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[vc_row css_animation=”” row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” angled_section=”no” text_align=”left” background_image_as_pattern=”without_pattern”][vc_column][vc_column_text]There is a common myth among people that if you slip and fall on someone else’s property and suffer an injury, the property owner is financially responsible for your losses. This is not always true. In fact, in New York there are complicated laws that establish when a property owner is responsible for your damages following a slip and fall accident.

In order to be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering you must be able to establish four elements in a slip and fall case. These elements are:

  1. That a dangerous condition existed on the land owner’s property
  2. That the landowner had knowledge of that dangerous condition prior to your fall
  3. That the landowner had a sufficient time to remedy the defect prior to your accident but did not do so
  4. That the landowner failed to properly fix the defect which lead to your accident

There is no exact definition of what constitutes a dangerous condition. The Courts will usually deal with an alleged dangerous condition on a case-by-case basis. There are however some commonly known dangerous conditions that we see over and over again in slip and fall cases. For example, snow and ice. Another common cause of a slip and fall accident is a liquid spill. Some defects are structural in nature, such as improperly constructed staircases or broken, uneven walkways.

Proving Actual Vs. Constructive Knowledge

The most difficult part of proving a slip and fall case is usually proving that the owner had prior knowledge of the dangerous condition because this requires establishing information that may be in the sole possession of the property owner. However, the courts will accept proof of either actual knowledge or constructive knowledge. Actual knowledge is established when the property owner admits to knowing of the dangerous condition. Constructive knowledge can be established if you can show that the property owner should have known about the dangerous condition prior to your accident.

In structural defect cases, prior knowledge of the dangerous condition is usually easier to prove since the defect tends to have existed for a long period of time. For example, if a staircase was built without a railing, it is hard for the property owner to deny that he had no knowledge of the condition. However, a slip and fall on a beverage spill in a restaurant presents a significant challenge in proving prior notice since the condition is transient and may have happened seconds prior to your fall.

Often, a defense to a slip and fall case may be that the property owner did not have sufficient time to fix the condition. For example a slip and fall claim made as a result of a fall on snow and ice during or immediately after a snowfall may be defensible based upon the fact that the owner of the property did not have sufficient time to remedy the dangerous condition.

Was The Property Made As Safe As Possible?

Finally, there must be proof that the landowner failed to sufficiently remedy the condition prior to your fall. This can usually be established by the mere fact that the accident occurred. However, there are situations where a property owner may have made sufficient enough attempts to remedy a dangerous condition, but was unable to completely eliminate it. For example, a property owner is not required to clear every bit of snow and ice from their property. If the property owner can show that they made the property as safe as reasonably possible based upon the conditions that existed, the property owner may be free of liability for your accident.

Slip and fall cases can be difficult to establish. The best practice to follow after a slip and fall accident is to document the condition with photographs and/or video and completing an accident report. The next thing you should do is contact a lawyer immediately to review your accident to see if you have a case. Often, contacting a lawyer early in the process is the difference between winning and losing your slip and fall case. There are steps that can be taken early on by a lawyer to help establish your case such as a property inspection and witness statements. Also when applicable, an attorney will serve legal notice upon the landowner to preserve evidence such as video surveillance footage.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]