How to Prove Fault in a Slip and Fall Accident?

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A working man slips and falls down the stairs.

Proving fault is especially important in a North Carolina slip and fall accident because it is necessary to prove the other party is 100 percent at fault to collect damages. In many states, it’s only necessary to prove the other party is mostly at fault, but North Carolina has pure contributory negligence statutes.

If the responsible party can prove that you were even 1 percent at fault, you cannot recover any damages.

The first step is to determine how your accident happened. Sometimes this may seem obvious; sometimes, it isn’t clear what happened.

After a fall, you may be disoriented and in pain, and it could be difficult to think clearly. If you’re able, we recommend taking pictures of the accident scene.

You should also prioritize getting medical attention for your injuries, whether mild or severe.

Next, speak with a North Carolina slip and fall attorney to help you identify the at-fault party, prove they were at fault, and seek compensation.

Evidence in Slip and Fall Cases

Much potential evidence in a slip-and-fall case is temporary, so the sooner you speak with an attorney, the better. Your lawyer will assign a team of investigators to study the details of your case and gather evidence.

Here are some of the types of evidence we will consider:

Witness Statements

Your attorney will ask if you recall anyone present when you slipped and fell. Ideally, you would get their names and contact information during your accident.

However, we know that in the real world, sometimes people who have been injured are disoriented or distracted by pain, so this doesn’t always happen. This information may still be helpful if you can tell us how many people were there and provide descriptions.

But when we talk about witnesses, we don’t only mean witnesses to the fall itself. In slip and fall cases, the question of how long a hazardous condition was present is paramount.

Let’s say that you slipped on a spilled smoothie at the gym. To prove negligence, we need to find some evidence that the dangerous situation – the spilled drink – had been present for a long enough time that the gym’s staff should have known and cleaned it up.

Our investigators might talk to employees or other gym-goers who were there the day of your accident to learn what they remember. If several people say the spilled drink had been there for a while, that staff members had been informed, and for whatever reason, nothing was done to clean up the spilled drink, that would be evidence of negligence.

In different situations, people who regularly spend time at the accident scene might relate stories of other people who almost tripped and fell on the same obstacle. This is unlikely if the culprit is a spilled drink, but could be a possibility when there is a more substantial problem.

For example, if some witnesses complained about a loose tile or other issue weeks ago, and nothing was done about it.

Witnesses who saw your accident can be helpful in other ways. Sometimes the responsible party will use contributory negligence as a defense, claiming that you contributed to the accident by being reckless or not watching where you were going.

People who saw you fall may be able to testify that you were behaving responsibly and only fell because of the spilled drink/another hazard.

Video or Photographic Evidence

Sometimes there are no witnesses to a fall, or we may be unable to locate a witness. Occasionally witnesses may be unwilling to testify or even talk to us.

For instance, an employee of the business you’re suing may fear losing their job. For these reasons, we sometimes turn to video or photographic evidence.

If you have pictures of the accident scene, these are often helpful. We can see what the floor and surrounding areas looked like at the time of your fall and may be able to spot an obstacle.

We might also see signs of a long-standing problem that should have been addressed – ceiling stains that suggest a leaky roof should be a known issue, for example.

Sometimes, we can acquire video footage of the injured person’s fall. This may show us what caused the fall, but even if it doesn’t, it might help us refute some claims that the client was at fault.

For example, let’s say you were walking around a counter in a store when you slipped and fell. The video might not show the floor on the far side of the counter, so we would need to find other evidence of what you slipped on.

However, if the store or their insurance company claimed that you were absorbed by your iPad and failed to watch where you were going, we could prove that wasn’t true. We could point to the video showing that you were looking ahead, in the direction you were walking, and that if you missed an obstacle, it must not have been easily visible.

Visiting the Scene of the Accident

Sometimes our investigators will visit the scene of the accident to learn more, especially if we suspect that the fall was caused by a long-term problem. For example, if you slipped on a spilled drink, chances are it will have been cleaned up by the time you contact a lawyer.

But what if you tripped on a torn carpet or uneven floor in a mall? What if you stumbled on a hole in the floor?

These kinds of issues usually can’t be fixed on the same day. The store manager would have to call a repair person and schedule a visit, and then the repair worker might need to come back a few days later with the carpet or equipment to fix the hole in the floor.

In these situations, our investigators might be able to find evidence of the problem even days or weeks later.

How Do You Prove Negligence in a Slip and Fall?

Your attorney will gather evidence to show the following:

  • The at-fault party had a duty of care. Usually, this involves providing a reasonably safe environment for visitors or other lawfully present guests.
  • This duty of care was breached.
  • You suffered injuries as a result of this failed duty of care. It will be necessary to show how the failure caused the fall and injuries.
  • Your injuries caused you damages, such as medical bills, lost time at work, pain and suffering, etc.

The best thing you can do is consult a North Carolina personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

Contact Tatum & Atkinson About Your Slip and Fall Case

Our experienced legal team has recovered over $100 million for injured clients, and we’re happy to give you a free consultation about your slip and fall case. Please call 800-LAW-0804 today to find out the best options for pursuing compensation.