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When Is A Slip, Trip & Fall Potential Grounds For A Lawsuit?

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A slip and fall or trip and fall accident occurs when someone slips or trips and injures themselves while on another person’s property. Victims can lose their footing after encountering a number of different safety hazards, including uneven flooring, slippery floors, torn carpeting, electrical cords or cables, piles of snow or ice, and clutter.

In many slip and fall cases, the property owner can be held liable for the victim’s injuries. This is because of a legal doctrine known as premises liability, which states that a property owner must maintain safe conditions on his property so that visitors do not get hurt. But, that does not mean that the property owner will be automatically held liable for every slip and fall accident that occurs on his property. So, how do you know if you have a legitimate case?

When is the Property Owner Liable?

In order to hold the property owner accountable, the plaintiff must be able to prove one of the following:

  • The property owner (or one of the property owner’s employees) created the safety hazard that caused the slip and fall accident. For example, if a property owner spilled water on the floor and failed to clean it up, he could be liable if someone slips on the water.
  • The property owner (or one of the property owner’s employees) knew or should have known about the safety hazard even though he did not create it. He should have also known to fix the safety hazard so that it no longer posed a danger to visitors on the property. In order to prove that a property owner should have known about the safety hazard, the plaintiff has to show that a reasonable property owner would have known about it.

Proving Negligence

If one of the above statements is true, the property owner was negligent for allowing the safety hazard to remain on his property, and therefore will be held liable in your case. But, how can you prove that one of the conditions above is true? Your attorney may need to interview employees and witnesses to determine what they saw. An employee may have saw the property owner create the safety hazard and walk away before failing to clean it up.

Attorneys can also ask the property owner to hand over any surveillance footage that shows the area where the accident occurred. If the property owner caused the safety hazard, the evidence should be found on the surveillance footage.

Getting the surveillance footage and talking to witnesses can also be helpful when trying to prove that the property owner should have known about the safety hazard. For example, if the surveillance footage shows that the safety hazard was present for hours or days prior to the accident, this could be enough to prove that a reasonable property owner would have known about the hazard and done something to fix it. The surveillance footage may also show the property owner walking right by the safety hazard several times, which is evidence that he would have spotted the issue if he were a reasonable owner. Interviews with witnesses may also reveal that the property owner was notified of the hazard prior to the accident, but failed to do anything to fix it.

All of this evidence can be used to prove that the property owner was negligent in maintaining safe conditions on his property, and should therefore be held liable for your injuries. But, gathering all of this evidence and using it to build a case is harder than it may seem. For this reason, it’s important to let an experienced personal injury attorney handle your case.

Were You Partly to Blame?

Before filing a slip and fall lawsuit, you may want to talk to your attorney to determine if you were partly to blame for the accident. Iowa is a modified comparative negligence state, which means the victim may still be able to recover compensation even if she was partly to blame for the accident. But, if she was more at fault for the accident than the property owner, she will not be able to recover compensation.

For example, let’s say the victim slipped and fell on a puddle of water inside a retail store that she didn’t see because she was texting on her phone. The puddle of water had been on the ground for several hours, so the property owner should have known about it. In the end, the court finds that the property owner is 45% liable and the plaintiff is 55% liable because she should have been paying attention to where she was walking. Because the court found that the plaintiff was more than 50% at fault, she will not be able to recover compensation.

If your attorney thinks that you were mainly to blame for causing the accident, it may not be worth your time to file a lawsuit. However, if your attorney thinks that you only played a small role in causing the accident, it’s still a good idea to file a lawsuit. Your compensation may be reduced to account for the role that you played in the accident, but you will still be able to recover some of what you deserve. For instance, if you were only found to be 30% liable and the property owner was 70% liable, you would still be able to recover 70% of the compensation that you are owed.

Have you been injured in a slip and fall accident on another person’s property? If so, contact Trial Lawyers for Justice today to schedule a consultation regarding your case. Our experienced personal injury attorneys will help you recover compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

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Trial by Human

Nick Rowley founded Trial by Human, a nationwide legal education course to help trial lawyers improve their skills in the courtroom by "being human".