Over a million people in the United States suffer an injury from a slip and fall accident every year, and only automobile accidents kill more people. Given these staggering statistics, it's unsurprising that so many people decide to file slip and fall lawsuits to claim compensation for the injuries they incur. Of course, the outcome of a slip and fall lawsuit depends on many things, some of which may come as a surprise. For example, could your footwear cause you to lose a slip and fall lawsuit?
Proving liability in a slip and fall accident
If you slip or fall on somebody else's property in the United States, the owner may become liable for your injuries. Nonetheless, a court will take into account several factors, and it's important to understand that there is rarely such a thing as obvious liability in a slip and fall accident.
To show that the property owner was liable, a judge will expect your attorney to prove several things. You must give evidence that one (or more) of the following statements is true:
- The property owner (or somebody working on the premises) caused a slip and fall hazard, such as a wet surface or unwanted item underfoot.
- The property owner (or his or her employee) knew that there was a hazard.
- The property owner (or his or her employee) should have known about the hazard because a reasonable person would have removed or repaired the problem.
While the first two statements are sometimes easier to prove, the last statement can become tricky because it's harder to define what is reasonable. What's more, even if you prove one of these statements, your own actions (like the shoes you wore) could still affect the outcome of the case.
How carelessness influences a slip and fall lawsuit
Under United States law, comparative negligence can become a critical factor in any slip and fall case. Put simply, while property owners must take sensible precautions to make sure they don't endanger other people, everybody also has a responsibility to take reasonable care. For example, even if a property owner knew about a hazard, his or her lawyer could argue that you caused your own injury because of evidence that you weren't looking where you were going - or because you wore inappropriate shoes.
In any slip and fall lawsuit, the defendant's lawyer may ask you (the plaintiff) questions about your own conduct. He or she will often look for reasons why you were jointly (or wholly) liable for the accident due to your own negligence.
Footwear and slip and fall accidents in the workplace
A defendant's attorney may argue that your footwear contributed to a slip and fall accident in the workplace.
In the workplace, employers must often give workers special footwear when working around certain hazards. A workplace health and safety officer should carry out an assessment to decide if workers must wear a special type of footwear. For example, you may need special boots if you regularly have to walk on wet or oily surfaces.
If you decide not to wear the safety shoes that your employer gives you, a jury could decide that you were comparatively negligent. Indeed, in certain cases, the jury may decide that your lack of safety footwear was the main reason you fell, which could mean you lose the case.
Footwear and other slip and fall accidents
The issue of inappropriate footwear does not just apply in the workplace. If you slip and fall over in a public place (like a retail store), the defendant may argue that your conduct partly caused the accident. You will probably have to tell the jury what type of shoes you were wearing, after which the courtroom could decide that you are comparatively negligent.
For example, a water spillage on a supermarket floor could pose a hazard to customers. Nonetheless, if you go shopping and decide to wear shoes with flat, slippery soles, the court may decide that your footwear contributed to the accident. Similarly, some attorneys would argue that high-heeled shoes pose a trip hazard.
How an attorney can help you
Comparative negligence does not always become an issue. If the court decides that the defendant was not liable, the case closes and no further action takes place. However, if the court decides that the defendant was negligent, his or her attorney may then decide to find out if you were comparatively negligent.
You don't have to prove that you weren't comparatively negligent, but you do have to answer the defendant's attorney's questions. As such, it's important to get professional advice from an experienced slip and fall attorney, as he or she can help you answer these questions correctly.
Your footwear can play an important role in the outcome of a slip and fall lawsuit. Before you answer any difficult questions, consult a skilled attorney for advice. Check out websites like http://www.putnamlieb.com for more information.