Personal Injury Cases Against a Business
Unfortunately, accidents can happen anywhere. If you slip and fall on a business’s property, you may be entitled to compensation. The compensation that may be won in a personal injury case can help you pay for unforeseen medical bills and complications due to the fall. It is important to know your rights when it comes to a business’s liability to keep you safe and unharmed. Follow along and we will discuss the key elements of successful personal injury cases against a business and what your next step should be if you have a case.
The Three Basic Elements
In a personal injury lawsuit against a business, you must be able to prove negligence on behalf of the employers. A typical negligence claim has three main elements: a duty of care owed by the business to the customer, a breach of the duty of care, and harm caused by the breach.
Proving Duty of Care
A business that welcomes customers to its premises has a duty to act reasonably to provide for the safety of its customers. However, courts understand that businesses cannot prevent all injuries from happening, thus businesses are not liable for just any injury suffered by a customer. To protect businesses from being overburdened by safety standards, courts impose a reasonableness standard. The requirements of this standard can vary given the context of a case and also may vary state to state.
For example, a reasonableness standard may require a business to create and follow a procedure to regularly inspect the premises for defects that could harm a customer. Another example is businesses may be required to provide a mat or rug at the front door to avoid accumulation of water on the floor, thus avoiding slippery conditions. If slippery conditions or wet floors occur, it is likely the reasonableness standard requires the business to place warning signs near the dangerous area. Businesses must also look for and immediately clean up hazardous conditions, such as wet floors, snowy sidewalks, snowy parking lots, parking lots in need of repair due to potholes and cracks, loose cords, sharp edges, improperly stacked merchandise, etc.
In many situations, you may need to find an expert testimony to determine the proper standard in a particular case. This expert should have extensive knowledge of the safety standards in the industry in question and will testify the safety standards expected in particular contexts.
Proving Breach of Duty
If a business has failed to fulfill its duty of care, it is said to have “breached” their duty. The key to proving a breach of duty is to first prove the proper duty of care given the circumstances. For example, if a customer at a grocery store slips and falls because of a spilled product in one of the aisles, they would need to prove that the business failed to create a cleaning schedule that would regularly remove spills from the floor. Or, if the business does have a cleaning schedule created, perhaps they failed to adhere to the schedule on the day of the accident. Either one of these failures to fulfill the duty of care could be considered a breach of duty.
Proving Harm Caused by the Breach
The critical issue is proving the breach actually caused the harm. The harm can take many forms, including: pain, suffering, cost of medical bills, loss of earning capacity, and/or the loss of the ability to enjoy life’s pleasures in the same way as prior to injury. Even if there is a breach of duty and a customer got hurt, if the two are not directly related the business is not liable for the injury. Meaning, if you tripped in a store on a rainy day and there was no rug at the front door, but the real reason you tripped was because your shoelace is untied, the breach did not actually cause the harm. In other words, even though there was no rug at the front of the store, and as a result the floor may have been slippery and wet, you tripped on your shoelace so you probably would not win in a lawsuit against the business.
Who to Sue?
Knowing who exactly to sue in a personal injury claim against a business is key to the success of a case. Who you sue generally depends on the nature of the claimed negligence. If the business owner owns the property you were injured on, then, in general, the only potential defendant would be the store owner themselves. However, often store owners lease their property, so you may also have a claim against the landlord or property owner.
If you injure yourself because of a structural issue with the building, you would likely file a claim against the landlord or property owner. For example, if there was a crack on the sidewalk out front causing you to trip and fall, that is the landlord’s fault. Another example would be, if there is a leak in the ceiling causing slippery wet floors, it would be the landlord’s responsibility if you were to slip and fall. For more information about accidents on dangerous or defective property, click here.
On the other hand, if you slip because of something the tenant or business owner did, or failed to do, then your claim would be against the store owner. An example of a claim against a store owner would be slipping because water was tracked into the store and the owner neglected to clean it up or notify customers of the danger with a wet floor sign or cones.
Because of the varying complexities of a personal injury case, it is helpful to have the guidance of a legal professional. David Kaplan, attorney at law, offers free case evaluations to give you a better understanding of who you should sue, the details of your case, and if your claim is likely to result in a desirable verdict. With 30+ years of experience, David has the expertise and knowledge to help you build your strongest case. Furthermore, he is passionate about helping those who have had their rights infringed upon and personally handles every case with care. For more information, or to schedule your free case evaluation, visit David Kaplan’s website.