A business of landowner is only responsible to pay your bills after you prove they were "negligent" or "at fault" for causing your slip and fall injury. So, how do you prove the landowner was "at fault" or "negligent?"
Many people mistakenly believe that if you fall on an owner's property, that it must pay for your medical bills and pain. That' simply not true. The property owner is not like an insurance company that must pay for your bad health -- you can only recover if you show that a hazardous condition caused your fall. That might seem unfair, but it's settled Indiana law.The 2 Essential Things to Prove to Win a Slip and Fall Case
In order to win a slip and fall case, the injured person must be able to prove two things:
- A hazardous condition on the property cause the fall; and
- The defendant had "notice" of the hazard.
This might sound elementary, but it's amazing how many times the two elements can get confusing. Being able to prove these elements is necessary to move your case forward to a jury.
Oftentimes, a defendant property owner's lawyer will file what is called a "Motion for Summary Judgment" which asks the Judge to throw the case out of court before a trial because one or both of these elements cannot be proven because Indiana law follows laws from a long time ago that require these two elements be shown in order to win.
Let's look first at "hazardous condition." This is a legal term that simply means that "something" improper caused your fall. It can mean a foreign object on the floor like a BB or a pellet. It can mean a slippery substance on a floor like water or snow/ice or oil. It can mean a crack in pavement; uneven concrete; or even a pothole. It simply means that a condition of the land caused you to fall out of the ordinary and dangerous -- other than you tripping over your feet or fainting.
That's why it's so important to attempt to document what caused your fall after you fall to try and remember.
Indiana law does not require you to know exactly what type of item or substance caused your fall. For example, it is okay to fall and then realize it was ice that caused you to fall because you felt it with your hands while you tried to stand up.
Or after a fall you feel your pants and they are greasy and you remember your shoes slipping like they were on grease.
Also, your case can proceed if it was somebody else that saw what caused your fall or an incident report describes the foreign substance or item. Defects can be shown by people other than yourself.
The second thing you must prove in order to win is "notice."
Notice is often called "knowledge" of the Defendant of the dangerous condition of his land. The idea here is that it would be unfair to impose liability upon a landowner or business owner for a dangerous condition of his land if he did not know about or have time to fix it.
There are two types of notice, however, that can suffice to a court of law. One is called "actual knowledge" -- this means the landowner knew of the dangerous condition, like snow and ice, but did nothing about it.
The other notice that suffices is called "constructive knowledge" -- this means the landowner or business owner should have known of the dangerous condition when compared to a similarly situated, reasonable landowner. An example of this would be a large pothole in the middle of a parking lot. Potholes take many months to come into existence. Indiana law says a landowner must make reasonable periodic inspections of his property. If a landowner failed to do this, it can be assumed he should have realized the pothole existed, so that he is imputed "constructive knowledge."
This constructive knowledge is only afforded to invitees on Indiana property like invited guests and customers. Trespassers are not afforded "constructive knowledge" of the landowner. A landowner must only refrain from intentionally injuring a trespasser.
Finally, how long the defect must exist before "constructive knowledge" is imputed to the landowner or business owner depends upon the facts of the case and the type of defect. Obviously, the pothole example takes a significant amount of time. On the other hand, a grocery store videotape might reveal that spilled milk in an aisle occurred only 10 minutes before a fall that injured a customer. In this circumstance, it might be difficult to prove the grocery store owner had "constructive knowledge" of the problem.
On the other hand, if you can show the defect was caused by the landowner himself, there is no need to prove notice at all. An example is a leaking cooler or refrigerator that leaks water or cooling fluid into an aisle that injures a person. Because the business owner caused the dangerous condition, he cannot take the added protection of requiring the injured person to prove the landowner knew about it.
There are an infinite amount of dangerous defects that cause a person to fall and get injured.
Proving knowledge depends upon the facts of the case.
You need an experienced lawyer like Attorney Jeff "JJ" Shaw to help with these difficult concepts.
Call (260) 777-7777 to get Attorney Jeff "JJ" Shaw on your case within minutes from the comfort of your own home.
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