The Mn Criminal Defense, Personal Injury & Family Law Blog
How Do Brainerd Personal Injury Lawyers Win Slip-and-Fall Claims?
December 7, 2018
Slip-and-fall incidents account for more than eight million ER visits a year. That’s more visits than car crashes, drug overdoses, or any other kind of unintentional injury.
Occasionally, slip-and-fall injuries are not terribly serious. But much more often than not, these incidents cause broken bones and other serious injuries. Moreover, many slip-and-fall victims hit their heads. Brain injuries are generally serious and always permanent.
So, a Brainerd personal injury lawyer can obtain substantial compensation for these victims. This compensation includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Every case is different, but most follow the same outline in terms of establishing liability for damages.
Legal Duty in Premises Liability Matters
All negligence cases, including slip-and-fall claims, begin with the legal responsibility that people have toward one another. This idea comes from an English case called Donoghue v. Stevenson. In that landmark case, the court concluded that legal duty is basically akin to the Golden Rule (“do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) that schoolchildren once memorized.
But legal responsibility is more complex than a schoolyard rhyme. In premises liability claims, the duty varies based on the nature of the victim:
Reasonable Care: Most slip-and-fall victims are invitees. Their mere presence confers an economic or noneconomic benefit on the owner, and they have express or implied permission to be on the land. In addition to keeping the premises safe (e.g. cleaning up floor spills), owners must also inspect the premises to ensure safety.
Latent Defects: People like guests of hotel guests are licensees. These individuals have permission to be on the land but there is no benefit to the owner. Because there is no benefit, the duty is lower. If the victim was a licensee, owners only have a duty to warn about latent (hidden) defects.
No Duty: Some people are trespassers. There is no permission and no benefit. So, there is no duty. There are a few exceptions, such as the attractive nuisance rule and the frequent trespasser rule.
Generally, it’s quite difficult for Crow Wing County jurors to understand terms like “licensee” and “invitee.” Fortunately, duty is a legal question for the judge. So, when the trial begins, Brainerd personal injury lawyers can focus on the two remaining elements of a slip-and-fall case.
How Brainerd Personal Injury Lawyers Prove Cause
Legal duty is a beginning, but it is not enough. Brainerd personal injury lawyers must also establish a link between the owner’s duty and the victim’s injuries.
Sometimes, there is direct evidence on this point. For example, a witness might see the victim slip and fall. Or, the victim may recall slipping on a wet spot or tripping over an uneven surface.
In many instances, there is no direct evidence. If that’s the case, Brainerd personal injury lawyers may use the res ipsa loquitur (“the thing speaks for itself”) rule. According to one court, “the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur permits an inference of negligence from the circumstances of an accident.” Assume no one sees a victim fall down the stairs, the victim does not know how the event occurred, and an investigation reveals a loose handrail at the top of the steps. Res ipsa may apply in this situation.
Establishing Knowledge in Slip-and-Fall Cases
Knowledge of the hazardous condition is the final element in a Minnesota slip-and-fall case. It’s not fair to hold landowners responsible for conditions they did not know about and therefore could not control.
The aforementioned direct or circumstantial analysis applies here as well. Typically, direct evidence of knowledge includes smoking guns like “cleanup on aisle four” announcements or restroom cleaning reports.
In the absence of direct evidence, Brainerd personal injury lawyers may use circumstantial evidence to establish constructive knowledge (should have known). Most Crow Wing County judges use the time/notice rule to evaluate circumstantial evidence. If the floor hazard or other dangerous situation had existed for a long time, constructive knowledge usually attaches.
Think about a person who slips on a banana peel. If the peel is black and gritty, it has probably been on the floor for a while. If the peel is yellow, it is probably fresh.
Constructive knowledge has the same effect as actual knowledge. The owner is still fully liable for all damages regardless of the kind of knowledge.
Connect with Aggressive Attorneys
Slip-and-fall incidents involve intricate legal issues. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.