In Wisconsin, businesses and property owners have a duty to ensure that their premises are in reasonably safe condition. They can be held liable for a slip and fall accident that happened because of their negligence. Of course, in practice, property owners and insurance companies aggressively defend slip and fall accident claims. There are a number of different defenses that they may raise in an attempt to limit liability. In this blog post, our Onalaska slip and fall accident lawyer highlights four business and property owner defenses to liability that you should be prepared to take on.
Defense #1: Trespassing
Property owners and businesses owe very limited duties to people who were not actually allowed to be on the premises. Under Wisconsin law (Wis. Stat. § 895.529), a possessor of real property owes no general duty of care to a trespasser. In effect, this means they may not be held liable for injuries that a trespasser suffers while unlawfully on their property. There are few limited exceptions, such as a wilful act that causes harm or certain forms of gross negligence.
Defense #2: Did Not Know and Should Not Have Reasonably Known
A key element of a premises liability claim—including a slip and fall accident claim—is proving that the defendant (property owner or business) knew or should have known about the safety hazard. Property owners might also invoke the defense that they neither knew nor should have reasonably known about the dangerous condition that caused the slip and fall. For a claim to be successful, it must be proven that the defendant was aware or should have been aware of the hazard.
Defense #3: Statute of Limitations
In Wisconsin, there is a statute of limitations that applies to all personal injury claims, including slip and fall claims. The legal timeframe within which an injured party must file a lawsuit is limited. It has been three years since the date of the accident. If a claim is not filed within this period, the property owner can use the expiration of the statute of limitations as a defense, effectively barring the injured party from seeking compensation.
Defense #4: Comparative Negligence
Wisconsin follows the doctrine of comparative negligence. Liability for an accident can be distributed between the property owner and the injured party based on their respective degrees of fault. If the injured person is found to be partially responsible for their injuries—for example, due to carelessness or failure to heed warnings—their compensation may be reduced proportionally. It is a partial defense that could take thousands of dollars out of the settlement of a slip and fall victim.
Schedule a Free Consultation With a Slip and Fall Accident Attorney in Onalaska, WI
At Fitzpatrick, Skemp & Butler, LLC, our Onalaska slip and fall accident lawyers invest the time, resources, and attention to detail into every case. Hurt in a slip and fall? We will fight proactively to protect your rights. Contact us today for a free, no obligation consultation. With a law office in Onalaska, we handle slip and fall accident claims in La Crosse County and throughout the region, including in Vernon County, Monroe County, Jackson County, and Trempealeau County.