Is a Business Liable for a Trip and Fall in the Parking Lot Under Texas Law?
A business may be liable for a trip and fall in the parking lot if the employees are aware of a concealed unreasonably dangerous condition and fail to either warn the patrons or remedy the dangerous condition. The most common trip and falls in business parking lots occur due to the placement and/or lack of painting of wheel stops, curbs, sidewalks and other changes in elevation.
Is A Business Liable for a Trip Over a Wheel Stop?
Wheel Stops are the concrete barriers that tell you where to stop your car when parking in a parking lot. Trips over parking stops can be difficult cases to prove liability in. Whether or not a store is liable when you trip over a parking stop may depend upon a number of factors. For example, they are much harder to see when they blend in with the concrete color or when they are encountered at night. In some cases, there may be local codes or ordinances that apply.
ASTM International publishes a set of engineering codes that are recommended for new construction nationwide. Some cities have adopted these guidelines as required Code. According to ASTM standard designation F 1637-02(9.1), parking lots “should be designed to avoid the use of wheel stops.” The regulation goes on to indicate that wheel stops “should not be placed in pedestrian walkways or foreseeable pedestrian paths” (9.2) and that there should always be “adequate illumination” (9.6) around them if they are used. If the ASTM International Codes have been adopted in the venue where your injury occurred, then these codes can be used to show the unreasonableness of the dangerous condition—to wit: it is a violation of an adopted code. Furthermore, the failure to paint the wheel stops to make them stand out from the color of the concrete can be used as evidence of this.
All of the above arguments can be used by your lawyer to argue your case and to try to meet the burden of proof where they apply. You would be wise to consult a personal injury attorney to research your specific location and what codes or ordinances may apply.
Are Businesses Liable for Trips Over Curbs, Decks, Steps and Other Changes in Elevation?
A business may be liable to a business invitee for a trip and fall in the parking lot over changes in elevation when they are difficult to discern with the naked eye. You may have seen speed bumps in a parking lot that were painted yellow or curbs painted yellow or red. The reason that is done is to make them stand out and be “open and obvious” to pedestrians walking in the area. While most states do not have laws addressing this, many cities adopt ordinances or safety standards that may address this such as OSHA Regulations, ASTM Standards or International Building Codes. Most codes require that a safe manner of ingress and egress be provided. While this rule is vague, many codes and ordinances will contain more specific instruction on painting speed bumps, curbs and/or otherwise designating certain elevation changes when they are above a certain change in elevation and are in a walkway. Failure to comply with these codes may result in negligence per se or it may be evidence that can be used to show a failure to conform to industry standards from which one may convince a jury to find negligence. Thus, you need to have someone research your specific situation.
As you can see from the above discussion, a trip and fall in the parking lot requires careful analysis of the specific facts and the rules, guidelines and codes that apply. Many of these cases wind up in litigation because the parties on either side cannot agree as to what a jury will consider “unreasonably dangerous” or “open and obvious.” Thus, the best thing to do with change in elevation cases, is seek a consultation with a qualified personal injury attorney that offers free consultations. You can call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. at 800-298-0111 for a free consultation today.
Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on dog bite law.