Everybody loses their footing at some point in their lives, but some slip and falls are far more serious than others. If you’ve sustained injuries as a result of a slip and fall that occurred on someone else’s property, a personal injury attorney may be able to help you recover compensation. But first, you must be able to prove that someone else was liable for your injuries.
Sometimes, the blame falls on the owner of the property where the injury occurred. Due to premises liability laws, property owners have a legal obligation to maintain safe conditions on their properties in order to protect visitors from harm. If they fail to fulfill this obligation and someone is injured as a result, they are liable for the injuries. However, this does not mean that a property owner will be liable for every slip and fall accident that takes place on their property. How do you know when it’s worth your time to seek compensation from the property owner? You have a valid slip and fall claim if you are able to prove these three elements:
Duty of Care
First, you must be able to prove that the property owner owed a duty of care to you. “Duty of care” is a legal term that refers to a person’s legal obligation to act in a reasonable and responsible manner. In slip and fall cases, a property owner owes a duty of care to anyone who is legally on the property. For example, a grocery store owner owes a duty of care to the store’s customers. However, a property owner does not necessarily owe a duty of care to someone who is illegally trespassing on the property. Therefore, proving the property owner owed you a duty of care boils down to showing that you were on the property legally at the time of the accident.
The most challenging part of a slip and fall claim is proving that the property owner was negligent. A property owner is negligent if one of these three conditions is met:
- The property owner created the safety hazard that caused your accident, but did nothing to fix it.
- The property owner knew about the safety hazard that caused your accident, but did nothing to fix it.
- The property owner should have known about the safety hazard that caused your accident, because a reasonable property owner would have known about it.
Proving that one of these statements is true is crucial to your case. To do this, an attorney will need to gather evidence, including witness testimony, surveillance footage, maintenance records, and photographs from the scene. For example, let’s say one of the property owner’s employees testifies that the safety hazard was present for months prior to the accident. Even if it cannot be proven that the owner created or knew about the safety hazard, this is enough evidence to prove the third condition, which is that they should have known about it. If they were a reasonable property owner, they would have been aware of a safety hazard that was present for months.
After establishing negligence, you must also prove that the property owner’s negligence directly led to your injuries. This can be done by showing how the safety hazard, which was a result of the owner’s negligence, caused you to slip and fall.
It’s important to note that you might share fault with the property owner if you were also negligent. For instance, if you ignored a “do not enter” or “wet floor” sign and were injured as a result, the court will probably find that you are partly to blame for the accident. California is a comparative negligence state, which means you will still be able to recover compensation even if you were partly to blame, however you will not be awarded as much. Say the court finds that you are 40% responsible for the accident, and the property owner is 60% responsible. If you were initially entitled to $100,000 in damages, the court will only award you 40%, which is $40,000. The property owner may try to place as much of the blame on you as possible in order to reduce the amount of compensation that they owe you.
Lastly, you must prove that you have incurred expenses or suffered losses as a result of the slip and fall injury. Have you incurred medical expenses? Did you have to take time off of work during your recovery? Have you experienced emotional anguish? If it can be proven that these expenses and losses are related to your injuries, the defendant will be ordered to compensate you.
To prove damages, it’s important to document all of your expenses and losses so you can keep track of how much you are owed. Hold onto all of your receipts, medical records, pay stubs, and any other documents that are relevant to your case. It may also be a good idea to keep a journal beginning immediately after so you can write down your symptoms on a daily basis. The entries don’t need to be long, but they should touch on how you are feeling both physically and emotionally. These daily entries can prove that you were experiencing pain and suffering for a long period of time following the accident.
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, contact Carpenter, Zuckerman, & Rowley right away to discuss your case. Our personal injury attorneys will review the details of your case to determine if someone else is liable for your injuries. If we are able to prove the property owner was liable for your injuries, we will aggressively fight for the compensation that you deserve.