How to Prove Fault in a Slip and Fall Case
Slip and fall accidents send thousands of people to hospitals in America each year with serious injuries such as broken bones, muscle tears, and traumatic brain injuries. Most slip and fall accidents are preventable if a property owner regularly inspects and maintains the premises. It is when owners neglect property maintenance that accidents happen. If you believe someone else is responsible for causing your recent slip and fall accident, you or your Richmond slip and fall lawyer must prove fault to obtain compensation.
Property Owner Duties Under Virginia Law
The landowner is the most probable at-fault party in a slip and fall claim. Slip and fall accidents typically fall under premises liability law. Premises liability governs cases involving property defects and injuries that occur on someone else’s property. Other types of premises liability cases include swimming pool accidents, dog attacks, amusement park injuries, and elevator accidents. Every property owner owes guests and visitors a duty to reasonably prevent accidents. This duty may involve three main tasks depending on the type of visitor.
- Inspect the property. The property owner must regularly inspect the land, home, store or business for new or hidden hazards.
- Repair visible hazards. The property owner must repair any recognized defects or hazards that exist on the property within a reasonable amount of time.
- Warn visitors of potential risks. If the property contains defects that may not be obvious to visitors, he or she must post warning signs.
A property owner owes an invitee, or someone invited onto the property, all three duties of care. A licensee, or someone who visits a property for his or her own reasons, receive the second two duties of care, but not a duty to inspect for unknown hazards. A landowner does not owe a trespasser, or someone without permission to enter the property, any duties of care. When proving fault for a slip and fall accident, your lawyer must show you were an invitee or licensee, and that the property owner breached a duty of care owed to you.
Elements of Proof
The goal of your case will be to prove the property owner owed you a duty of care, failed to fulfill this duty and caused your slip and fall. Property owners will be legally responsible for dangerous conditions they negligently fail to prevent or repair. A property owner may also be responsible for the actions of employees at a business. If a shop employee negligently ignored a spill, for example, the property owner may be vicariously liable for a resultant slip and fall.
Understanding a property owner’s duties of care to you is the first step toward obtaining compensation for your damages. Next, your lawyer must demonstrate the main elements of a premises liability claim. Your lawyer will need to prove the hazardous condition that caused you to slip and fall existed long enough that a reasonable person would have remedied the issue before your fall. Proving this element may take evidence such as cleaning logs or surveillance footage from the business where you fell.
The reasonable steps a property owner should have taken to prevent a slip and fall will depend on the circumstances. The courts in Virginia will look at what a prudent property owner would have done in the same situation. If a different landowner would have been able to prevent the slip and fall, the owner in your case may be liable for your damages. A lawyer can help you gather evidence to prove a defendant’s fault for your slip and fall accident. Evidence can include eyewitness statements and testimony from subject-matter experts. Hiring an attorney to prove fault on your behalf could optimize your chances of securing compensation for your damages.