Premises Liability - Slip and Fall - Part 2
Once you are categorized with regard to your relationship to the premises, the duty of the premises owner to you is known. Then you can attempt to prove your claim.
Today I am going to discuss the most likely premises claim - that of an invitee (business customer) injured while on the business premises.
You are shopping and slip and fall injuring your knee. You call a lawyer wondering if the store is responsible for your medical bills and lost wages.
If the lawyer knows what he or she is doing, the first question asked will be: What caused you to fall? This is because the burden is on the injured person to prove what premises defect caused them to fall.
If you know what caused you to fall, the second question should be: How did it get there? This is because it is the burden of the injured person to prove how premises defect was created or how long it had been on the floor.
Texas law requires the injured person to prove that there was an unreasonably dangerous condition and that the condition was known by the premises owner or that the premises owner should have known of the danger - generally this second method (should have known) is established by proving how long the premises defect had existed before your injury.
The next question from the lawyer should be: Was there any warning of the premises defect to you? This is because the burden is on the injured person to prove that the premises owner had not remedied or warned of the dangerous condition.
If you gave the proper answers, the question then becomes: Was it negligent for the premises owner to fail to remedy or warn of the dangerous condition?
And, if it was negligent: Was that negligence a proximate cause of the injuries to you?
As you can see, there are large burdens on the injured person and no burden on the premises owner - until there is a finding of negligence and proximate cause.
Once there is such a finding, the burden is on the premises owner to prove that you should have seen or avoided the dangerous condition. This is called contributory negligence and whatever part you played in contributing to your injuries will be deducted from any damages awarded.
So, if you can prove what caused your fall, that the store knew or should have known of the defect, that the store failed to warn you of the defect, that the store's failure to warn you or fix the defect was negligence and that such negligence was a proximate cause of your injuries, the store may owe you damages - unless your fault contributed more to your injuries than the store's fault.
This is the burden of proof on the invitee - the store's business customer. The burden of proof is even greater on licensees and trespassers.
I will discuss more in my next entry - Part 3.