Duty of Care: How it Pertains to Slip and Fall Accidents
If you were to draw a diagram of where slip and fall accidents lie, you might find something interesting. Slip and falls (as do, trip and falls) come under the heading of premises liability actions. However, take it a step higher, and premises liability claims fall under the master heading of negligence lawsuits. With that in mind, you’ll understand the significance of a property owner’s duty of care.
Confused a bit? Perhaps it’s best to turn to a well-recognized Supreme Court opinion describing what happens in every negligence claim. New Jersey’s highest court decided Jersey Cent. Power & Light Co. v. Melcar Util. Co. in 2013. According to the case, the pursuit of a negligence cause of action requires the following:
- Duty of care
- A breach of that duty
- Actual and proximate causation
It’s almost like solving a mathematical problem. Slip, trip, and fall accidents are premises liability actions. Therefore, they represent negligence causes of action. Ultimately, the presumption is that the property owner owes a duty of care.
Take it a step further. According to New Jersey law, the duty of care includes some semblance to reasonable care. Still befuddled? Perhaps a real-life example can help you understand.
Premises Liability: Duty of Care
The words “reasonable” and “care” matter when it comes to premises liability and slip and fall accidents. All things considered, the property owner has a duty of care when it comes to your safety.
For a moment, consider this. You are walking down one of the aisles in one of the many Hudson County bodegas when you trip and fall. The owners piled assorted items throughout the narrow walkway. After you fall, you hear another patron upset about the hazardous conditions. Apparently, you’re not the first person to fall and get hurt.
According to the law, you are viewed as a business invitee. Does this mean the property owner has a duty of care when it comes to your safety? Absolutely.
Think about reasonable care. From all appearances, the dangerous conditions are far from unusual. It’s not as if you knocked something off the shelf and no one had time to pick it up to prevent your fall.
As you can see, proving that the property owner breached a duty of care is critical to the pursuit of your slip and fall claim. In our example, obtaining a statement from the witness would strongly help the case.