April 20, 2017
PREMISIS LIABILITY – SLIP AND FALL ACCIDENTS
Individuals may trip or slip while in a store or in a building and depending on the circumstances they might be entitled to compensation. New Mexico law allows for injury victims to make claims if their injuries were caused by the negligence of a property owner. This might be slipping on ice where the property owner failed to take steps to protect a guest or it might be a leaking ice machine at a grocery store where water is spilled out onto the floor where shoppers walk.
It is the duty of a property owner or a business operator to keep their property as free from dangerous conditions as possible. If an owner is aware of a dangerous condition, or should be aware of it, because it is obvious, then the property owner has a duty to take steps to protect others from harm from that dangerous condition.
The laws governing slip-and-fall cases vary from state to state. What is required to prevent harm from a dangerous condition depends on the circumstances of each case. It is often enough to put up a sign notifying the public of the dangerous condition. This is usually enough because it puts others on notice of the dangerous condition and advises them to walk in that area with extra caution or to enter the area at their own peril.
There are two important things to keep in mind in determining whether to proceed on a claim for damages in a slip-and-fall accident: proving knowledge of the property owner and comparative negligence.
Proving Knowledge of the Dangerous Condition
It is the injury victim’s burden to show that the property owner was negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (or more likely true than not). In a premises liability case this means she must show that it was more than 51% likely that the property owner knew or should have known that there was a dangerous condition.
This means that the less obvious and the less persistent a dangerous condition, the less likely an injury victim can show that the property owner was aware of it.
For example, a small water spill on a floor in the middle of a grocery store aisle is difficult to detect. The injury victim would not have seen it but the store workers would also not be able to easily detect it. If it could not be shown to be left there by a store employee or when it was left there, then this would normally be an almost impossible case to prove.
In many cases the dangerous condition can only be shown by filing a lawsuit and getting information from the premises’ owner through written questions.
It is important to note that the opposite is also true. The more obvious and the more persistent the dangerous condition, the more likely that a victim can show that the property owner violated his duty to keep his premises safe for customers.
For example, Whitener Law Firm once handled a slip and fall case where the store received the employee report of a slip and fall. The employee report stated that “there was a trail of laundry detergent that went throughout the entire store.” You can see how it became easy to show that it was easy to show that the property owner knew or should have know of such an obvious and persistent condition.
Comparative Negligence in Slip-And-Fall Accidents
The most common defense raised in slip-and-fall cases is the defense of comparative negligence or comparative fault. This means that more than one party is at fault for the injuries of the victim. This might mean that there is more than one defendant. Maybe someone rents the premises and he and the owner both ignored the dangerous condition.
It is more common for the insurance defense attorneys to raise the defense that the injury victim is partially at fault for her own injuries. This is because the defendant is often required to show that the condition was obvious to show knowledge on the part of the property owner. However, once the injury victim argues that the condition is obvious, the defendant asks the question of why the victim did not notice the “obvious” condition and take any steps to proceed with caution or protect herself. If the victim is found to be partially at fault, then her award will be reduced by that percentage of fault.
Because slip-and-fall cases are so difficult to prove, it is important that you retain an attorney who understands how they work and knows New Mexico premises liability law….Call Whitener Law Firm, P.A. for New Mexico Lawyers who know New Mexico law. Remember there is NO ATTORNEY FEE unless you settle or win your case. For a FREE CONSULTATION to find out what we can do to help you after a car wreck, contact us ONLINE or at 883-RUSS.
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