Visitor Question

Liability for off-the-clock slip and fall injury at work?

Submitted By: Anonymous (Seattle, Washington)

It rains a lot in the Seattle, WA area and it rained earlier on the day I was injured. I had to stop by my work on my off day to get something personal.

To get back to my car I had to walk on the sidewalk in the parking lot under a huge tree next to the building. I tripped, slipped and fell on uneven, wet, dirty, slippery concrete. I injured my knee and hip in the fall.

You can tell that there is always standing water and moss on the concrete and along the building because of the green stuff covering the concrete and water stains on the building.

The big tree covers the sidewalk and touches the building.

The other part of the property is not covered by trees and seem to dry up quickly. Is the property owner responsible for my injuries?

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your question. You ask if the property owner is responsible for your injuries, but before we consider that, let’s address the possibility of a workers’ compensation claim.

You mention you were outside your workplace when you fell and were injured, but you also state it was on your day off and you were getting something personal.

Washington, like almost all states, follows what is known as the “while in the course and scope of employment” rule.

“Acting in the course of employment” means:

“…the worker acting at his or her employer’s direction or in the furtherance of his or her employer’s business which shall include time spent going to and from work on the jobsite… insofar as such time is immediate to the actual time that the worker is engaged in the work process in areas controlled by his or her employer, except parking area.”

As you can see from this statute, you likely are excluded from a worker’s compensation claim because you were not acting on behalf of your employer at the time you were injured. The statute specifically excludes injuries in a workplace parking area.

Since it seems you may not have a worker’s compensation claim, let’s now consider a potential claim against the property owner.

Premises liability claims under Washington law are covered by what is known as common law, which simply is the law created by court decisions.

Whether a property owner is liable to someone who is injured on their property depends upon the reason you were there. Washington law considers whether you were an invitee or a licensee to determine the duty and responsibility the property owner had in maintaining the premises.

An invitee is someone who’s been asked by the landowner to visit the property, a licensee is someone who has the property owner’s implied consent to be on the property.

Generally speaking, someone who is on a landowner’s property for a business purpose would be considered a licensee, and the property owner has a lesser obligation to protect a licensee than he does an invitee.

With that said, to successfully bring a slip and fall claim in Washington, you would have to prove that the property owner failed in their duty.

You’d have to show that the property owner either:

1. Caused the dangerous condition,
2. Knew about the dangerous condition, and/or
3. Should have known about the dangerous condition.

One issue you will face in bringing a successful slip and fall claim is that you live in Seattle and, as you noted, it rains a lot in Seattle. That means that you are aware that outside areas may be slippery and wet.

You also mention, however, that the concrete sidewalk was “uneven.” That may raise the issue of whether the property owner knew of this dangerous condition and failed to correct it.

Given that you are in a parking lot at your workplace, the property owner will contend that you were well aware that moss grows on the concrete under the big tree covering the sidewalk.

When considering a slip and fall claim keep in mind that Washington follows the comparative fault rule, and if the case goes to trial, the jury would determine whether you were partially at fault for your injury. The jury would assign a percentage of fault to both you and the property owner, and your monetary recovery would be reduced by your percentage of fault.

Revised Code of Washington 4.22.005 establishes the effect of contributory fault in the state of Washington.

Slip and fall claims can be both nuanced and difficult, and an experienced personal injury attorney can provide you with insight and advice on how to proceed.

Learn more here: Off-the-Clock Work Related Injuries

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

We wish you the best with your claim,

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