Can I Sue if I was Injured on Commercial Property? Understanding RI's Premises Liability Law
Updated: Dec 8, 2022
Slip and fall accidents are one of the leading causes of injury – accounting for over 1 million hospital visits. Most people don’t think about the dangers that could lead to a slip and fall accident until it happens to them or a family member. They also don’t realize how harmful and costly it can be – with medical bills averaging $30,000 to $50,000, according to some reports.
Let’s say, for instance, you pull up to a restaurant, park your car in the establishment’s lot, and as you are walking towards their entrance, you trip over broken pavement, fall and sustain injuries that require medical treatment. Who is responsible or liable? Will you have to pay for medical expenses? How can you recuperate lost wages if you are unable to work?
At Sheeley Law, we are frequently contacted by people who were injured in a slip and fall accident that occurred on commercial property and are unsure if they have a case. If you ever find yourself in this situation, below is important information that could make or break your case. Of course, each situation is unique; therefore, you should contact us for a free consultation.
Sometimes slip and fall accidents are just that – accidents. Other times, there is a reason for why you slipped and/or tripped and fell. Too often, property owners or tenants fail to maintain the safety of their premises. This is where “premises liability” comes into play. In general, premises liability is a type of personal injury case that encompasses "slip and fall" or "trip and fall" personal injury accidents. Before we examine the particulars of Rhode Island’s Premises Liability Law, let’s look at the most common causes of slip and fall accidents and where they are most likely to occur, as these are important factors in your case.
Common Causes of Slip & Fall Accidents
Business owners and commercial property owners should understand and acknowledge the risks that could harm their customers or the general public. Failure to take reasonable care to ensure the public’s safety is what we in the legal world call “negligence.” There are several ways that a business owner or landlord could be negligent. If your slip and fall accident was caused by any one of the following preventable dangers, you could have a legitimate lawsuit:
Snowy or icy walkways that are not properly or reasonably treated in a timely manner
Broken or uneven walking surfaces, including holes or gaps in sidewalks, curbs and parking lots
Ripped or loose carpeting and rugs
Broken and incomplete stairs or missing handrails
Inadequate lighting on walkways or stairwells
Wet, sticky, or slippery floors
Other tripping hazards, such as hoses or cords in the walkway
Where You Were Injured Matters
Of course, you can slip, trip or fall just about anywhere. However, there are certain public places where these types of accidents are more likely to occur, including restaurants, grocery stores, retail/department stores, parking lots, gas stations, office buildings, parking garages, and even hospitals.
Where you were injured has significant bearing on if premises liability rules apply to your case and the amount in compensatory damages you could receive. However, just because your injuries happened on a commercial property does not automatically mean you will win a lawsuit. It is imperative that your hire a skilled RI Slip and Fall Personal Injury Attorney, such as Ann Sheeley, to gather and preserve the evidence, protect your rights and argue your case.
What is Rhode Island's Liability Law?
In Rhode Island, premises liability states that anyone, with the exception of trespassers, has the right to assume they aren’t in immediate danger when visiting property owned or “controlled” by someone else. This means property owners or tenants can be held responsible for violating the law if, for example, they fail to address in a timely manner a hazard in the property’s design, maintenance, upkeep or security at the time of the accident.
To be successful in your slip and fall lawsuit in Rhode Island, your Personal Injury Attorney will need to prove the following four criteria:
There was a hazardous condition that existed at the time of the accident.
The property owner or tenant knew, or should have reasonably known, about the hazardous condition.
The property owner or tenant failed to take any action to remedy the problem, barricade the dangerous area or warn patrons/the public about the hazardous condition.
The injuries suffered by the victim were directly caused by the hazardous condition and were properly diagnosed by a medical professional.
Keep in mind, that if the injured person was acting carelessly or not paying proper attention and that contributed or partially caused the accident, then that will impact your case. However, Rhode Island is a “comparative fault state,” meaning if you were acting carelessly or not paying proper attention when the accident occurred, you can still be awarded a certain amount of compensation for your injuries.
How Much Compensation Can I Receive in a Slip and Fall Lawsuit?
The amount in damages varies greatly and depends upon the unique circumstances of your accident. In building your case, your personal injury attorney will evaluate all of your past, current and future expenses and losses, which may include:
Medical expenses for past and future surgery, rehabilitation, physical therapy, and prescriptions
Lost wages resulting from the inability to work
Emotional damages including pain, suffering, mental trauma, such as anxiety, and diminished quality of life
How Long Can I Wait to File a Case in a Slip & Fall Accident?
In Rhode Island, the statute of limitations for a personal injury case, including slip and fall accidents, is three (3) years. [R.I. Gen.Laws § 9-1-14] However, the sooner you consult an experienced personal injury attorney such as Sheeley Law, the more likely you are to win your case. Your injuries may seem minor at first, but medical conditions often perpetuate. Moreover, it is critical that the evidence is preserved right away as the property owner or tenant will likely try to clean, fix or cover-up the issue that caused your accident.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a slip and fall accident, Rhode Island Personal Injury Lawyer Ann Sheeley will provide a free-of-charge, no-obligation consultation, and will meet with you in any of the Sheeley Law offices, your home or at the hospital, as needed. If the slip and fall accident happened in a work environment, Sheeley Law can help you process the case through the Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation or Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation systems.
If negligence is determined and there are grounds for a claim, Attorney Ann Sheeley will guide you through the process, protect your rights and ensure you get maximum compensation for your injuries, including medical bills and lost wages.