Winning a Slip and Fall Accident Case
Proving the Injury
While slip and fall accidents can be minor, more serious injuries are always possible. Injuries can include, but are not limited to, broken and fractured bones, spinal injuries, soft tissue injuries, back injuries, internal organ injuries. Some people suffer from chronic pain symptoms, migraines, and sleep disorders. Slip and fall accidents can be more serious for vulnerable people, such as the elderly or disabled. The plaintiff’s medical records outlining his or her history (to show there was no pre-existing history), medical evidence (e.g., x-rays or other tests) confirmed by a physician or other medical practitioner and other evidence (e.g., photos, witness statements) may be used as proof that an injury occurred from the accident.
Establishing Who Is Potentially Liable
Slip and fall accidents can occur on commercial property (such as bars, restaurants and stores), private property and government property. Liability for commercial property accidents can fall on a number of people or entities, including owner, management and employees. Private property owners also have a duty to ensure their premises are safe for others, including family members, friends, and strangers such as salespeople and repair workers. A number of people or entities can be held responsible in government property accidents, but special rules may apply in such cases, such as rigid notice requirements and broad exception provisions that may protect them from liability altogether.
Common Liability Types
Several slip and fall accident types are common, whether they involve commercial, private or government property. Commercial property slip and fall accidents commonly involve wet floors, uneven tiles, torn carpeting, unsafe construction work, poor lighting, poorly maintained railings on stairs, narrow stairs, or failure to properly maintain an adjacent parking lot. Private property slip and fall accident claims often entail failure to clear the driveway of ice and snow. Government property slip and fall claims tend to entail improperly cleared roads and sidewalks during winter months, and broken, cracked or uneven sidewalks and potholes in the ground at any time of the year.
Owners of commercial properties and private property owners have an obligation to keep their premises safe through regular maintenance. Any failure to ensure that their properties do not pose a risk to visitors may fall below the standard of care expected. In order to hold another party responsible for injuries suffered in a slip and fall accident, you, as the injured person, need to prove that one or the other of the following occurred.
- A property owner/occupier should have recognized and remedied a dangerous situation (such as an uneven walking surface or broken step) and removed or repaired it, but failed to do so. Whether a reasonable person would have identified the condition as hazardous, and whether the owner or employee had sufficient opportunity to remedy the situation before the accident resulted will be questioned; OR
- A property owner/occupier created the dangerous condition that existed for a length of time (e.g., by allowing a spill to remain on the floor without cones around it until it could be cleaned up) and it was reasonably foreseeable that someone would trip and fall due to the condition.
The Standard of Care
The standard of care that the owner (or their employee) would have deviated from is failing to act “as a reasonably prudent person” would have acted under circumstances similar to those leading up to the accident. Some of the types of questions in trying to assess whether the defendant acted reasonable or not are:
- How long did the hazardous condition or obstacle exist? Would a reasonable property owner or employee have already taken action to eliminate the hazard?
- Was there a routine to check for potential hazards on the property? If so, is there a log or other record of whether the procedure was followed just before the accident?
- Was there a reasonable explanation for the creation of the potential hazard and did this justification still exist at the time of the accident? (e.g., the driveway wasn’t cleared because it was still snowing)
- How much expense, difficulty and planning would there have been to repair the condition?
- Could safety have been improved by relocating the hazard, placing adequate warning signs in the area, or preventing access to the location?
- Was poor lighting or limited visibility a factor in causing the accident?
The Role of Evidence
Because slip and fall accidents often occur outside of the victim’s own home, it is important to document the nature of the incident before conditions at the site change, either by the weather or from actions of the liable parties. Where possible, it is best to take pictures of the accident scene, the injuries and the clothing worn, including footwear. It is also helpful to try to collect information from potential witnesses. Further, you should contact a personal injury lawyer about the accident immediately so he or she can assess the situation right away, outline your options and advise you of the time limits for making a claim.
At Kenneth Cristall Law Corporation we have offices in Vancouver, Surrey and 5 other locations in British Columbia. A slip and fall lawyer at our firm will provide you with a better understanding of the legal issues in these cases and improve your odds of winning your slip and fall accident case. Call us for an appointment at 604-654-2250.