How Does Previous Knowledge Of A Dangerous Condition Play Into My Case?

It has happened to all of us at some time. You slip in a wet spot in the grocery store, you slide across an icy patch in the parking lot. You want compensation for your injuries, but you might be out of luck. There may be some aspects of the incident that will prevent you from recovering any damages at all; this is called “contributory negligence,” which is discussed below. On the other hand, there also might be circumstances that could support a personal injury claim.

Contributory negligence

Let’s say you tried to reach a settlement with the property owner or found yourself in a trial over this incident. In Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, there is a rule called “contributory negligence.” This means that if you were even 1% at fault for your injuries, you will likely be unable to receive any compensation at all. You would go through all that work to try to prove your case and end up with nothing. Maybe there was a wet floor sign and you saw it, but you were in a hurry and went through the water, which caused you to fall. If the property owner can prove that the sign was there and you missed it, or ignored it, you would not receive any compensation. 

In other cases, however, there might be factors that could still be in your favor. That is why it is so important to consult an experienced, skilled personal injury attorney who can work with you to explore all the facts and determine how to proceed.

What Hurts Your Case

It is very common for property owners to try to prove you were negligent, because they would win on the contributory negligence rule. Some of the usual arguments the property owner and their insurance company might use are:

  • You failed to watch where you were walking;
  • You failed to pay attention to your surroundings; 
  • You failed to see, or ignored, their posted warnings.

What Helps Your Case

You might still be able to prove the property owner’s negligence under certain circumstances. The property owner has a duty to correct any conditions that could pose a hazard to people who come onto the property. The following situations could apply to wet floors and other hazards, such as black ice and cracked sidewalks.

  • The property owner depended upon the warning sign for an unreasonable length of time. The grocery store had a duty to clean up any spills promptly. The business had a duty to fix a defect in the parking lot that they had known about for months.
  • The hazard was in an area that the business would expect customers to walk through to reach popular items, or maybe even to get in the door. 
  • There was inadequate lighting in the store, parking lot, stairway, etc.
  • There were obstacles or barriers that made it impossible to avoid the hazard.
  • The warning sign was obscured in a way to make it hard to see.

Preserve Evidence of the Surrounding Conditions and Your Fall.

If you are seriously injured, seek medical help immediately. If you are able, however, you should take the following steps:         

  • Photograph the scene. Try to take photos from different angles. Show any warning signs that were there at the time. Use a coin or another object to show the depth of any cracks or holes in pavement. 
  • Notify the business or property owner. If you fill out any forms or if you are asked to write a description of what happened, take a photo of that, too. It is very common for businesses to consider such documents part of their investigation and refuse to give you a copy.
  • Ask about security cameras. It seems as if there are cameras everywhere nowadays, so these tapes can be very helpful. Ask to see the videos, but if the business refuses, take steps to prevent them from destroying the tapes, such as a written letter of notice asking them to preserve the video.
  • Take witness statements. Be sure to get their names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails. Ask them for a brief statement if they are cooperative.
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible. You might think you are not injured at the time, but some injuries could become apparent later. Seeing a doctor, clinic, or hospital will establish a record of the incident and your injuries.

We Are Here To Help

Successfully navigating the legal landscape in Virginia, D.C. and Maryland requires a thorough understanding of the local legal systems and strategic skill in negotiation and litigation. The team at Jennifer Porter Law, PLLC, has the knowledge and experience to help you reach the best outcome. We strive to provide you with comprehensive guidance at every stage, ensuring you are well-informed and confident in the decisions made regarding your case.

We are committed to providing personalized and attentive legal representation. Call us at (571) 532-9070 or go online to schedule a consultation to learn what may be possible in your case.