Many people operate on the belief that if they suffer an injury in a fall as a result of another person’s negligence, securing the compensation they deserve will be a simple process. The truth is that a successful claim in a slip and fall accident can become a bit more complicated to achieve than some other types of personal injury claims. The ability to prove the case will depend on a lot more than showing a hazard was left in the path of the accident victim or a worker placed a wet floor sign where it was not visible.
A successful slip and fall claim often depends on the ability of the accident victim to provide proof of three critical factors. However, accident victims who choose to work with a reputable personal injury attorney like the ones at Schwartzapfel Lawyers give themselves more than a reasonable chance of success at securing the compensation they deserve for a slip and fall accident.
Liability in personal injury cases often come down to an issue referred to as “duty of care.” This term represents the responsibility for property owners to keep a property safe and free from hazards. The level of care expected of the property owner differs from one situation to another. The type of visitor to the property will often decide the necessary level of care.
An invitee is anyone present on a property upon invitation from a property owner. This list of visitors can include customers, guests, or any other individual who receives an invitation by either the owner or tenant of a property.
Trespassers and licensees also enjoy the duty of care protections but to a lesser degree. A trespasser is a person present on property owned by another individual without their permission. This presence is also at a time when the property is not available to the public. Licensees are also people present on a property that is not available to the public, but a licensee has permission to access the property.
Negligence is proven when it becomes clear that a property owner failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent an injury to a visitor to their property. This fact makes it necessary to demonstrate the presence of one of the following factors when a slip and fall accident happens:
- An owner or employee of a property is responsible for a spill, worn spot on the floor, or another hazard that makes the walking surface dangerous.
- An owner or employee of the property was aware of the hazard and did nothing to correct the situation.
- A hazardous condition existed with the walking surface of a property that a reasonable person caring for the property should have discovered and fixed.
The third condition is more common than the others. It can also become more of a task to prove the third condition than the others because of the need to determine what another person “should have” known. Many times these cases come down to whether or not a judge or jury feels the property owner or occupant made a reasonable effort to keep the property safe.
Providing proof that the defendant in a lawsuit caused the accident that injured the plaintiff is the most difficult of the three critical factors that determine any slip and fall accident claim. This point makes it necessary for accident victims to demonstrate their actions did not contribute to the slip and fall accident.
Questions likely to be asked to prove or disprove any potential negligence on the part of the accident victim include:
- Did the accident victim have a right to be present at the property?
- Would a person who exercises proper care be able to avoid the hazard that caused the fall?
- Were warnings presented that should have alerted the accident victim to the presence of the hazard?
- Was the accident victim distracted by another activity that prevented them from paying attention to where they were walking?
- Was the accident victim running, jumping, or engaged in some form of horseplay when the slip and fall accident took place.
The burden of proof is not on the accident victim to prove they exercised care regarding the accident. But the description of the events will need to demonstrate that their lack of care was not a determining factor for the accident taking place.
The Bottom Line
Victims of slip and fall accidents face a complex set of legal issues and will benefit from the services of an experienced attorney. The accident victim taking on the challenge of demonstrating the three factors mentioned above alone to an insurance carrier or court can easily have the decision to handle things on their own backfire on them.