Is It Possible To Prove Negligence In A Slip And Fall Case?
“A person is negligent when they did not behave the way a reasonable person would under the same circumstances, and it resulted in harm to another.”
So really, it’s not a matter of whether you can prove negligence in a slip and fall case, but rather how.
What is a Slip and Fall Case?
First, it is important to understand what slip and fall cases are. Slip and fall liability claims are a type of personal injury claim in an area of law called premises liability law.
Slip and fall cases specifically involve injuries that occurred as the result of a dangerous condition on the property that should have been fixed or removed. Most importantly, liability for a slip and fall case is based on the legal theory of negligence.
What is Negligence?
According to the LII Wex legal dictionary, negligence is “[a] failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.”
Otherwise stated, a person is negligent when they did not behave the way a reasonable person would under the same circumstances, and it resulted in harm to another. However, just because someone is negligent does not mean that they are legally responsible for the harm. To prove negligence in a lawsuit, the person seeking compensation has to prove the following four elements:
- Duty: The defendant owed a duty of care to the injured.
- Breach of Duty: The defendant breached that duty (acted unreasonably).
- Cause: The breach caused the injury.
- Damages: The breach resulted in an injury that can be compensated.
Proving Negligence in a Personal Injury Slip and Fall Case
You must prove the elements of a negligence claim to successfully recover damages in a personal injury slip and fall lawsuit. However, the negligence elements of a slip and fall case are unique.
Duty of Care
You must show that the defendant owed a duty of care to you as a visitor to the property. First, the defendant must own, occupy, or otherwise control the property. Once you establish control, you must show that the defendant had a duty to keep the property in a safe condition by taking reasonable measures. Further, the kind of duty the property owner owes also depends on what kind of visitor you are (see below).
- Dangerous Condition:
You must show that there was a dangerous condition on the property that was not obvious. What is safe depends on the intended use of the property. For example, a ski hill will not have the same conditions as a bank parking lot.
Once you establish duty and show that there was a dangerous condition on the property, you must show that the defendant had notice of the dangerous condition and could have removed it. In Arizona, notice can be either actual notice or constructive notice. This means that notice exists when the defendant either knew or should have known of the dangerous condition.
All claimants must prove that the injuries were caused by a dangerous condition.
Of course, to recover in a slip and fall case, you must show that your injury resulted in damages. Damages may include hospital bills, lost income, or pain and suffering.
Different Kinds of Visitors are Owed Different Duties of Care
For what purpose a visitor enters a given property can greatly impact slip and fall liability claims. This is because property owners owe different duties of care to different kinds of visitors. In Arizona slip and fall cases, there are three types of property visitors:
“To recover in a slip and fall case, you must show that your injury resulted in damages. Damages may include hospital bills, lost income, or pain and suffering.”
An invitee is a person who enters a property for a specific business purpose. For example, when you enter a Target or a Mcdonald’s, you are entering those properties as an invitee.
A property owner is obligated to provide a reasonable standard of care to an invitee.
A licensee is someone who enters the property with permission for a personal purpose. For example, birthday party guests at a person’s home are licensees.
In the case of licensees, a person controlling the property must:
- provide a warning to the licensee of any dangerous conditions that creates an unreasonable risk of harm
- show notice to the person controlling the property
- show that it was not obvious to the person who was injured
A trespasser is someone who enters the property without permission from the property owner or the person who otherwise controls the property.
Trespassers are generally not owed a duty of care. However, in the case of children, they might. If the property has what is called an “attractive nuisance,” then the property owner must exercise reasonable care to avoid a reasonably foreseeable risk of harm to children.
For example, if the property owner builds a structure on the property, such as a hunting shack in a tree, this is likely to trigger the attractive nuisance doctrine.
A Property Owner May Allege Comparative Negligence
Even if an injured person has proven negligence in a slip and fall case, the property owner may still allege that the injured person’s own negligence contributed to the injury. The legal community calls this comparative negligence or “shared fault.”
Under the theory of comparative fault, a judge can reduce the injured person’s damages by a percentage that represents how much their own actions contributed to the injury. For example, the defendant may allege that the injured person was not paying sufficient attention when they tripped on the loose brick.
Statute of Limitations for a Slip and Fall Case in Arizona
A person who incurs personal injury due to a slip and fall is entitled to file a lawsuit for compensation within two (2) years of experiencing the event.
Contact Goodnow McKay’s Slip and Fall Lawyers
If you have been injured on someone else’s property, contact our slip and fall lawyers for a free consultation.
Slip and fall claims can be complicated cases. Goodnow McKay has extensive experience recovering reasonable settlements for our clients, even where comparative negligence is an issue.
No Hourly Fees
Here at Goodnow McKay, we do not charge our clients on an hourly basis for our services. Goodnow McKay lawyers represent clients in various kinds of auto accident claims, including liability/bodily injury claims, uninsured or underinsured claims, and medical payment claims.