Slip and Fall Accidents: A Question of Proof
Hallack Law Office.
What Must be Proved?
The injured person bears the burden of proof in establishing the elements of their claim. If your claim is against a business or a merchant, the Louisiana Merchant Liability Act (LSA-R.S. 9:2800.6) will apply. Under the Merchant Liability Act, the injured persons must prove:
1. The condition presented an unreasonable risk of harm;
2. The merchant either created the condition, or had actual or constructive notice of the condition; and
3. The merchant failed to exercise reasonable care.
Creating the Hazard:
Most of the cases our office takes are where the business owner creates the hazardous condition. Those are situations where the merchant or its employee has mopped or waxed the floor and failed to put out warning signs. Or, where a cooler or refrigerator malfunctioned and leaked on the floor.
Knowledge of the Hazard:
With regard to knowledge, it is very difficult to prove that the owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the condition. When we take these type of accident cases, it is because they occur where store employees are known to be, such as at cash registers. While the statute tells us that constructive notice is where it has been proven that the condition has existed for such a period of time that it would have been discovered had the owner exercised reasonable care. The case law tells us that even if the spill or condition had existed for an hour, that does not mean the merchant had constructive knowledge.
How can an attorney help?
Because the burden of proof in slip and fall cases is so difficult and so clearly written in favor of the merchant, it is important for you to contact an attorney immediately. An attorney will know what needs to be shown in order to establish the burden of proof.
For instance, there is almost always surveillance film which would show:
1. The accident;
2. How long the hazardous condition existed; and
3. Whether any employees were aware of the condition.
It is important for your attorney to secure that video.