Maryland’s Slip and Fall Laws
The term “slip and fall” is pretty accurate and straightforward; although this area of law entails injuries outside of what one would traditionally consider “slipping,” such as getting one’s foot caught in a hidden hole and breaking an ankle, for the most part, it is exactly what it sounds like: a dangerous condition, such as ice or a wet floor, existed on someone’s property, and someone else was injured when they encountered this condition. So what are Maryland’s slip and fall laws?
For starters, there are several different statuses that someone can fall under depending upon their relationship with the owner of the property: invitee, licensee by invitation, bare licensee and trespasser.
Invitees are people who are invited onto the property for a lawful purpose. This can include landscapers or other contractors who are on the property for a work purpose, as well as a business guest or a customer. To invitees, the owner of the premises owes the highest level of duty of all four categories. They are required to keep the property safe and inspect the property to protect them from all foreseeable dangers, as well as warn them of any dangerous condition which may exist.
Licensees by invitation are typically invited onto the property as social guests as opposed to a business purpose. This would include a friend who was invited over to watch a movie or a guest at a party. To them, a property owner must want them of all dangerous conditions that they know about, however, they do not typically have the duty to inspect the property so as to discover dangerous conditions that they do not know about.
Bare licensees enter the owner’s property with their knowledge and consent, but for the licensee’s purposes rather than the owner’s. To them, the owner owes no duty but to refrain from willful or gross misconduct that could injure the licensee, or from creating a new danger without warning them.
A trespasser enters the owner’s property without any privilege or consent. Owner’s owe no duty to trespassers but to refrain from willful or gross misconduct that could either injure or trap the trespasser.
In addition to complications involving the status of the person injured in a slip and fall, these are a very fact-centric type of case. One wrinkle, for example, is that the Maryland Court of Appeals held that someone injured in a slip and fall on black ice cannot recover if that person knew that there could have been ice where they were walking. This effectively enlarged the notion of assumption of risk in Maryland on slip and falls.
“For those who are injured in a slip and fall, it is a good idea to immediately document all the evidence of the condition which injured you: with the prevalence of smartphones, even if you don’t have one with you or it was damaged in the fall, you could have a friend take a photo of the patch of ice, wet surface or other condition that caused your injury,” said Miguel Palmeiro of the Law Offices of Miguel Palmeiro. “Remember, the conditions may naturally change quickly or an owner, fearing a lawsuit, may fill in holes, mop up spills or throw salt on an ice patch quickly to destroy evidence. At that point, it may be your word against theirs.”
If you have any questions, feel free to stop by for a free consultation: remember, even if you don’t wind up hiring us, a brief conversation with an attorney can at least provide some clarity in what can be a very complicated system.