You’ve seen the statistics on slip and fall accidents – millions of people get injured yearly when they slip and fall on property hazards that should have been fixed, blocked off, or warned against. Unexpected falls could lead to TBI, hospitalization, and even death. A debilitating injury when you least expect it could make you lose work shifts while medical bills pile up.
The law of premises liability protects individuals from dangerous conditions on both private and public property. Depending on your relationship, the property owner has certain legal duties and responsibilities for anyone who enters the premises. If the property owner fails to live up to these duties, an injury victim could file a slip and fall lawsuit to recover damages.
How a Hazardous Condition Can Lead to a Premises Liability Lawsuit
Workers, customers, visitors, and even some trespassers have legal rights when it comes to property safety. As a baseline, property owners, operators, and managers must make a reasonable effort to protect people on the premises from known dangers – either by fixing the danger, making the area inaccessible to visitors, or posting adequate warning signs.
For example, a friend invites you over to their home for dinner but they don’t tell you about their broken porch railing, which appears normal because they propped the rails back in place temporarily before they actually fixed it. When you lean against the railing, it gives way and you fall off the porch, severely injuring yourself. Because your friend knew about the dangerous condition, failed to fix it, exposed you to it by inviting you onto their property, and failed to warn you about the danger, they (or their homeowner’s insurance) could be held legally responsible for your injuries. But if your friend genuinely didn’t know about the broken railing and had no reason to suspect it was broken, you may not be able to hold them legally responsible for your injuries.
Sometimes, it’s not enough for the property owner to say they didn’t know about a dangerous condition – they have a legal duty to proactively inspect their property for dangers.
For example, you’re staying at a hotel where the escalator malfunctions, causing you to fall and seriously hurt yourself. The escalator did not appear dangerous before your accident, but the hotel had fallen behind on its regular maintenance schedule. You could hold the hotel legally responsible for your injuries because they had a proactive duty to inspect the premises for dangers and carry out regular maintenance.
In certain cases, the legal standards for property owners are even higher, especially when the property serves paying customers or has specific dangers associated with it, like construction sites. Property owners and managers must follow all the laws that apply, including OSHA standards and any local laws or regulations.
Failing to live up to these standards could be proof of negligence. If you get hurt because of someone else’s negligence, you could file a premises liability lawsuit to cover your injuries.
Are Slip and Fall Injuries Hard to Prove?
Slip and fall injuries are not necessarily hard to prove, especially if you have an experienced premises liability lawyer to help you build your case and navigate the legal process.
The stronger your evidence, the stronger your case. Evidence could include:
- Photos and videos of the premises and the hazardous condition
- Security footage from inside and around the property
- Maintenance and security records related to the property
- Testimony from bystanders and witnesses to the accident
- Official or city records that show hazardous conditions on the property
- A history of injuries caused by the same condition at the same location
- Examples of proper management in comparable buildings
You want to make sure to gather as much evidence as possible as soon as possible after your accident. This is because evidence is best when it’s fresh. For example, if you don’t get photos or videos of the scene of your accident, the property owner could fix the hazardous condition after you get injured and you could lose your chance. Then you won’t have any evidence of what condition the premises was in at the time you suffered your injury.
In addition to evidence about the property, it’s also important to start documenting evidence of your injuries right away. You can do this by getting checked out by a medical professional as soon after the accident as possible. This helps establish causation – in other words, the hazardous condition actually caused your injuries – which is critical in a premises liability case.
The longer you wait to go to the hospital, the weaker your evidence will be. After a serious fall, you should get checked out by a doctor even if you don’t have any obvious injuries. You could be suffering from latent injuries like concussions, which aren’t always detectable right away.
How to Prove Fault and Causation in a Premises Liability Case
An experienced slip-and-fall attorney can help you put together a case to prove that:
- The property owner owed you a legal duty of care to keep the premises safe,
- The property owner failed to live up to this legal duty, either by failing to fix a known dangerous condition, failing to inspect for unknown hazards, or failing to warn you of a dangerous condition when they should have, and
- You suffered an injury as a result of the property owner’s negligence.
Once you establish fault, causation, and injury, your lawyer will help you determine how much compensation – or damages – you should get in a settlement for your injuries. Your damages should cover any and all losses and expenses related to your injury, including medical costs, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages from missing work, and even pain and emotional suffering.
Ultimately, a premises liability lawsuit is meant to “make you whole” after you get injured because of someone else’s actions. You may be entitled to more compensation than you realize – and the person responsible for your injuries should be the one footing the bill.
At Sepulveda Sanchez Law, we can help. Click here to contact our experienced legal team now.