Indoor and outdoor slips-and-falls are all too common and can result in serious injuries. While your injuries may be evident and obvious, proving liability (fault) in these cases can be tricky. Your chances of prevailing will be greatly enhanced if you have an experienced St. Johns County slip and fall lawyer on your side who can determine whether you have a viable claim and if so, help you present persuasive evidence of liability.
Elements of a Slip and Fall Claim
In order to prevail in a slip-and-fall case, you must demonstrate that the owner or manager of the premises had a legal obligation (called a “duty”) to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition; that this duty was breached; and the breach of duty caused your injuries.
To prove that the owner/occupier of the property breached (or failed to uphold) his duty of care, you must show that:
- A hazard existed on the property (e.g., lettuce or a grape or water on the grocery store floor; a broken handrail; an unmarked step; an unmarked area under construction or renovation, etc.); and
- The property owner/occupier knew about the hazard or should have known about it.
If you are unsure of what caused you to slip and fall in the first place, then proving the existence of a hazard will be more difficult. In this scenario, eyewitness testimony can be critical to your case. For example, if you aren’t sure what caused you to slip and fall in the grocery store, but an eyewitness at the scene observed water on the back of your coat when you stood up, we could infer that you slipped and fell on water (or some other liquid) that was present on the floor. In addition to eyewitness testimony, other helpful evidence might include photographs, store incident reports, testimony from store employees, statements from emergency room workers or other healthcare providers, and statements included in your medical records. All of these pieces of evidence will help to prove that a hazard existed, which caused you to slip and fall.
Caution: As a practical matter, you should be extremely careful about what you say to medical providers or EMTs who arrive on scene. Any statements that you make to these individuals can be used against you by the insurance company if you pursue a personal injury claim and seek compensation. For example, if you tell the EMTs, “I’m not sure what I fell on; it’s possible I just tripped over my own two feet!” you can bet that the insurance company will take those statements into consideration, and it is likely that your claim will be denied.
You can establish that the owner/occupier knew or should have known about the hazard with evidence that the owner caused the hazardous condition to exist (e.g., ordered the construction on the staircase or spilled the liquid on the floor) or that the hazard had been present for some time. In that instance, there may be a paper trail (e.g., emails, complaint forms, work orders, maintenance logs, etc.) leading from the owner to the hazard.
Establishing fault in a slip-and-fall case can be a complicated and challenging endeavor. Our experienced St. Johns County slip and fall lawyers know how to gather and present persuasive evidence of liability, and can help you obtain fair compensation for your injuries. To contact us, please call (904) 849-2266 or use the email form on this page to tell us about your situation.