Premises liability: Was your university at fault for your fall?

Slip-and-fall accidents and the serious injuries related to them can happen anywhere and at any time. One place where many people get hurt like this is on university campuses.

Let's say you're going to classes at Oklahoma State, and a broken piece of sidewalk gives way under you foot at just the wrong time. You take a tumble, break your teeth on the pavement, fracture your collar bone, and bust your $750 prescription glasses. Could the university be at fault and financially liable for your accident?

The liability of universities after a slip-and-fall event

Slip-and-fall accidents like this fall under the category of premises liability law. Generally speaking, if the owner of a property knowingly allows for a dangerous condition to persist -- even though it could endanger and cause harm to guests of the property -- then the owner could be liable for resulting injuries and damages.

If you want to pursue a damage claim against a university for negligently maintain its property, which caused you to suffer injury in a fall, you'll need to prove one of the following in court:

  • That the property owner or its employees should have been aware that a dangerous condition was present -- because any other reasonable individual in the employee's or property owner's position would have been aware of that condition -- and should have fixed it.
  • That the property owner or its employee was aware of the dangerous condition, but failed to resolve it.
  • That the property owner or its employee actually created the dangerous condition or caused it to be present.

Which is the best strategy to take in your liability claim?

Most premises liability plaintiffs, who got hurt in a slip-and-fall event, will choose to prove the first situation described above. However, the idea that the property owner "should have known" something could be subject to debate. For example, how visible was the dangerous condition, how long had it been present without being fixed before the accident happened, and would a reasonable person have been able to locate the dangerous condition?

Ultimately, after careful consideration and review of the facts, circumstances and injuries pertaining to a slip-and-fall accident, injured plaintiffs will be able to identify the most appropriate strategy to pursue financial compensation in court for their personal injuries and property damages. And, yes, you may be able to seek compensation for your broken eyeglasses as well!

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