Let's say you are walking past the bottled water in the supermarket and you unintentionally knock over a water bottle that bursts open and spills all over the floor. Just as you turn to see what happened, someone behind you slips on the water from the bottle you knocked over.
Are you liable? Is the store liable? Until you find out for sure, you are probably going to be pretty nervous. You can relax, you will not be on the hook in this type of an unintentional accident.
You may also be interested in reading about the responsibility of stores for slip and fall accidents on ice and snow in New York here: https://banvillelaw.com/slip-fall-accidents/ice-snow/
Fall laws vary from state to state, but there are some standards when it comes to accident liability. Of course, when someone sustains a serious injury in a fall down accident, they are going to feel as though they deserve to be compensated.
The fact that the accident was caused by a customer's unintentional actions is not the deciding factor here. What does matter is how long the spill was there, who saw it, who reported it to the store, and whether or not the victim took reasonable measures to avoid it.
If it can be proven that your act was intentional and meant to cause someone to fall, then you could be liable for someone else's injuries. However, if the spill was the result of your unintentional actions, then you would not be on the hook for anybody's injuries. But the store could be liable if certain criteria are met.
In order for any attorney to consider an accident liability case, a few things have to be true when it comes to premises liability injuries. First of all, the situation would have to be one the store set up purposely. In other words, a water bottle display without anything in place to prevent the water bottles from falling could be considered negligence.
The store must also have been given sufficient notice to take care of the problem to be considered liable. In our water bottle example, the fact that the person who fell was following directly behind you meant that there was no time to alert the store of the issue. In this case, no one would be considered liable for the person's injuries.
Video cameras are a wonderful thing and that is why stores install a full system of cameras to see every aisle and display. If it can be proven that a fall victim did not take reasonable action to avoid the hazard, then a court may decide that the victim was to blame for what happened.
If a victim was acting in a reckless or dangerous manner, then this would also void any potential claims. For example, if the victim was throwing water bottles around in the aisle and slipped into the water of a bottle that broke, then the victim is responsible for their own injuries. It should also be noted that people who create spills and then attempt to stage a fake accident to try and cash in on the insurance claim face the risk of being arrested for insurance fraud.
Should you be worried about being sued for your unintentional actions that caused a fall down accident? More often than not, the answer would be no. In the state of New York, the tort laws are very clear on what is and is not a significant slipping incident. The victim would have to prove that you made the spill on purpose, and video cameras will help you to prove that it was all a simple unintentional accident.
For more stories involving slip and falls, see: Plumber Wins $1,221,282 After Fall Down Accident On Construction Site