What are your chances of winning a case if you were injured in a slip and fall accident or a trip and fall? That all depends on what caused you to fall. Any personal injury lawyer in Texas will tell you that slip and fall cases are some of the most difficult cases to win. Just because you fall and get injured on someone’s property doesn’t automatically make the property owner legally responsible. A property owner is not an insurer of the customer’s safety. They are only required to use reasonable care in keeping the property safe. Likewise, you have to prove that the property owner was negligent in causing your fall. These types of cases are known as “premises liability.”
Under Texas law, the owner of property has the duty to regularly inspect and repair their property. In most grocery stores and restaurants, the management keeps a “sweep log” of other record showing when inspections are done throughout the customer areas and restrooms. This way, they can show anyone who sues them that they conduct regular inspections. You might have seen one these logs taped on the wall of a public restroom or on the back of the door. But conducting regular inspections does not guarantee a defense to a premises liability case.
Here are the requirements for proving negligence in a premises liability case in Texas:
- An unreasonably dangerous condition;
- That the property owner had actual or constructive knowledge; and,
- Failed to properly repair or warn of the danger.
Unreasonably Dangerous Condition
Whether or not a specific condition is unreasonably dangerous is very subjective. It not only requires an evaluation of the size and extent of the defect, but the nature of the risk it poses to others. For instance, tripping over a 1/2 inch crack in a grocery store parking lot might not be considered “unreasonably dangerous.” However, that same crack may be considered unreasonably dangerous if it is in a restroom floor or some other place where it would unexpected. Likewise, and small puddle of water on a sidewalk might not be considered unreasonably dangerous, but that same size puddle would be considered dangerous if it is on the floor of a shopping isle.
Actual or Constructive Notice
This is probably the most difficult element to prove in a premises liability case. The injured plaintiff has the burden of proving that the property owner had some knowledge of the danger. If you can prove that the property owner had actual notice of the defect, then you have satisfied this element. But rarely can you get a property owner to admit that they knew of a specific problem. So, unless you have this kind of proof, you are usually forced to prove “constructive notice.” Constructive notice means that, even if the property owner didn’t have actual knowledge of the dangerous condition, the owner should have known of the danger if the area was regularly and properly inspected. Proving notice in any given case again depends upon the specific facts and circumstances. For example, you might have a difficult time holding a grocery store liable for a spilled drink in a shopping isle that might have only happened 5 minutes before you fell. On the other hand, you would have a better chance of proving notice of a puddle of water caused by an ongoing leak.
Failure to Repair or Warn
If you can get past the first two elements, then this one is usually the easiest to prove. Once a property owner has actual or constructive notice of a danger, reasonable measures must taken to repair or warn of the danger. If there is a water spill of the floor, it must be mopped up. And after the area is mopped, a sign should be placed warning customers of the wet floor. But a property owner would be required to actually repair an ongoing problem like the leak or crack in the floor. Leaving a warning sign probably would not be sufficient. The property owner will be required to make reasonable efforts to fix the problem.
This article only explains the general duty owed by a business owner to a customer, also known as a “business invitee.” However, the legal standard changes depending on the status of the injured party and the property owner. For example, if you are invited to a party as a social guest at someone’s home, you are considered a “social invitee” and the burden of proof is different. The burden of proof, of course, is the most difficult for someone who is injured while trespassing on the property.
In my practice, I have handled many premises liability cases. But there are Texas attorneys that refuse to take these cases because they are so hard to win. If you are injured in a slip and fall or trip and fall accident, your best chances of proving negligence and getting any compensation is by seeking the help of an experienced injury attorney.
Call now for your free , no obligation consultation.
If you’ve been injured, contact Dallas/Fort Worth attorney Robert C. Slim, for your free consultation.