What Are ‘Open and Obvious’ Hazards in Slip and Fall Cases?

open and obvious hazard

When you are invited onto someone else’s property, you expect the premises to be safe and free from hazards. If you get hurt anyway, most would consider that a failure of the property owner or manager. However, sometimes people who have led others into a dangerous situation arrive at a seemingly novel defense. They say that there were dangers, but they were “open and obvious” hazards. Essentially, it is the victim’s fault they got hurt because they should have noticed the hazards without the property owner’s warning. Our Middlesex County supermarket accident attorneys can help you counter this defense.

Why Would Someone Admit to Having Open and Obvious Hazards?

Wait a second though. Isn’t the whole point of a premises liability case that the owner of a property had a hazardous situation that they knew about and did not fix? Isn’t this “open and obvious” hazards defense essentially an admittance of guilt?

It can be seen that way, but what the property owner is really trying to argue is that any reasonable person should have been able to notice the hazard and react to it. Some examples of open and obvious dangers include:

  • A crumbling sidewalk
  • A floor that is clearly wet
  • A ladder on a sales floor
  • Uneven concrete with nothing obstructing the victim’s view
  • Stairways with obviously broken handles

What the property owner is trying to say here is that there was a hazard, but you should have seen it. It was your responsibility to avoid the danger on their property. We think that this argument can be quite ridiculous, but there is one good reason to use it in New Jersey.

Can I Be Partially Blamed for My Slip and Fall?

The goal here is to convince a judge or jury that you are at least partially responsible for your fall and your injuries. New Jersey is a comparative negligence state. That means that if someone is more negligent, they cannot sue for damages.

Even if you are not more negligent, any negligence could reduce your awards in a personal injury case. For example, the property owner is found to be 80% at fault and you are 20% at fault. You win $100,000, but that award is reduced by 20% due to your fault so you get $80,000.

How Can an Attorney Help Me Fight This Open and Obvious Hazards Argument?

The open and obvious hazards argument can be a surprising one for most people to encounter. If you are not familiar with premises liability cases and you are trying to sue on your own, you may have a hard time fighting back. It is wise to at least speak with an experienced attorney from our firm before you move forward. We have seen this argument before and we know how to fight back.

Talk to a Lawyer Today

If you want to learn more about how our attorneys can help you hold a property owner or manager accountable for dangerous conditions on their land, contact Stathis & Leonardis. We can schedule a consultation and tell you more about your options and how we can help you fight for compensation.

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