Every slip and fall claim is unique, but in all such cases, the strength of the available evidence is the primary factor in determining whether the victim obtains a financial award. There are three elements you’ll have to prove to win a settlement or verdict: negligence, causation, and damages.
Some of the most valuable evidence can be gathered at the scene, but your premises liability attorney can help you collect evidence that you’ve overlooked or that’s difficult to access. If the property owner is withholding evidence, such as surveillance footage or the incident report, your lawyer can apply legal pressure to obtain it.
Read on for an overview of the evidence your attorney might use to support your claim:
Evidence of Negligence
In personal injury law, negligence is defined as a breach of the legal duty of care owed to another party. Either an act (such as installing slippery floor tiles) or omission (such as failing to clean a spilled liquid in a reasonable amount of time) may constitute negligence.
The duty of care the property owner owed you at the time of your injury depends on whether you were classified as an invitee, licensee, or trespasser. If you were lawfully on the property for the economic benefit of the property owner—for example, buying groceries at your local supermarket—you would be considered an invitee. If you lawfully were on the property but not for the economic benefit of the property owner—for instance, a guest invited to dinner at a friend’s house—you would be considered an invitee. If you were on the property unlawfully, you would be considered a trespasser.
Property owners owe the highest duty of care to invitees; they must inspect the premises regularly to identify dangerous conditions, remedy those conditions within a reasonable timeframe, and post warnings to notify invitees about hazards that could cause injuries. If you were a licensee, the property owner would have a duty to fix dangerous conditions or to warn you about those conditions, but he or she wouldn’t have a duty to inspect the premises regularly.
Slip and fall claims are usually brought by people who were injured as invitees on a commercial property. To prove negligence in such a claim, you’ll have to demonstrate how the property owner (or one of his or her employees) beached the duty of care owed to you. This most likely will involve demonstrating that the staff knew or should have known about the hazard that caused your injuries yet failed to take reasonable steps to remedy it or to warn you about it.
Below are a few hazards that often lead to slip, trip, and fall claims:
- Freshly waxed or mopped floors;
- Spilled liquids;
- Water or mud that was tracked in by other customers;
- Loose or cluttered floorboards;
- Uneven floor surfaces;
- Negligent building maintenance;
- Defective handrails or a lack thereof;
- Potholes in parking lots;
- Negligently constructed staircases; or
- Torn carpets.
The most valuable evidence of negligence will depend on what caused your slip and fall. But generally speaking, the following evidence may contribute to the strength of your claim:
- Photos of the dangerous condition that caused your fall;
- Eyewitness testimony;
- Building maintenance records;
- Documentation of the establishment’s cleaning, operational, and training procedures;
- Surveillance recordings; and
- The incident report.
It’s possible that some of this evidence will be withheld by the business establishment. If the property owner or manager refused to give you a copy of the surveillance recordings or incident report, be sure to submit a request for them in writing. Your attorney can then file a subpoena if necessary to obtain such evidence.
Some of the evidence needed to prove negligence may also be time-sensitive or vulnerable to being altered or destroyed. As such, it’s wise to contact a lawyer as soon as possible so the investigation can be performed while all evidence is still available.
Evidence of Causation
Causation is the second element that must be proven to impose liability in a negligence claim. Proving causation essentially requires your slip and fall lawyer to demonstrate how the defendant’s negligence caused your damages. The evidence used to prove causation tends to be the same evidence used to prove negligence and damages; examples include photos of your injuries and the dangerous condition that caused them; X-rays, MRIs, and other diagnostic images; medical documentation; testimony from medical experts and eyewitnesses; etc.
Even if you did in fact slip and fall while on a commercial property as an invitee, it’s still possible that the insurance company will dispute causation. This may happen if you had a pre-existing injury or if you waited a considerable amount of time to visit a doctor. To reduce the likelihood of such a dispute, it’s important that you seek medical care right away and let your attorney handle all correspondence with the insurance company.
Evidence of Damages
Each state has its own laws regarding the types of damages that can be recovered in personal injury cases. In the state of California, slip and fall victims may be able to pursue compensation for the following compensatory damages:
- Medical bills;
- Lost income;
- Loss of future earnings;
- Property repairs;
- Home care and other economic damages;
- Emotional distress;
- Hedonic damages; and
- Pain and suffering.
Although personal injury victims are sometimes awarded punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages, this is rare in slip and fall cases since punitive awards are only available if the defendant acted with malice, oppression, or fraud. In the unlikely case that someone created the hazard that caused your fall with the intent to injure someone, punitive damages might be available.
To win a fair settlement or verdict your slip and fall attorney will have to present evidence to demonstrate the kinds of damages you’ve already incurred, the damages you’re reasonably certain to incur in the future, and the value of those damages. The most useful evidence will depend on the types of injuries you suffered, the permanence of those injuries, your pre-injury profession, and many other factors.
Below are a few examples of evidence that is often used to prove damages after a slip and fall:
- Diagnostic imaging such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans;
- Testimony from medical, financial, and vocational experts;
- 1099s, income tax returns, paystubs, bank statements, and documentation from other financial institutions;
- Photos of injuries; and
- The victim’s personal injury journal.
Call (562) 206-1939 for a Free Consultation with a Long Beach Slip and Fall Lawyer
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
Not all personal injury lawyers have the experience to provide effective representation to slip and fall victims, but attorney Michael D. Waks has a track record of success in these claims. With an in-depth understanding of the relevant statutes, case law, and proceedings, Michael knows what it takes to win substantial settlements and verdicts in slip and fall cases.
Michael will gather all available evidence of liability and damages, interview eyewitnesses, and apply legal pressure if necessary to obtain evidence that’s being withheld. He can also help you avoid critical mistakes that might delay the proceedings or cause a dispute.
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