Elements of a Successful Slip and Fall Claim

In order for a plaintiff to succeed in a slip and fall claim there are several elements that need to be proven. Firstly the plaintiff must have fallen on the defendant’s property and been injured. Secondly, the defendant must have owed the plaintiff a duty of care. Thirdly the injury must have been reasonably foreseeable by the defendant, (but not by the plaintiff, who cannot put themselves in danger or be able to foresee the risk.)

The Defendant

People who own or are otherwise responsible for property have a duty of care towards others on their property if they know, or should have known, about a hazard in or on their property. There are three basic ways in which a plaintiff can establish fault in order to achieve a successful outcome in a slip and fall case: the owner or occupier must have created the hazard that caused the accident and must have known about the hazard but failed to act on it, or should have known that the hazard was there.

Negligence

Determining whether or not the person responsible ‘should have known’ about the danger often causes the most difficulty in a slip and fall claim. The time between the hazard occurring, and the defendant first becoming aware of it, is often key to the success or otherwise of the lawsuit. If they did not know about it and therefore could not have done anything to prevent the accident, they may not be liable. However, if it is the case that an employee caused the hazard, or was otherwise negligent in the course of their work, the employer or owner of the property could be ‘vicariously liable’.

The Plaintiff

However if the area was known for a specific type of hazard, or a similar accident had happened before, they will have less chance of successfully defending the claim. The test in these circumstances is whether or not a ‘reasonable’ owner or occupier would have known about the hazard in the same circumstances and taken steps accordingly. That said the plaintiff cannot put him or herself in unnecessary danger, and must not have been able to foresee the risk. If the plaintiff is partially to blame for the accident, the amount of damages will be reduced accordingly.

Expert Evidence

In summary, in order to succeed in a slip and fall case the plaintiff must prove their injury was caused by the proprietor’s negligence, that the hazard was foreseeable to the proprietor but not to the plaintiff, and that the plaintiff was in no way to blame for their accident. In most cases an expert will be required to demonstrate how the accident caused the injury, as well as the extent of the injury, amount of post-accident rehabilitation and the likelihood of full recovery.

If you have questions about whether or not you have a slip and fall claim, speak to a personal injury attorney without delay.
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