How to Prove a Slip and Fall Claim

Businessman slipping on wet office floor

If you ask someone on the street about personal injury lawsuits, it’s likely that the first thing they’ll think of is: “car accident.” The second thing would be: slip and fall. We’ve heard the stories of people slipping on a milk spill in a grocery store and recovering thousands of dollars as a result. But is everyone who slips on someone else’s property entitled to compensation? How do you actually win a slip and fall claim? Continue reading for a discussion of how you prove liability in a slip and fall case. If you’ve been injured on someone else’s property in New York, call an experienced Bronx slip and fall lawyer at the Kohn Law Firm for advice and representation.

Basic Elements of a Slip and Fall Case

A slip and fall case is a type of premises liability claim which, in turn, is a type of personal injury claim. For any personal injury claim, you need to show four things: duty, breach, injury, and causation. For a slip and fall claim, the plaintiff needs to establish:

  • The defendant owned, leased, occupied, or controlled the property
  • The defendant was somehow negligent in the maintenance or use of that property
  • The plaintiff was harmed by slipping, tripping, or otherwise falling on the property
  • The defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff to slip

In most slip and fall cases, duty and injury are relatively easy to establish: The plaintiff fell and was injured on property owned or controlled by the defendant. The crux of the case usually turns on proving that the defendant was negligent.

Proving Negligence: Hazard and Knowledge

Different states have different standards when it comes to proving a property owner was negligent. In New York, the plaintiff will typically have to show that they were injured as a result of a hazardous or dangerous condition on the defendant’s property and that the defendant either created the hazard or knew or should have known about that dangerous condition. A dangerous condition is one that presents an unreasonable risk of harm to a person on the property; it can be anything from a spill to a loose cable in a dimly lit room, a broken step, or loose carpeting.

Generally, to show the defendant was negligent with regard to the dangerous condition, the plaintiff must show at least one of the following:

  • The defendant created the condition. For example, a wet floor that is caused by an employee’s cleaning.

  • The defendant knew of the condition and failed to correct it. For example, a store owner sees a customer make a spill and chooses not to clean it up.

  • The defendant should have known of the condition through the exercise of reasonable care. Often, a plaintiff can show that a defendant should have known of a dangerous condition because the condition had existed for such a long time that a reasonable owner/operator would have discovered the hazard through reasonable inspection and care.

Once a property owner is aware of a dangerous condition, or the hazard is such that they should have been aware, the defendant has a duty to either correct the condition (e.g., clean up the spill) or adequately warn guests of the hazard (e.g., put up a “wet floor” sign). If they fail to do so, and a guest on their property is injured by the hazard, the injured guest has a slip and fall claim.

Proving that a defendant was negligent often entails a complex, case-by-case analysis. If a spill caused by a customer has only been on the floor of a grocery store for five minutes, it might be difficult to argue that a reasonable shop owner should already have discovered it. If the spill had been left untouched for fifteen minutes, however, then it’s reasonable the manager or an employee should have discovered the spill and cleaned it up. Every case depends on its own set of facts.

If there’s a wet floor in the entryway because it’s raining outside, however, we’d expect a store owner to take reasonable steps right away, because that hazard is very foreseeable. Moreover, the standard of reasonable care may differ depending upon whether the defendant operates a place for public visitation, such as a grocery store, or whether the defendant is the owner of a private residence. An experienced premises liability attorney can provide more direct insight into a particular situation and whether the defendant’s conduct might have risen to the level of negligence.

Call the Kohn Law Firm for Help With a Slip & Fall Case in the Bronx

We understand that each slip and fall injury case is unique. Contact our Bronx personal injury attorneys today to evaluate your unique slip and fall, trip and fall, or other premises liability claim. The Kohn Law Firm will give you a personalized evaluation and help you figure out your legal rights and next steps.

Call us today at 718-409-1200 for a fast response or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.

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