Thousands of people are injured in slip and fall accidents every year. These include slipping on a slick surface, falling down stairs, tripping over an object, or stepping in a hole. Proving fault in a slip and fall accident is often difficult, but if you are injured you should know how to go about making a case.
There are four basic elements that must be proven to win a slip and fall claim. Simply because you had an accident on someone else’s property is not necessarily enough to mount a strong case. It must be shown that the property owner had a responsibility to maintain the premises and address any harmful conditions (within reason). In other words, could have the property owner have prevented the accident? While property owners will not necessarily be held liable for something a reasonable person would have avoided, they are expected to take reasonable steps to keep their property free of potentially harmful or unsafe conditions. Courts will often balance the property owner’s duty to keep the premises safe against the care that the accident victim should have used.
To prevail in a slip and fall claim, you will likely have to show one of the following:
- The property owner should have known that the dangerous condition existed, i.e. because a reasonable person in the property owner/employer’s position would have known about such a condition and addressed it.
- The property owner did in fact know that the dangerous condition existed, but made no attempts to address it.
- The property owner caused the dangerous condition.
The first element (whether a reasonable person would have known about the condition) is the one most often litigated, and the most difficult to prove. Here are some questions to ask when trying to assess the reasonable person question:
- Did the dangerous condition exist long enough that a reasonable property owner could have/would have taken action to address it?
- Did the property owner have a policy or procedures in place to routinely check for potential hazards or safety issues?
- Was there a reasonable justification for the existence of the dangerous condition?
- Could the dangerous condition be mitigated through preventative measures?
- Was poor lighting or visibility a factor in the accident?