So, you’ve slipped in the supermarket on a wet floor. You were really hurt and you think it might be due to the negligence of the shop owner.
Your lawyer will need to prove to a jury that the accident was the result of negligence. He must prove that your injuries actually came from that accident and that the monetary damages you are seeking were caused directly by the accident.
He will also definitely mull over what defenses will be used against you. The other party is going to argue against your claim and will try to minimize it.
What common resistances is there that can be used by the defense attorneys?
You knew your action was risky, but you choose to continue with it.
It is called “Assumption of the Risk”-defense. You understood that the floor was wet because you saw other people slipping on it, but you choose to walk over the wet floor yourself. Negligence can’t be claimed if you then fall and hurt yourself.
The property owner can argue:
- The risk of walking in the area was clear and obvious.
- The person who was injured voluntarily chosen to walk on the wet floor.
The key question in the assumption of risk defense is whether the danger of the spot was obvious. It is not always easy to determine. Black ice, for example, is really difficult to see. When is it reasonable to expect a person to anticipate black ice?
You should have known.
Yes, you fell and broke your ankle on a broken sidewalk. But, the defense lawyer will argue, you should have watched your step! This is the “Comparative Negligence” –defense. You are wholly or partially responsible for what happened to you.
This defense might not disagree totally that the property manager are also to blame, but they will try to put some of the blame on you.
The defense lawyer is trying here to reduce the penalty that his client is responsible for. A percentage of the blame will be allocated to you and your damage award will be smaller. Say, you were awarded $50 000 in damages, but you were 50% at fault because of irresponsible behavior. Your payout will then be only $25 000.
Some sleazy lawyers may attempt you argue that you were drunk at the time of the accident, regardless of the evidence. It is therefore always a good policy to be sure to get the contact information of any witnesses and write down what exactly happened as soon as you are able to. If you can take pictures, do so.
You’ve caused those injuries to yourself.
Defense lawyers may try to tell the jury that your slip and fall accident did not cause the injuries you are claiming compensation for. It is a valid defense, as it has been proved many times that scheming persons out there tried to trick someone to a payout.
However, as long as you’ve kept every piece of paper concerning your diagnosis, took photos of your injuries and got eyewitness reports, you should have an easy time proving the contrary.
“I am not responsible”.
Property owners can be held responsible for accidents if there is proof that they knew about the dangerous condition on their property and that they failed to rectify the situation. It can even be argued that they should have known that something can cause a serious accident. If they had a reasonable time to repair the condition or to set up a fence to prevent access and did not do it, they are liable to be sued for damages.
The “I am not responsible”– defense is another common defense used by lawyers and they might argue that the property owner knew nothing and that there was no way he could have known.
If you slip in a store on a puddle of spilled apple juice caused by a child in a stroller, the store owner can argue that it is unreasonable to expect them to be immediately aware of something that he or an employee did not cause directly.
But, it is a minefield! The property- or store owner need not be explicitly TOLD about a danger. There is a responsibility on him to take reasonable steps to discover unknown hazards on his premises by doing regular inspections. So, if you can prove that the apple juice puddle was there for three hours, the store owner can be held legally responsible.