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How Do You Prove Negligence in a Slip and Fall?

Colburn Law

Proving Negligence in a Slip and Fall Case


All property owners have a duty to keep their premises in safe condition, and they must respond to and warn visitors about potential hazards in a reasonable manner. Slip and fall accidents occur when a property owner fails to maintain safe premises, leading to severe injury to visitors, residents, and patrons alike.

If you are the victim of a slip and fall, you can hold the owner accountable through a personal injury lawsuit. However, you will need to establish the at-fault party’s liability in order to secure the compensation you need to recover.

The Four Elements of Negligence

Slip and fall claims, like all personal injury lawsuits, rely on the presence of negligence. Negligence occurs when a certain party breaches a duty of care he or she owes to another person through an act or failure to act. To establish negligence in a slip and fall claim, you will need to provide enough evidence to support four key elements.

  • Duty: The property owner owed you a duty of care at the time of the accident. All property owners have a duty to maintain safe premises and respond to hazards within a reasonable amount of time. If a hazard is present, property owners must take steps to warn visitors about it.
  • Dereliction: The property owner breached his or her duty of care in some way. For example, a landlord who fails to repair broken stairs after a tenant informs him or her about the hazard would breach his or her duty of care.
  • Direct causation: The breach of duty directly caused your accident. For example, if a landlord fails to fix a set of broken stairs, he or she may be liable if you fall down the stairs and break your leg.
  • Damages: You sustained losses, known as damages, due to the slip and fall accident that you can recover in your lawsuit. Common damages in slip and fall claims include medical expenses, property damage, and lost wages.

Comparative Negligence in Slip and Fall Lawsuits

If you are filing a lawsuit against a property owner, he or she will take steps to defend him or herself from liability. He or she may even claim that you were partially responsible for the accident, even if he or she bears responsibility.

The property owner may use some of the following arguments to reduce his or her share of the liability.

  • You were wearing inappropriate footwear at the time of the accident.
  • The hazard was clear and obvious, and you should have noticed it.
  • The owner cordoned off the hazardous area with signs or cones.
  • You were not paying sufficient attention at the time of the accident.
  • The owner did not have an appropriate amount of time to learn about and respond to the hazard.

If the court accepts the property owner’s argument, your award could be at risk. Under Washington’s comparative fault rules, the court will reduce your award by the percentage of liability you share. For example, if the court assigns you 40% of the liability and you ask for a $20,000 award, you will only receive $12,000.

Your attorney can help defend you from these accusations of liability. He or she can present clear evidence to rebut the property owner’s claims and establish your right to compensation. As soon as possible after your accident, contact a Seattle slip and fall attorney to discuss your case and determine your optimal path to recovery.