Slip and falls happen all the time on both private property and public grounds. Many times, slip and fall incidents are the result of sheer clumsiness. Sometimes, however, they are the result of another person’s or entity’s negligence or carelessness.
If you or a loved one sustained an injury on public or private property, and if you believe you could have avoided your accident had the property owner acted with more care, you may have a slip and fall case. A slip and fall case is a type of premises liability case, which is essentially a personal injury case. As with any type of personal injury claim, you must establish negligence on the defendant’s part if you hope to recover compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages and other damages.
Establishing negligence in a slip and fall case is rarely easy. Without video footage or eyewitness accounts, there is no telling that you did not cause the accident yourself, or that you did not stage the incident. To prove that the property owner, and not you, was responsible for the accident, you will need sufficient evidence and the help of a skilled slip and fall lawyer.
The Elements of a Successful Slip and Fall Claim
The success of your slip and fall claim boils down to your ability to prove that the property owner or occupier acted negligently. However, even if you can establish negligence, you may not have a case if you cannot also establish the existence of the four elements of a personal injury claim. Those are as follows:
- Duty of Care: The property owner or occupier had a responsibility to take reasonable measures to keep you safe from harm.
- Breach: Through action or inaction, the property owner breached this duty.
- Causation: The breach of duty resulted in the accident that caused your injuries.
- Damages: You sustained actual damages as a result of the incident.
If you can establish these elements, you and your lawyer will then need to focus on proving negligence.
The Fifth Element
Slip and fall cases are unique from other types of personal injury cases in that they require plaintiffs to prove the existence of a fifth element, which is the “Open and Obvious” element. Open and obvious means the hazard that caused your accident was so obvious that any other reasonable person would have seen it and taken care to avoid it. If the defendant can prove that the hazard was, in fact, open and obvious, the courts may bar you from recovering compensation. So, not only do you need to establish that the defendant was negligent but also, you need to prove that you were not.
Establishing Negligence in Your Slip and Fall Case
In the real world, “negligence” is subjective. In the legal world, however, negligence refers to actions or inactions that go against what is reasonable given the situation. In legal situations, the “reasonable person” becomes the standard against which all others are compared.
In the case of your slip and fall claim, the deciding parties will assess the property owner or occupier’s actions leading up to the incident and try to determine whether they are in line with what any reasonable person in the same situation would have done. To do this, they may ask the following questions:
- Was there a reasonable justification for the existence of the potential hazard and, if so, did that justification still exist at the time of the accident?
- Did the hazardous condition exist for long enough that any reasonable property owner or occupier would have known of its existence and either taken measures to eliminate it or warn visitors of its presence?
- Did the property owner or occupier have policies in place designed to detect hazards such as the one that harmed you? If so, are there logs to prove this, and to prove that either he, she or an employee routinely adhered to those policies?
- Was the lighting around the hazard sufficient? If it was not, was it possible that poor visibility contributed to your accident?
- Was there a way that the property owner or occupier could have made the hazard less precarious through preventative measures, such as blocking off the area or placing warning signs around it?
By addressing the answers to these questions, the deciding parties can determine the reasonableness of the defendant’s actions.
Proving That You Are Not At-Fault for Your Accident
If you file a slip and fall claim, you can almost guarantee that the other party’s insurance company will counteract your claim with assertions that you caused the accident yourself. Insurers know how tough it is to prove fault in slip and fall cases and that, many times, it is a “he-said-she-said” game. They count on lack of evidence, combined with a plaintiff’s lack of legal representation, to get victims to either give up or accept a less-than-fair settlement. For this reason, you need an experienced and aggressive attorney who is familiar with insurers’ tactics and who knows how to combat them.
In addition to proving that the other party was negligent, your lawyer will work to establish your innocence. He or she may do this through evidence that establishes the following:
- You had lawful access to the area in which the dangerous condition was located and/or a legitimate excuse for being there.
- You did not engage in horseplay or any other activities that prevented you from noticing a hazard that any other reasonable person would have seen.
- There existed no warning signs or other safety measures that a reasonable person would have or should have noticed.
Even if the defendant can prove that your carelessness played a minor role in your accident, you may still be able to recover compensation. Connecticut adheres to a modified comparative fault rule, which means that you can recover compensation so long as your percentage of fault does not exceed 51%. However, your recovery amount will be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to your case.
Evidence in Slip and Fall Cases
Now that you know what to prove in your slip and fall case, you may wonder how you can prove it. As with any type of legal case, the more evidence you have in your favor, the better. Examples of evidence that help in these types of cases are as follows:
- Video footage
- Eyewitness accounts
- Maintenance records and logs
- Accident reports
- Medical bills
- Receipts for out-of-pocket costs
The right legal team can help you gather evidence and use it to your advantage.
Work With an Experienced Connecticut Slip and Fall Attorney
People slip and fall every day due to their own carelessness, so when a person plans to sue for damages, the courts expect him or her to come prepared with a solid case. If you wish to pursue compensation for the damages you sustained as a result of your slip and fall accident, retain the help of an experienced slip and fall lawyer in Connecticut. Contact Gould Injury Law for the quality and affordable representation you need and deserve.