Imagine that you are walking down the sidewalk downtown in a major city, and there is a giant hole in the sidewalk that causes you to slip and fall.
During that fall, you break your hip and your hand, requiring medical attention and being forever altered by your injuries. You would assume that the case is straightforward and that the city is responsible for your injuries. But that isn’t always the case, and it definitely isn’t always easy to prove in a court of law.
Statistics say that thousands of people are hurt from slip and fall injuries every year. Most of them result from slippery stairs, floors, or surfaces which are in some way faulty and become dangerous to pedestrians. Something as minor as a change in the slope of a walkway has the potential to be hazardous to a pedestrian. The problem with being able to recover for your slip and fall injury is that you have to prove that the owner of the property is responsible for your injuries due to their negligence, which can be easier said than done.
To hold someone liable for your injury, you must prove that the property owner could have done something to prevent you from hurting yourself. In the example above, if the sidewalk was clearly marked with yellow tape and you just weren’t paying attention, then the property owner would likely not be held liable.
Since they took steps to warn pedestrians of the danger of the sidewalk, the caution tape might negate their liability. That is why if you are the victim of a slip and fall injury, it is imperative that you consult an attorney immediately to sort through the details of who is at fault and determine whether the property owner is liable. Property owners have an obligation to make every effort to keep their premises safe, but there are instances where your injury might be legally your fault, not theirs.
Duty to maintain “reasonably” safe conditions
In personal injury terms, a property owner has an obligation to maintain their premises with “reasonable care.” This is a highly subjective term that means that they have to maintain their premises in a manner that any “reasonable” person would. They also have an obligation to anticipate that something might happen and address or fix any problems to prevent someone from being injured.
That does not mean that a property owner is always responsible when someone falls on their premises. There are no clear and concise conditions that need to be present to prove liability. Reasonable care is a measure of what a “reasonable” property owner would have done to prevent someone from being injured. If the property owner did not take reasonable care, then they might be liable, but proving that in a court of law takes more than just your word against theirs.
To prove that you fell due to the owner’s negligence
To prove that your slip and fall was due to the property owner’s negligence, you must show that you encountered dangerous conditions, meaning you must be able to prove one of the following:
- The property owner or their employee should have known that something caused a danger because any other “reasonable” person would have in their position.
- The property owner or their employee knew that the danger existed but did not take any steps to repair the problem.
- The property owner or employee caused the dangerous condition directly (spilled water, left the carpet rolled up, didn’t fix a broken tile, etc.).
The key to proving your case — and the most difficult part — is the “should have known” part. You must be able to prove that they knew a problem existed, that they should have known it was dangerous, and that they failed to take action. If things aren’t documented ahead of time, it is hard to know what they did or did not know before the accident occurred.
If you are involved in a slip and fall accident, it isn’t enough to just say that you feel it was someone else’s fault. There are steps that you have to take to prove your case. That is why it is always an excellent idea to have personal injury lawyers in your corner to help walk you through your lawsuit and to build the best evidentiary case possible to win.