Imagine walking into a grocery store. You only have a few things to pick up, so you expect it to be a short trip. However, things change in the blink of an eye when you slip in the cereal aisle. You fall hard on the ground and hit your head against a metal shelf. Besides serious pain, you also feel embarrassed at your clumsiness.
However, before you dismiss this type of incident as unavoidable or the result of clumsiness, you would be wise to determine if negligence may have been a factor. In cases where it was, property owners could be liable for damages.
Negligence claims start with a dangerous condition. Dangerous conditions in the context of grocery shopping might include:
- Puddles of water or other liquids in entrances or aisles
- Damaged flooring
- Poor lighting in a stairwell
- Precarious displays that could fall on shoppers
However, the existence of these and other hazardous conditions is not sufficient to support a negligence claim. Multiple elements must be satisfied: duty, breach, causation and damages.
Building a negligence claim
For a negligence claim to be successful, you must be able to prove that the property owner had a legal duty to act with reasonable care and breached that duty. This could mean that the owner knew about a dangerous condition (or should have known about it) but failed to take precautions that the average person would take. For instance, an average person would clean up a spill, repair broken flooring and move items that could fall on top of shoppers.
If the failure to properly address a dangerous condition causes an accident that results in damages, a negligence claim could be successful.
Investigating an accident
After a slip-and-fall accident like the one we described above, many of the details needed to support a claim may be unknown. Victims may see a puddle, for instance, but they may not know how long it was there or why it was there. These details are crucial to a negligence claim, so it is wise to do more investigation. With the help of an attorney, you could secure evidence like surveillance footage and maintenance records to get a complete picture of an accident.
Based on the evidence, you could determine that a property owner is liable for your injuries, lost wages, mental distress and other damages.