Slip and fall is a certain variety of accident where you sustain injuries on another person’s property. An actual trip is not necessary for a valid claim. The basic principle behind slip and fall cases is that another person was responsible for a dangerous situation on their property, and that hazard led to your injury. Numerous laws govern slip and fall injuries in North Carolina, and an experienced Charlotte slip and fall lawyer will be able to go over your specific situation with you. In general, the first step of a slip and fall lawsuit is establishing the property owner’s negligence. This involves showing that they failed to fulfill their duty to make their premises safe for you to visit.
Premises Liability and Establishing Negligence
The law in North Carolina requires a uniform standard of safety landowners must provide to all lawful visitors. The property owner must take reasonable care that you do not experience harm while on their land. This involves correcting all dangerous situations that do not require an excessive burden or effort to fix. If there is a danger that cannot be reasonably eliminated, such as an issue caused by the landscape or natural elements, the property owner must provide you with adequate warning. If you’re trespassing on the property, the landowner’s only duty is to not harm you intentionally.
Slip and fall settlements hinge on whether the property owner’s negligence was the cause of your injury. There are two types of negligence you can attempt to establish:
- Active negligence
- Passive negligence
If you have questions about the different types of negligence in a slip and fall case, continue reading below, or reach out to a Charlotte slip and fall lawyer at Randall & Stump, PLLC for help.
Active Negligence in Slip and Fall Accidents
Active negligence refers to an action by the property owner (or their employees) that caused your injuries. If an owner or employee spilled clear liquid on the floor, they are obligated to either fix the dangerous situation or provide warning of it. If they do neither of those things, they may be liable for any damages caused by you slipping and falling in the liquid.
Passive Negligence in Slip and Falls
Passive negligence does not apply to any direct action taken by an owner or employees. Instead, it occurs when an owner knows (or should have known) about a dangerous situation, and does nothing to fix it. The flooring in an establishment may be uneven, causing you to trip and fall. It is a reasonable assumption that the owner of that establishment should know about any issues with the flooring and issue a warning. If no warnings were posted, they might be liable on the premise of passive negligence.
Contributory Negligence: an Owner’s Defense in Slip and Fall Cases
If you claim that you were injured in a slip and fall accident, the property owner will likely try to pin some of the responsibility on you. Most states have a variation of a law that allows the person who fell to share some responsibility for their injuries. Under these comparative negligence laws, responsibility for the accident is divided into percentages. Owners are only required to pay for the percentage of damages they are found to be responsible for. North Carolina, however, follows the much less charitable “contributory negligence” standard. Under this concept, if you are found to share any responsibility for your slip and fall accident, no matter how small, you are not entitled to recover any compensation.
A Charlotte slip and fall lawyer at our firm spends much of their time combating contributory negligence claims from property owners. A landowner may attempt to prove your responsibility for an accident by claiming:
- You were on a part of the property visitors don’t usually go.
- You were on a part of the property visitors are not allowed to go.
- You were on part of the property not frequented by the owner or employees. (This is an attempt to show there was no reason to know of a dangerous situation.)
- You were dressed inappropriately for the situation. (This generally refers to footwear in a slip and fall case.)
- There was an adequate warning of the danger, which you ignored.
- The danger would have been obvious to a reasonable person, and you assumed the risk.
- You were behaving in a distracting way.
Contributory negligence generally plays a large role in slip and fall cases, whether they progress to trial or not. The opposition will know you risk walking away with nothing, and will likely try to establish contributory negligence during the settlement phase. You and your lawyer will need to collect evidence showing the negligence lies entirely with the other party, and not with you.
Evidence of Negligence in a Slip and Fall Case
To receive any compensation for your slip and fall accident, you must prove that you share none of the blame for your injuries. In order to avoid walking away with nothing, the following forms of evidence can be helpful:
- Witness statements. If others testify the danger could have reasonably been corrected, it may show the fault lies with the owner.
- Incident reports. Official descriptions of the incident can indicate where the fault for the dangerous situation should lie.
- Photographs. Photos not only show whether the danger was reasonable, but they also capture what warnings or preventative measures, if any, were in place.
- Video footage. With the prevalence of security cameras, video recordings are often the best way to see what happened in real time.
Preserving evidence such as photo or video captured by in-store cameras requires prompt communication with the property owner. You must give them notification of the accident, and request that they maintain whatever footage they have, or at a minimum, that it be preserved.
A Charlotte slip and fall lawyer from Randall & Stump, PLLC will understand what procedures need to be followed, and they will be able to talk you through the steps of your case.
The Statute of Limitations Restricts Your Window for Filing a Claim
If you’re debating whether or not to hire a lawyer and file your slip and fall claim, don’t wait. An attempt to file any case after the statute of limitations has expired will almost certainly result in your case being dismissed. North Carolina law mandates that any personal injury claim, including a slip and fall accident, must be filed within three years. This three-year clock begins running on the date the accident happened. After you’re hurt in a trip and fall incident, your best bet is to speak with a lawyer immediately.