Scenario: You get together with some friends at a bar across town. It’s an older neighborhood, and the sidewalks outside are uneven due to years of tree roots growing underneath. While you were in the bar, a light snow shower left a coating of snow outside, covering a patch of black ice underneath. You’ve had several drinks and you’re a bit tipsy, so when it’s time to go, you step outside to hail a cab home. You slip on the patch of ice in front of the bar, fall and break your arm. The question: Can you recover slip-and-fall damages from the accident even though you were drunk?
The short answer is yes—in theory. Proving the proprietor was negligent, however, may be far more complicated.
The details of every slip-and-fall accident are unique, and every case must be looked at individually. The laws that describe liability in an accident don’t arbitrarily disqualify a personal injury victim from receiving compensation due to alcohol impairment. That said, the other party can only be held liable for his own negligence in providing a safe environment; he can’t necessarily be held responsible for the part your own condition played in the accident, or whether you were behaving safely at the time. When a slip-and-fall accident involves alcohol, the court, the attorneys and the insurance companies must take many factors into account. For example, in the scenario above:
- Did the proprietor make every effort to ensure your safety?
- Did the proprietor make an effort to clean and de-ice the front walk? To the extent that he couldn’t, did he warn you of the ice—if in fact he was aware of it?
- Did the proprietor contribute to your impairment by failing to “cut you off” when you began to appear intoxicated? (Some local/state ordinances prohibit serving drinks to patrons who appear drunk.)
- Were you behaving in an unsafe manner as you left?
- Would the walkway outside have been equally as treacherous to you had you not been impaired?
If you experience a slip-and-fall accident while drunk, don’t make assumptions either way as to whether you are eligible for damages; let a Washington D.C. personal injury attorney evaluate your case and explore your options with you. Call our offices to learn more.