Estimates show that about one million Americans experience a slip-and-fall accident every year. Slip-and-fall accidents can result in injuries ranging from minor to very severe, in which case surgery, medications, and physical rehabilitation might be necessary and quite expensive. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control find that 20-30% of slip-and-fall accidents are severe which usually requires extensive treatment. Though some of these cases might have been due to a simple accident, sometimes they are due to the negligence of a property owner.
Could the Property Owner Have Prevented the Accident?
When considering the idea of pursuing a slip and fall legal case against a property owner, it is important that you are able to demonstrate that the property owner could have prevented the accident from occurring. For example, if someone slips and falls in a restaurant on a recently mopped floor that was not marked by a hazard sign, the restaurant’s owner could be held liable for negligence.
Maintenance of Safe Conditions
When we talk about determining liability, we have to assess whether or not the property owner failed to maintain a safe environment.
- If the property is actually in a safe state of operation, a court might not favor your claim.
- If the property owner failed to maintain safe conditions (for example, if they did not repair rotting floorboards), they could be found liable for a slip-and-fall accident.
Proving Liability of the Property Owner
In order to prove the property owner’s liability, we need to establish as much of the following as possible:
- A hazardous condition or obstacle existed long enough for the property owner to notice and take steps to eliminate the issue.
- The property owner had a policy in place for regularly checking for hazards but failed to do so as indicated in a record book.
- A reasonable justification for the creation of a possible hazard did not exist at the time of the accident.
- The hazard could have been made safer by relocating it, preventing access to the area, or by placing a warning sign near it.
- Poor lighting resulted in the accident.
Reasonableness of the Property Owner’s Actions
When we talk about the reasonableness of the property owner’s actions, we are referring to whether or not the property owner could have taken action to address the hazard within a reasonable timeframe prior to the accident. These are questions that might be asked by the court:
- Is there proof that a property owner inspects the property like they might claim?
- For how long was the hazard present?
The Rule of Comparative Negligence
There is a partial legal defense known as The Rule of Comparative Negligence which can attribute part of an accident to the plaintiff’s negligence. For example, if a plaintiff claims that they slipped on a spilled drink in a restaurant, the defense could invoke this rule and claim that the plaintiff was simply clumsy or didn’t take the extra effort to walk around the spill. This is something we need to be mindful of when we make our slip-and-fall cases in court, since this can reduce the amount of damages a plaintiff can receive.
If you have been involved in a slip-and-fall accident, a personal injury lawyer Harrisonburg VA relies on may be able to assist you in filing a claim or lawsuit and receive compensation for your damages. Before you hire a personal injury lawyer, they can take a look at your case and offer an opinion as to whether or not it makes sense to engage their services.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from MartinWren, P.C. for their insight into personal injury practice.