How Can a Personal Injury Attorney Prove Negligence in a Slip and Fall Case?
“Slip and fall” is a phrase used in personal injury cases as shorthand to describe a situation where a person may trip, slip, and fall on another person’s property.
This is not to be seen a a trivialization of the occurrence. Many people are seriously injured when they trip over an uneven floor surface, or an irregular piece of ground.
In many of these cases, the happening of the event is not disputed, but responsibility for it is hotly contested. A personal injury attorney must prove the person or entity controlling the property is responsible.
If you are hurt on someone else property, in their store, or in their home, they are not automatically responsible for your injuries.
This surprises many people who assume the opposite is true. The law of course requires that landowners, and those controlling property for the owner keep up their property. By the same token, it is a law of nature – gravity, in fact – that allows things to drip onto the floor, and for a once smooth surfaces to crack or become uneven. For a property owner to be legally responsible for your injuries incurred on his or her property, Maryland law will typically require:
- An employee or the property owner to have had knowledge of the treacherous surface but did nothing to rectify it
- An employee or the property owner caused the dangerous spill or other icy, greasy or unsafe condition
- A “reasonable person” caring for the property would have noticed the dangerous surface or condition and fixed it
The injured person’s own “carelessness” must also be examined. As Attorney Eric T. Kirk discussed in another Guide, the role of “contributory negligence is always a factor in any Maryland slip and fall lawsuit.
“Would a careful person have seen the dangerous condition, and walked around it? Were there any signs warning about the dangerous spot?
If the answer is “yes”, the answer to the lawsuit will be “no”.
A distinction must also be made here between legal responsibility for an accident, and the existence of no-fault insurance, or “medical payments” coverage. This is different than liability insurance, which would only be operative upon proof of fault of the landowner. Medical payments coverage, carried by some commercial establishments, may be available to cover medical expenses due to an on-premises injury, without a showing of fault. Such coverage is limited to what it’s description suggests- medical payments. There is no coverage under these polices for things like lost wages or non-economic damages.