When it comes to premises liability, merchants have a responsibility to all visitors to make sure their grounds are reasonably safe. While that concept is simple enough, it can be difficult for people to determine whether they have a case after slipping and falling in a commercial establishment.
If you fall in a place of business and are thinking about taking legal action, you should start by considering the issues that the court will be weighing most heavily.
One of the most complex issues in these cases is understanding when and how a certain area became unsafe. This is why plaintiffs frequently bring up what is referred to as “constructive notice.” Under Louisiana law, victims must show evidence that the condition was something that, through reasonable care on the part of the merchant, would have been noticed.
For example, you slipped on a wet floor. The night before, there had been a heavy downpour and the roof leaked, causing the dangerous surface. If the merchant had conducted a walk-through of the premises, it is a reasonable conclusion that the merchant would have, or should have seen the wet floor. The burden of proof, therefore, goes beyond just illustrating that a fall was the result of unsafe conditions.
Another factor that courts will consider is comparable fault. In Louisiana, plaintiffs can share part of the responsibility for their fall and still obtain compensation. This is referred to as pure comparative fault and when this is the case, courts have to determine the extent of fault for each party involved. The amount of compensation awarded is then adjusted accordingly.
For instance, if you were 40 percent at fault, then you would only be able to seek compensation up to 60 percent of the full damages that you suffered.
Even when the victim has no role in the accident, sometimes there is more than one party at fault. This was the situation in a recent slip-and-fall case heard by the Louisiana Supreme Court. The court ruled that a sub-contractor was also responsible for the injuries a woman suffered when she fell inside a grocery store. The sub-contractor had been hired to clean the store and consequently, failed to move a rubber mat back in front of a meat counter.
Ultimately, the court ruled that the grocery store held 30 percent of the fault and the sub-contractor held 70 percent. They were both ordered to provide compensation based on that breakdown.
Part of any personal injury case is to provide proof that another person or company acted in a negligent manner. Something often overlooked in these proceedings is video footage from security cameras. Many cases have gone in favor of the defendant because video evidence contradicted the plaintiff’s statement.
For example, if your claim is that a nearby store clerk saw you slip and fall, but there’s film showing the worker with his or her back to the incident, the court may rule against you. However, security cameras can also reveal that an employee noticed the liquid spill an hour before you fell, but failed to take any preventative measures.
Everyone deserves to feel safe when entering an establishment. If dangerous conditions in a store or facility caused you harm, you may very well have a case against that merchant. However, before you set out to file a suit, it is a good idea to find a lawyer who can help you determine the strength of your claims.