It may be the most common personal injury lawsuit depicted in the media. An innocent customer walks into a business, slips on a wet tile floor, and goes sprawling. The business is taken to court for thousands in compensation for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.
While these cases are less straightforward in the real world, slip and fall lawsuits still happen. However, the outcome varies depending on where you’ve fallen, what your status is on the property, what injuries you’ve sustained and how long the damage will last.
But first and foremost, you must prove fault. Was the defendant negligent in ensuring your safety?
Was the Plaintiff Careless?
Before a slip and fall lawsuit is taken seriously, the court must decide if your carelessness contributed to the accident. Here are some questions that may help a court make this determination:
- Would a careful person have noticed the dangerous condition?
- Were there any warnings that this particular spot was dangerous?
- Were you distracted, such as texting on your smartphone or roughhousing with another customer?
Avoiding positive answers to these questions is key.
Did the Property Owner Act Reasonably?
Your negligence claim will hinge on whether the defendant acted reasonably. In determining reasonableness, the law will focus on whether the owner or occupant of the property made a thorough effort to ensure the safety and well-being of visitors.
For example, if you tripped over a torn area of carpet or flooring, you must prove that the dangerous condition existed long enough for the owner to know about it. You might prove this by showing the business has a regular procedure in place for repairing and cleaning the floor.
This can be more difficult to prove in the case of a residential slip and fall. How can you prove that a homeowner regularly inspects their property? Fortunately, an experienced slip and fall attorney can help you gather proof and build your case — whether you were injured in a commercial setting or a residential one.
How to Prove Negligence in a Slip and Fall Case
In order to prove negligence in your case, you must show one of the following things:
“An affirmative duty to discover dangerous conditions.” Egede-Nissen v. Crystal Mt., Inc., 93 Wn.2d 127, 132, 606 P.2d 1214 (1980) (citing Restatement (Second) of Torts (1965)). Section 343 reads:
Dangerous Conditions Known to or Discoverable by Possessor
A possessor of land is subject to liability for physical harm caused to his invitees by a condition on the land if, but only if, he
(a) knows or by the exercise of reasonable care would discover the condition, and should realize that it involves an unreasonable risk of harm to such invitees, and
(b) should expect that they will not discover or realize the danger, or will fail to protect themselves against it, and
(c) fails to exercise reasonable care to protect them against the danger.
Known or Obvious Dangers
(1) A possessor of land is not liable to his invitees for physical harm caused to them by any activity or condition on the land whose danger is known or obvious to them, unless the possessor should anticipate the harm despite such knowledge or obviousness.
(2) In determining whether the possessor should anticipate harm from a known or obvious danger, the fact that the invitee is entitled to make use of public land, or of the facilities of a public utility, is a factor of importance indicating that the harm should be anticipated.
Simply put, in order to prove negligence, you must be able to show:
- First, that the owner or operator of the premises — or else an employee — should have known about the dangerous condition because a “reasonable” person would have.
- Second, that the defendant did know about the dangerous condition but actively chose to do nothing about it. These cases are usually pretty cut-and-dry.
Ultimately, a judge or jury is working to determine whether — had the owner or operator behaved in a more responsible manner — you wouldn’t have been injured.
Types of Slip and Fall Injuries
Common injuries suffered in a slip and fall accident include:
- Broken bones
- Sprained ankles
- Shoulder or hip dislocation
- Spine or nerve damage
- Internal bleeding
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Severe cuts and bruises
Because the injuries sustained in a slip and fall vary so widely, it’s important to properly determine who — if anyone — is at fault. These injuries can lead to long-term disability or permanent damage, particularly in the case of traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord damage.
Contact an Experienced Seattle Slip and Fall Attorney for Assistance
Have you or a loved one suffered from a slip and fall injury due to someone else’s negligence? For assistance and representation, contact an experienced slip and fall attorney at Herschensohn Law PLLC by calling (206) 588-4344.