How Does Comparative Or Contributory Negligence Affect My Slip And Fall Claim?

If a property owner or business manager can prove that you were at least partially responsible for your slip and fall, you might not be able to receive any compensation. That’s why it is so important to consult an experienced, knowledgeable personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your accident. At Jennifer Porter Law, PLLC, we can look at the facts and guide you to obtain the best outcome possible.

Is There A Difference Between Comparative And Contributory Negligence?

With comparative negligence, the degree to which you are at fault for your accident is deducted from any compensation you might be entitled to. For instance, if you were found to be 40% responsible for causing your fall and the property owner 60% , you would recover only 60% of the award.

Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, however, use the contributory negligence rule. This means that if you contributed in any way, even 1%, to your accident, you are not entitled to any compensation at all. 

Property Owner’s Defenses

The property owner or business and their insurance company will obviously say the fault was yours for not seeing the warning sign and taking the necessary precautions. Common arguments they will try to use against you include:

  • You were not supposed to be on their property
  • You failed to take proper precautions that a reasonable person would take
  • You failed to observe, or ignored, the posted warnings
  • You were engaging in an activity that was inherently dangerous.

If the property owner can prove you were not acting as a reasonable person would in the same circumstances, you might not be able to recover damages. It doesn’t take a lot for them to weaken your claim. We have experience working for insurance companies, so we know how their attorneys think. We know the arguments they’ll use to try to show that you are not entitled to any compensation.

Defenses to Contributory Negligence

You might think that is the end of the story, but not necessarily. There are circumstances where the warning sign may have been insufficient. These could include one or more of the following:

  • The property owner/business depended on the warning sign for an unreasonable length of time and should have already corrected the hazard.
  • The hazard was in an area where customers were likely to walk through to reach a popular area or item in the store.
  • There was inadequate lighting in the area that prevented you from being able to see the warning sign.
  • There were obstacles or barriers that caused you to be unable to avoid the area where the warning was posted.

It doesn’t take a lot for them to weaken your case. That is why it is so important for you to contact an experienced, knowledgeable personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.

What should I do?

It is important to preserve evidence of the surrounding conditions and your fall. If you are seriously injured, call 911 and get medical care immediately. Only if you are able, should you take the following steps:

  • Report the accident to the owner or manager, and have them file an incident report. If you fill out any forms or other papers, take a picture of them before you give them to the manager. You should assume that you will not be allowed to have a copy, if the business considers it part of their investigation.
  • Do not say anything that could be interpreted as you admitting the fault was yours.
  • Take pictures of the area where you fell. The condition that caused you to fall might be remedied very quickly, and a later photograph might not adequately show the area as it was when you fell.
  • If there are security cameras, ask to see the video. If they refuse, take steps to prevent them from destroying the video, such as sending a written letter to the business asking them to preserve the video.
  • If there were other people around who saw you fall, try to get statements from them, or at least, get their contact information.
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible after the incident. This will help to establish a record of your fall. You might not feel that you suffered an injury, but something could become a problem later that may need treatment.

We Are Here To Help

Successfully defending against contributory negligence 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 manage your claim and deal with the insurance companies, ensuring the  best possible resolution to your slip and fall accident.

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.