Everyone has slipped and fallen at some point in their lives. Most of these incidents are minor and are the result of the injured party simply not paying attention or not being careful. There are times, however, when someone slips, trips, or falls because of the carelessness or negligence of another party. Many of these incidents occur while on public property or a private commercial establishment. In such cases, those who are injured often wonder if they have a slip and fall case.
If you suffered injury due to a slip and fall on the property of another party, you may be able to file a personal injury claim based on the legal theory of premises liability and/or landowner negligence. In order to successfully recover damages in such cases, you must prove the following:
Duty of Care: The property owner owes the highest duty of care to invitees and lawful visitors. Trespassers are owed a limited duty of care – the owner must only refrain from causing willful and wanton harm to someone who unlawfully enters their property.
Breach of Duty: The owner and/or caretaker breaches their duty of care when:
- They fail to take reasonable steps to ensure that the property is safe;
- They fail to clearly warn visitors of known dangers;
- Their actions purposefully create a potentially hazardous condition.
Causation: But for the breach of duty, the visitor would not have suffered injury, and this breach (not other factors) is the proximate cause of the injury.
Damages: Some type of injury occurred resulting damages (e.g., physical, financial, emotional) to the victim.
To help determine whether or not you might have a slip and fall case, a few basic questions should be answered:
- Did an Unsafe Condition Exist on the Property?
Simply falling down and hurting yourself on someone else’s property is not enough to bring a slip and fall case. The incident must be the result of an unsafe or hazardous condition on the property. Examples may include:
- Wet and/or slippery floors;
- Cracked sidewalks, potholes in the parking lot, or uneven pavement;
- Loose or broken railings or steps;
- Torn or frayed carpet;
- Loose debris;
- Collapsed floors;
- Inadequately secured areas.
- Was the property owner and/or caretaker aware (or should they have been aware) of the hazardous condition?
The owner or caretaker must have been aware that a hazardous condition existed on the property, or you should be able to demonstrate that they should have been aware of the danger. Owners are allotted a reasonable amount of time to learn about a dangerous condition on their property. For example, if some milk was spilled on the floor of a grocery store and the slip and fall occurs a couple minutes later, the owner may not be held liable. If, however, a hazard existed for several days, you may have a stronger case. The timeline can often be established by surveillance video of the area, if available.
- Did the owner post a warning of the dangerous condition?
If an owner becomes aware of a hazard on their property and cannot immediately rectify the situation, they are usually required to post a clear warning of the danger. For example, when employees are mopping the floor, they typically post a “Caution Wet Floor” sign or something similar.
How Contributory Negligence Affects Slip and Fall Cases in Alabama
The state of Alabama is one of only a few states that does not follow “comparative negligence” rules. Under comparative negligence, the amount of damages awarded in a personal injury case is reduced according to the percentage of fault the plaintiff shares in the incident. Alabama follows the far more difficult standard known as “contributory negligence.” Under this rule, if a plaintiff shares any fault at all (even less than 1%), they cannot recover damages for the injury.
Under contributory negligence, the burden of proof is much higher for plaintiffs trying to recover damages in a slip and fall claim. If the property owner can find some reason to put even a small amount of the blame on the injured party, they can prevent the victim from recovering any compensation at all. For example, an owner might claim that the hazardous condition should have been obvious to a reasonable person, or that you were not paying attention to where you were walking.
If you suffered a slip and fall injury, it is important to consider carefully if any of these types of defenses may be used against you, and how you would counter them. It is also important that you retain as much documentation as possible. For example, make sure to report the incident immediately to an employee or staff member, take multiple photos of the area where you were injured, and retain the contact information of anyone who may have witnessed the incident. The more favorable evidence you have, the better the chances of proving your case.
Injured in a Slip and Fall Accident?
Premises liability and landowner negligence cases in Alabama are complex and challenging to pursue. However, if you have a solid case and strong legal representation in your corner, you have a far greater chance of success. If you or someone close to you suffered a slip and fall injury resulting from the negligence of another party, it is important to understand your rights and options. Contact Jones and Associates today at 334-699-5599 for a free case evaluation.