Who Is at Fault in a Slip and Fall Accident?

Slip and fall accidents can result in physical injuries, lasting psychological damage, and an inability to work or live life to the fullest. If you’ve been hurt due to someone else’s negligence, you deserve to be compensated for these losses.

Slip and fall lawsuits sometimes result in very high settlements for the claimants. However, you need to prove several components of a slip and fall case in order to recover money from the person at fault.

How do you determine who is at fault? What if your own behavior played a part in your injury? These are questions you should discuss with a personal injury lawyer to see if you have a viable claim.

Here are six important components to a successful slip and fall claim.

1. Duty of Care

If I run a grocery store, a gym, or a restaurant, I owe a duty of care to the people who enter my premises: both patrons and employees. I need to keep the floors free of obstacles. I need to put up signage if we’ve mopped recently and the floor is slippery.

I have to keep my public facility in a reasonably safe condition. If I run a garage, I have to make sure it is adequately lit and patrolled at night. If the roof of my store needs repair, I need to get it fixed so it does not collapse and hurt someone.

Other individuals have heightened duties of care. Medical professionals owe a duty of care to patients to be careful, clean, and professionally trained.

Sometimes it may not be obvious who has this duty of care. If I rent an apartment and my guest slips on my front steps, am I responsible, or is my landlord? Maybe I am responsible because my lease says I have to clear the steps of ice.

These details often lead to disputes, which can end up in court. A defendant may deny that they owed you a duty of care, and therefore they shouldn’t be liable for your injury.

Your employer also owes you a duty of care. He or she is expected to maintain a safe workplace. However, if you are injured on the job, you may have a workers’ compensation claim instead of — or in addition to — a personal injury claim.

2. Concept of Reasonableness

The law has always relied on the idea of the “reasonable man” to assess liability. Should the reasonable man (or woman) have realized that failing to mop the floor might cause someone to slip? Is it reasonable to ask a business owner to keep all the lights on in their establishment after closing hours to prevent anyone from getting hurt?

Often people get hurt in bizarre and unpredictable circumstances. Part of assessing a legal claim is determining what would’ve been reasonable to predict, and what was a freak accident.

If a sudden hurricane blew off the roof of your building and landed on someone 10 miles away, injuring them, was it reasonable to think this might happen and someone should’ve taken steps to prevent it? The circumstances will matter. Was the roof already faulty? How long did you know the hurricane was coming? Had anything like this happened before?

Some freakish occurrences — especially weather-related events — can be attributed to being an “Act of God.” You cannot always anticipate the odd twists that nature may take.

However, the law can expect people to take reasonable precautions. Keeping buildings in reasonably safe conditions, making regular inspections, and alerting the public to potential hazards are all evidence that the person took reasonable steps to keep people safe.

3. Foreseeability

If you are injured due to someone’s negligence, your personal injury attorney will want to show the court that it was foreseeable that someone would get hurt under these circumstances.

For example, if a town fails to fix a pothole in a crosswalk, it’s foreseeable that someone is going to fall in it and hurt themselves. If someone does not get their car fixed, it’s foreseeable that they may have an accident and hurt someone else.

Some injuries are way beyond the realm of foreseeability. This is where the person hurt may have played a role. For example, what if some teenagers get hurt in a skateboard park because they poured wax all over it to make the surface more slippery? Should the park owner have foreseen that kind of prank?

Sometimes the law presumes negligence because a bad outcome is so foreseeable. For example, texting while driving gives rise to a presumption of negligence in an accident because it’s so predictive. If your employer or supervisor fails to pass workplace inspections regularly, a court may presume they run an unsafe workplace.

4. Damages

In order to prevail in a slip and fall case, you have to show that you suffered damages. You have to be able to demonstrate the impact the other person’s negligence had on your life.

If you have been in an automobile accident, you should take photos at the scene. You should get the numbers of any witnesses. You should keep all of your medical diagnoses and notes from appointments.

If your property, like your car, has been damaged in the accident, the expenses to replace or fix it are also recoverable.

Not all damages are physical. You may miss work, so keep track of all of your correspondence with your employer and the number of days you are out. Keep any documentation if your job suffers from the injury — if you are demoted or fired.

“Pain and suffering” can cover a wide range of issues, from depression and marital problems to chronic pain and loss of consortium. In order to make a personal injury claim, you will have to provide evidence of what you lost and the value of what you lost.

5. Contributory Negligence

What if you were goofing around and slipped and fell and injured yourself? What if you were a bit tipsy?

It’s possible to have some fault in a personal injury case and still recover damages. Usually, the court will apportion the fault between the parties through the concept of contributory negligence.

For example, should you have known that your conduct might result in an accident? If you had one cocktail, you might reasonably expect to trip on the stairs, but if the landlord did not clear the ice, you might not have expected to fall down and get a concussion. You might have contributed a bit to your injury, while he was still mostly responsible.

If you were completely inebriated, on the other hand, maybe you did play more of a part in your injury than a landlord who failed to clear the steps. Speak openly and honestly with your lawyer about your relative culpability and your chances of prevailing.

Other behaviors that courts may interpret as “distracted” include texting or talking on a mobile phone. Numerous accidents happen when people aren’t focused on where they’re going and fall or are hit. The question is always: What is reasonable?

If you are walking down the street texting, you might reasonably expect to be hit by a car if you cross the street without looking. You might not reasonably expect to be hit by a falling piano being hoisted to a top floor by a negligent moving company.

6. Evidence

In order to prove that you sustained damages due to someone else’s negligence,  you’ll be asked to provide evidence. As stated above, this may include medical records and doctors’ opinions. It may also include testimony from witnesses and your employer about your inability to continue work.

Any contemporaneous photos you have of the scene of the accident may be valuable. A dimly lit working area, an uninspected vehicle, or lack of sufficient training or employees all convey negligence on the part of whoever is responsible.

If you are conscious and able, take pictures of the scene right after the incident. The placement of equipment, vehicles, and warning signs may be critical. People’s memories often prove faulty in recalling these details, so pictures of the scene on the day everything happened will help.

Be prepared to give testimony yourself. Your attitude may have a significant impact on the result. Witnesses who appear to be dishonest, or looking to make money off the system, don’t come across well.

Again, be honest with your attorneys about anything they may need to know. If you have been a plaintiff in previous personal injury suits, that may be relevant. If you have DUIs or a record of other malfeasance, they will need to know.

Slip and Fall Accidents: Whose Fault is it Anyway?

Often many variables come together in an awful turn of events that results in an injury. Weather, timing, carelessness, and fate all play a part. However, if someone was negligent, and knew their negligence might reasonably hurt someone else, they shouldn’t get off scot-free.

Pursuing a personal injury lawsuit is not an automatic ticket to riches. It’s a remedy for someone who has lost physical health, the ability to work, and peace of mind because someone else did not do their job properly. It is a way for the person who was hurt to put their life back together again.

Do you have questions about slip and fall accidents, workplace injuries, or other legal matters? You can speak with us for free. Call 904-LAW-1212 anytime, day or night.

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