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Slip and Fall Injuries at Gas Stations

It’s Friday evening, and you’re headed out of Chicago for the weekend after work. You notice that your vehicle is down to a quarter of a tank of gas, and you decide to fill up before hitting the road for a couple of hours to get to the place where you’ll spend the next couple of days relaxing or attending a weekend event. You pull into a gas station, pull up to a pump, get out of your car, and walk toward the building to prepay for your gas.

It’s after sunset and it’s dark, and while you’re walking toward the building thinking about your weekend plans, you slip and fall because of a huge crack in the cement. You land on your back and crack your head against the pavement. You’re back is seriously hurt and your head is bleeding. Furthermore, you twisted your knee when you went down and you’re in excruciating pain.

You end up being taken to the nearest emergency room by an ambulance, and get admitted to the hospital for treatment of a concussion, a bulging disc in your back, and torn meniscus. The bills for all of this are going to be hefty, and it’s going to take you weeks or months to recover. The doctors say you may have pain in your back and knee that lingers for months, if it ever truly goes away at all. You have to miss time away from work, and you don’t have any sick time or vacation time to use, so you’re not going to get paid. What was supposed to be a fun weekend getaway has turned into a serious burden on your life, all because of a crack in the pavement that no one fixed.

If the gas station owner or operator knew about the oil slick and was negligent in failing to either clean it up or post a warning, you may be able to make a premises liability claim and seek compensation of your medical bills, lost wages, disability and disfigurement, pain and suffering, and loss of normal life. An experienced Chicago personal injury attorney can discuss your options for pursuing a claim and negotiate with the insurance company for the business or property owner to get you the compensation you deserve, or file and try a lawsuit if no settlement can be reached.

Common Causes of Gas Station Slips and Falls

You may face any number of possible hazards at a gas station, either outdoors in the parking lot or around the pumps, or indoors there’s one of those buildings with a minimart and a restroom. Some common conditions in and around gas stations that may cause injury include:

  • Potholes in the parking lot
  • Lack of adequate lighting
  • Oil slicks or gasoline spills
  • Wet floors
  • Misplaced equipment creating obstacles
  • Building code violations that create hazardous conditions such as broken steps
  • Unnatural snow and ice accumulation

Liability For Your Injuries

The owner of the gas station property, or the owner or operator of the business if the building and/or land are leased, have a duty to keep the gas station premises reasonably safe. That includes correcting known issues that could lead to injury, such as a pothole or an oil slick, or warning people who come onto the premises that hazards exist, such as putting up a “Caution Wet Floor” sign after mopping up a spill near the drinks cooler.

When the owner or operator knows about dangerous conditions and doesn’t either fix them or warn you about them, they may be negligent. The Illinois Premises Liability Act, 740 ILCS 130, allows you to make a claim for compensation when negligence can be proven.

There are some circumstances that may prevent your claim from being successful. The Premises Liability Act says that the gas station owner or operator won’t be liable for your injuries when:

  • You’re aware of the dangerous condition
  • The dangerous condition is open and obvious and you should have noticed it
  • The owner didn’t know the dangerous condition existed, and couldn’t be reasonably expected to foresee it
  • Something you did created the dangerous condition

To use the hypothetical oil slick, you might have problems making a claim if:

  • Another driver said “Watch out for that big crack” before you stepped on it
  • The crack was there in broad daylight and sizeable enough that you should have seen it
  • The crack in the pavement was fresh and no one had pointed it out to the station’s owner or manager yet

A couple of ways to get around the open and obvious rule include:

  • Your accident happened at night or in inadequate lighting, such as a broken overhead light the gas station owner hadn’t fixed, and you couldn’t reasonably be expected to see the hazard
  • You were distracted by something, say you spot a gas station employee about to light a cigarette near one of the pumps, and you couldn’t reasonably be expected to see the hazard while your attention is focused elsewhere