Clients sometimes ask, “is it really necessary to hire an attorney if it is obvious I slipped and fell in a store?” The reality is, slip and fall cases can be very difficult to prove, because fault is not always that obvious. Thousands of individuals are injured each year from slipping or tripping on something in a store or on someone’s property, many of those injuries very serious. Substances on the floor of a store can be very dangerous. Uneven sidewalks or misplaced items can lead to serious injuries, as well. Nevertheless, it can be very difficult to prove all of the elements necessary to establish someone’s responsibility or liability for a slip and fall accident. This article will discuss some of the challenges of proving slip and fall cases.
First, could the accident have been avoided?
The first question you should ask yourself, if you have been involved in a slip and fall accident, is whether the accident could have been avoided. While in most cases, the answer may be yes, there are still some situations where nothing could have been done to avoid the injury.
For instance, when a property owner has no knowledge of a dangerous condition before your injuries were sustained, that owner may not be held liable for your fall. A common example is an overnight winter storm that creates icy conditions on the sidewalk in front of a store. If you slip on that sidewalk at 7:00 am, before the store has opened and anyone has had the opportunity to observe the condition and remove the ice and snow, then the store owner will likely not be held responsible.
The duty to maintain reasonably safe conditions
Each of us has a responsibility to, not only be aware of our surroundings, but also to take steps to avoid dangerous conditions that are obvious or reasonably expected. That does not mean that a property owner does not owe, at least, some duty to take reasonable steps to ensure that his or her property is free from dangerous conditions that could result in a slip and fall injury. Determining whether the steps taken were, in fact, reasonable is where the ability to prove your case can become difficult. The “reasonableness” of a property owner’s actions will be balanced against the care that you were expected to use at the time of the accident. This is why slip and fall cases are not always as straightforward as they seem.
How to establish liability for a slip and fall injury
There are certain facts that you must be able to establish in order to prove a property owner is liable for your injuries in a slip and fall accident. If you can show that the property owner, or an employee of the property owner, either knew or should have known of the dangerous condition, because any other “reasonable” person in his or her position would have known about it and fixed the problem. It must also be shown that the property owner did not, in fact, take steps to fix the dangerous condition. Another way to establish liability is to show that the property owner, or an employee, actually caused or created the dangerous condition.
If you have questions regarding slip and fall accidents, or any other personal injury concerns, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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