Slips and falls are common parts of most of our lives, and while they usually amount to just a bump or a bruise, sometimes the injuries that result are serious or even life-altering. What many people fail to realize is that if their injuries happened because of a property owner’s failure to keep their property safe, the owner can in many cases be held responsible for any medical expenses or other losses that resulted from the accident.
That said, proving negligence after a slip or fall in New Jersey can be complicated, and it’s often important to work with a Passaic County slip and fall attorney. I’ll tell you more below.
What is Negligence?
It is a property owner’s responsibility to safely maintain the premises. For example, a restaurant owner is responsible for keeping their restaurant safe, just as a landlord is responsible for making sure his building is free of dangers. If a property owner failed to keep their property safe, they may be held responsible for medical bills and other losses you incurred. All of this sounds straightforward, but where things get tricky is in proving that the property owner acted negligently.
In order to be considered negligent, the following must be true:
- The property owner knew that the conditions that resulted in your slip or fall were dangerous, or it is reasonable to expect that they should have known.
- The property owner had sufficient time to remedy the dangerous conditions that caused your slip or fall.
- The property owner failed to take care of the dangerous situation.
- The dangerous situation directly caused your slip or fall, and thus your injuries.
If all of these criteria for negligence apply to your case, you may be able to file a claim against the property owner for medical expenses, lost wages, and other financial damages or losses you sustained because of the incident. Because every case is unique, however, talking with a Passaic County slip and fall lawyer to make sure you understand your rights is usually a good idea.
How to Prove Negligence
Proving negligence can sometimes be complicated, so there are some important things you will want to do after your accident.
If you are well enough to do so, take photos of the area where you slipped and fell. (Phone photos are fine.) Get close-ups of dangerous conditions like a slippery floor where something was spilled, or a loose floorboard on stairs that you tripped on. Also take photos from other angles to give context on the conditions.
If anyone was around to witness the accident, make sure you get their contact information and if possible, get a brief statement about what happened. In addition, take notes about exactly what occurred, including the date and time: these details will help your lawyer fully understand the circumstances of your case so they can create a strong argument on your behalf.
Your lawyer will also do some investigative work to uncover whether the property owner was aware of the dangerous situation. If, for example, you slipped in your apartment building and another tenant had already notified the landlord several times about the conditions, their testimony can be used as evidence in court that the property owner was aware of the situation and didn’t take care of it in a timely manner.
Common Defense Tactics for Slips and Falls
Even if you have documentation of the accident, there is still a lot you’ll need to do to prove negligence. Often the person responsible will defend themselves in court by saying that some of the criteria for negligence were not met. For example, if you slipped at a restaurant because a drink was spilled, but it happened moments before and there was not time to clean it up or put up a warning sign, it is possible that the property owner would not be considered negligent.
Likewise, if you recently slipped in your apartment building but your landlord has evidence that she inspected the building for safety issues the week before and no one notified them of the dangerous condition in the meantime, it is possible that they could avoid culpability.
Another thing that happens frequently is that the owner argues that the victim was partially responsible for the accident. For example, if you could have avoided the spilled drink on the floor of the restaurant, you may be held partially responsible for your injuries.
But just because you had a role in the slip or fall, it doesn’t mean you cannot recover compensation. In these cases, you can still sue the property owner for your injuries, but they may be held only partially responsible. The total amount of compensation you receive will be reduced by the percentage to which the court decides you were at fault.
When to Contact a Slip and Fall Lawyer
If you have suffered injuries after a slip or fall in Northern New Jersey that you feel was the property owner’s fault, it’s a good idea to contact a lawyer right away. Because these cases are time-sensitive (the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit in New Jersey is two years from the date of the accident) and often involve substantial investigation, getting in touch with a lawyer sooner rather than later is usually the best plan.
Even if you’re unsure about whether someone else is responsible for your injuries, a lawyer can help you determine what your rights are and whether you have a case. At Bavagnoli & Bavagnoli, you will work closely with a team that is dedicated to fighting for your rights and helping you get the compensation you need to recover after an accident. We give personalized and compassionate attention to each and every person we work with.
Reach out to us today to set up a free consultation at (973) 785-9522.