The weather has been terrible lately with rain and freezing temperatures. It was no wonder that you slipped and fell while you were walking into the supermarket yesterday. Unfortunately, you broke your wrist and cracked your tailbone. While these are not life threatening injuries, they are still costing you work wages and medical bills.
Is it completely your fault that you slipped or is the supermarket at least partially responsible for the accident? As with most questions concerning the law, it depends. Property owners have a responsibility to provide a safe space for people that are on the property. If the supermarket did not provide a safe environment for its customers, you may be able to file a claim to recoup your expenses.
It can be difficult to prove fault in a slip and fall claim. Read below for basic information you should know if you are considering filing a claim against the property owner for your fall.
Was prevention possible?
The first question you will ask is if the supermarket could have taken steps to prevent someone from falling. If you walked into the shop and the floor was wet without any signs suggesting caution or mats to help prevent people from tracking water in, then the supermarket probably did not take enough precautions.
However, if you walked through an area that a reasonable personal would have avoided, then the property owners may be liable. The New Jersey court takes the stance that people have a duty to be aware of their surroundings and make an effort to avoid dangerous areas.
Property owner's duty
As each individual has a duty to avoid hazardous conditions, the property owner has a duty to provide a safe environment. This means that the supermarket has a responsibility to ensure the property is free from dangers that might cause a person to fall.
Liability of the owner
In order to prove that your fall was due to a dangerous condition on the property, you must prove one of three circumstances concerning the owner or the employees. First, they should have known of the condition because another reasonable person in the same situation would have known about the problem and fixed it. The second option is that they did know about the problem but did not fix it. Third, the owner or an employee caused the condition.
It is most common that the first circumstance is used during litigation. The judge will decide if the property owner has any liability in your injury after reviewing the evidence.
Reasonableness of the owner
At some point during litigation, you will have to show the reasonableness of the property owner's actions or lack thereof. For example, if the floor had been wet for hours and the situation had not been addressed, then the supermarket probably did not do enough to provide for the safety of its customers.
However, if it had just started raining when you parked your car and the manager had requested maintenance to take care of the water the customers were tracking in, then the court may not find the owner liable.
Did you contribute to the accident?
The court will also examine evidence to determine if you had any culpability in your fall. For example, were you texting while you were walking or doing something else that took your attention aware from the hazardous area? If the court decides that you were partially at fault, then the court might reduce the award for your injuries and damages by your level contribution to the accident.
Proving a slip-and-fall claim can be a difficult process. Before pursuing a claim, be sure you understand New Jersey premises liability laws.