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How to Prove Negligence in Slip & Fall Cases

liability in slip and fall casesSlip and fall lawsuits get a bad rap. TV programs often belittle the associated injuries and even make fun of these claims. So, many people aren’t aware of the real pain and damage victims suffer from slip and fall injuries.

Every year, more than 800,000 people are admitted to hospitals after being hurt in falls. And these types of accidents are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Other common fall injuries include hip fractures and broken ankles, arms, and other shattered bones. With older adults, these serious consequences are devastating, and sometimes, life-threatening.

For thousands of injury victims, recovering compensation for the damage and harm suffered from a slip and fall is essential to their recovery. But to pursue an award or receive a settlement in a slip and fall personal injury claim, the injured party or plaintiff and their attorney need to show fault or negligence by a responsible party – the defendant.

Slip and Fall Accident Claim Overview

When dangerous property conditions lead to a fall and injury, the injured individual may be able to bring a legal claim for damages. Many issues can contribute to a slip, trip, or fall. Some common causes include the following:

  • Uneven walkways
  • Ripped carpeting
  • Loose floorboards
  • Cracked cement or flooring
  • Potholes
  • Spills and puddles
  • Ice and snow
  • Bad lighting
  • Missing or damaged stairway railings
  • Objects left on stairs and walkways
  • Poor general maintenance

To file a claim, the plaintiff must have suffered some form of injury due to the fall. The cause of the fall should have been preventable. And someone has to be responsible for the conditions of the property. If these elements are present, a New Jersey Slip & Fall lawyer may be able to help the plaintiff seek compensation.

Common Sites of Slip and Fall Accidents

Where the fall occurs is an important part of the legal claim. Typically, to recover damages, the accident must have occurred on property that doesn’t belong to the plaintiff. When that happens, it may be that the property owner or maintainer acted negligently. And that negligence led to the hazardous condition that caused the fall. Falls occur everywhere, but some common sites for slip and fall claims include:

  • Apartment buildings
  • Grocery stores
  • Retail stores
  • Parking lots/parking garages
  • Sidewalks
  • Hotels
  • Resorts
  • Public swimming pools
  • Nursing homes/retirement homes
  • Hospitals
  • Gyms
  • Parks
  • Restaurants
  • Bars/nightclubs
  • Private property

Slip and falls may happen indoors, in restrooms, stairwells, or outside on someone else’s property. Sidewalks and walkways are common sites for these accidents.

Negligence

This legal term refers to a responsible party’s failure to use reasonable care which causes injury or harm to someone else. For slip and fall claims, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant acted negligently. The first step in proving negligence is establishing that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care.

Property owners are generally responsible for the safety of visitors and guests who are legally present on their property. They need to keep their property free of obvious and foreseeable hazards and dangerous conditions. This requires regular maintenance and timely repairs. It also includes efforts to reduce the dangers of inclement weather. Mopping up spills, shoveling snow, repairing loose floorboards, and putting down salt or ice melt to thaw icy sidewalks are some examples of these efforts.

Some potentially hazardous conditions are not readily apparent to visitors. When that’s the case, the property owner must post warning signs. These signs must clearly notify visitors of potential dangers on the property, so they can avoid them.

If a property owner violates these duties, there may be a breach of the duty of care. When a breach of the duty of care proximately causes damages, that’s negligence. This is a necessary part of proving fault in a slip and fall case.

Who’s to Blame? Demonstrating Liability

An essential part of proving negligence is showing that the defendant was responsible for the problem that caused the accident. They must have had control of the property and been able to fix the hazardous conditions. It is important to demonstrate that they either knew about the dangerous issue, or they should have been aware of it.

Sometimes, an accident is just an accident, and no one is legally responsible. It may be an act of God or unforeseen or ongoing weather conditions. Perhaps, despite the owner’s efforts, a hazardous condition prevailed. Drips from a roof that just started leaking might puddle and form a hazard. If the property owner has been maintaining the roof as required, they may not be liable for a slip and fall accident that occurred right after the leak began.

Comparative Negligence

The injured party must have shown reasonable care, too. If the plaintiff contributed to their own fall, they may bear partial responsibility for their injuries. For example, if they ignored posted warnings. Maybe the plaintiff was texting, so they weren’t looking where they were walking when they fell. In those circumstances, comparative negligence may apply. This affects the amount a plaintiff can recover for damages.

Presenting Evidence

Plaintiffs must provide evidence of fault to prove their claim. Medical records are essential to show both injury and the cause of the injury. It must be tied to their fall. Photographic evidence of the slip/tripping hazard can be very important in these cases. But this might not be possible. The owner may clean up the site and fix the problem while the plaintiff is receiving medical care.

A skilled personal injury lawyer will pursue evidence through various avenues. They can request maintenance records from the owner, depose employees and other people with relevant information and obtain any available video footage that might be helpful. The goal is to prove a hazard existed and that it caused the fall and injury. Equally important is demonstrating that the owner either knew about the hazard or should have discovered it upon reasonable inspection of the property.

If you or a family member has suffered a slip and fall injury, help is available. Contact The Reinartz Law Firm. Our experienced personal injury lawyers will help you explore your options.