or uneven stairs
  • Potholes in parking lots or pathways
  • Improper lighting in hallways, stairwells or outside walkways
  • Poor maintenance of elevators and escalators

Foreign Substance or Debris on a Floor

Simply falling due to a foreign substance on a business’s floor is not sufficient to prove that the business is at fault. While a defendant has an affirmative duty to discover and eliminate dangerous conditions, to maintain the premises in safe condition, and to avoid creating conditions that would render the premises unsafe. To establish a breach of this duty, plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition that caused the accident.

Actual knowledge is straight forward, the defendant either created the condition or were put on notice of a problem. A defendant has constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition when the condition existed for such a length of time as reasonably to have resulted in knowledge and correction had the defendant been reasonably diligent. Constructive knowledge can be "inferred in various ways," including the "characteristics of the dangerous condition giving rise to the slip and fall" or "eyewitness testimony" regarding the length of the condition's existence.

Proving notice can be difficult at times, so it is important to know what it is that caused you to fall. Being able to describe the foreign substance as well as characteristics of it and the surrounding area which lead to an inference that it had been in existence for a sufficient time for the owner to have discovered it.

There is an exception to the notice requirements, available in a small number of situations. This is called “mode of operation”. If the condition is created by the manner in which a business runs the establishment should put the owner on notice that spills are likely. The classic example is supermarkets or other businesses which utilize self service.

In Nisivoccia, our Supreme Court applied the mode-of-operation doctrine when a grocery store patron slipped on a grape near the store's checkout area. The Court found a nexus between the hazardous grape on the floor and the store's mode of operation, because the store "should have anticipated that careless handling of grapes was reasonably likely during customer checkout, creating a hazardous condition."

Two years later, this responsibility was explicitly extended to snow and ice removal. Mirza and later cases discuss the imposition of a duty to remove snow and ice only after the cessation of the hazardous precipitation; none opine on the imposition of a duty before that point.

A recent New Jersey Supreme Court case eased this responsibility. In Pareja v. Princeton Int'l Props., 246 N.J. 546 (2021), the Court adopted what is known as the “Ongoing Storm Doctrine”..

In January 2015, plaintiff Pareja, was walking to work when he slipped on ice, fell, and broke his hip. The sidewalk area on which he fell was on property owned by defendant Princeton International. The night before, a wintry mix of light rain, freezing rain, and sleet began to fall. Around the time of his fall, light rain and pockets of freezing rain were falling. Even though Plaintiff hired an expert who took the position that Princeton International could have successfully reduced the hazardous icy condition by pre-treating the sidewalk, the Court rejected this argument and found generally, a commercial property owner’s responsibility does not begin untill a storm ends.

Under the ongoing storm rule, commercial landowners do not have a duty to remove snow and ice until the conclusion of the storm, but unusual circumstances may give rise to a duty before then. First, commercial landowners may be liable if their actions increase the risk to pedestrians and invitees on their property. Second, a commercial landowner may be liable where there was a pre-existing risk on the premises before the storm.

Often complicating these cases is the fact that more than one party may be at fault. Is it the owner or the tenant’s responsibility, or perhaps the snow removal contractor? This is why you need the skilled, experienced slip and fall attorneys at Epstein Ostrove to guide you through the process. While you focus on recovery from your injuries, we will identify all responsible parties who may be liable to compensate you.

Like other types of personal injury cases, the insurance companies for the responsible parties are not necessarily there to help you. You should not speak to them or provide a statement of how the event occurred until you have spoken to the trained and aggressive slip and fall attorneys at Epstein Ostrove. Saying the wrong thing to an insurance adjuster can be damaging and misconstrued to where you could reduce your chances of getting an adequate amount of compensation.

How Epstein Ostrove Can Help You Get the Protection You Need and Deserve

A man lying on the stairs after a fall

The Epstein Ostrove lawyers for slip and fall accidents can ensure that you get the protection you need after you are injured in a slip and fall accident. An injury can be devastating both physically and financially, and one of our slip and fall attorneys will navigate the system to ensure your rights are secure throughout the process.

Having a legal expert on your side is something you are entitled to as a victim and will increase your chances of walking away with the biggest reward. A slip and fall attorney will be focused on protecting you and making sure your interests are put first.

If you are unsure whether you have a case to pursue or where to start after you or a loved one has been injured, contact Epstein Ostrove to speak with expert slip and fall lawyers who will be happy to answer any of your questions.

Working with Epstein Ostrove will be critical in getting the best outcome for your case. Family law is complex and navigating the legal landscape on your own can be scary. Contact Epstein Ostrove, LLC today for support and guidance. We are here for you to answer your questions and protect your rights in the legal system.

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