Under the wide umbrella of personal injury law, there is a type of case involving the responsibility of a property owner or possessor to regularly inspect his or her property for hazards that could cause injury to guests and to promptly repair known hazards. This type of case is known as premises liability. The most common type of premises liability involves a slip-and-fall accident.
As its name suggests, a slip-and-fall accident occurs when an individual slips or trips over an object and falls. While this seems like a simple enough type of case to prove, a slip-and-fall case can be anything but simple. A slip and fall attorney can help you understand the process.
What Must Be Proven in a Slip-and-Fall Case?
In order to prove a slip-and-fall case, you must be able to show the following elements in your case:
- A dangerous condition existed on the property. According to the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI), floors and flooring material contribute to approximately 2 million falls in the U.S. each year.
- The property owner/possessor knew or had reason to know of the condition but failed to mitigate the risk or to warn guests
- You became injured as a result of the hazard while on the property. It is important to note that if you were trespassing on a commercial, public, or residential property when your injury occurred, the property owner/possessor is only liable for your injuries if he or she deliberately created a condition in order to hurt you, or you are a child who is unable to fully appreciate property laws and can be attracted to dangerous property features.
- Your injury resulted in expenses and psychological impacts that you are seeking compensation for
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What Are the Potential Defenses in a Slip-and-Fall Accident?
Slip and fall accidents can be hard to prove, because – unlike other types of accidents, such as motor vehicle collisions – slip and falls generally do not result in a police report. Often these accidents are not caught on camera either, placing the onus on the claimant to seek witnesses who were there when the accident occurred, or on the individuals who had been injured by the same property hazard in the past.
Of course, through the process of proving someone else was at fault for your slip-and-fall accident, you will likely also have the at-fault party’s insurance company’s adjuster seeking to prove that the only one responsible for the accident is you. Here are some common defenses used in slip-and-fall cases, along with information that can be used to counter the defense.
The Open and Obvious Doctrine
Generally, property owners or possessors are required to warn guests through prominently placed signs and to promptly repair the hazard. The open and obvious doctrine holds that if a property hazard is extremely obvious and anyone paying attention would have noticed it and taken steps to avoid becoming injured by the hazard, the property owner does not need to warn others of its existence.
The evidence needed to show that the hazard was not open and obvious can include statements from witnesses as to whether they had noticed the hazard, as well as past complaints that the company had received regarding other individuals who had become injured as a result of the hazard. Helpful evidence can also include photos or other documentation that reveals that the hazard had been present for quite some time and that there was ample time for the property owner or possessor to discover the hazard and repair it.
Lack of Constructive Knowledge
In order to show that the property owner or possessor knew or reasonably should have known that there was a hazard, you must be able to show that the hazard existed for a long enough time that the property owner/ possessor would have noticed it during the course of a routine inspection of the premises. This means that if water had puddled in the doorway to your favorite grocery store and you slipped on it within minutes of the puddle appearing, it would likely be difficult to prove that — at the exact instant you fell — the property owner knew the water had puddled on the floor.
However, in this case, there could be a history of water puddling in the same area every time it rains, which would indicate that the property possessor had reason to know there would be water in the area if it rained. This is the sort of information your attorney will look for when investigating your case.
One of the most common arguments an insurance adjuster will give for refusing to settle a slip and fall claim is that the claimant was somehow responsible for his or her own injuries, due to not paying attention, wearing the wrong shoes, or running in an area where caution is needed. An experienced slip-and-fall accident attorney can help you to prove that your slip-and-fall accident was the result of the property owner or possessor’s negligence.
How Can a Slip-and-Fall Attorney Help?
An experienced slip and fall attorney from Pacific West Injury Law understands now only how hard this type of case can be to win, but the type of evidence needed in order to win. Our legal team can provide legal experience with this type of case and knowledge as to the evidence and witness testimony that needs to be gathered. Let us help you understand your legal options. For a free case evaluation, contact us online.