Winning a slip and fall case in Virginia is no easy feat. There are many factors that you will need to understand before moving forward in court. Factors such as cause, injury sustained, responsibility, etc. You will need a solid case backed by strong evidence to win your slip and fall case.
Example of the Difficulty of Virginia Slip and Fall Cases
If you were to fall while walking down steps at a store, causing serious injury, the likelihood of receiving benefits is not as clear-cut as would seem. You would need to be able to prove to the court that you fell down the stairs as a result of a defect in the staircase.
Also, it is important to remain wary of what you say following a slip and fall incident. For example, if you say in court that you have knee pain as a result of the incident, but had already your doctor that you have suffered from knee pain before the incident occurred, then the defense has every right to use that against you in court, and the case would likely be dismissed.
There are 4 things that you need to prove to the court in order to win your case. This requires a completely solid case. You must be confident in your case before moving to trial.
Want to Win Your Case? Prove These 4 Things:
- Your Fall Occurred From Dangerous Conditions.
Keep in mind, that doesn’t mean that the store or any other establishments where you fell has to keep its premises in a perfect condition. There will be flaws at any location, so make sure this is a blatant condition that could have been avoided.
In past Virginia cases, dangerous conditions are described as wet or slippery surfaces and unexpected objects laying on the floor. What has been found to NOT be dangerous conditions are irregularities in sidewalks.
- The Store must have known or should have known of the dangerous condition.
It's not enough to assume that your fall was due to a dangerous condition. You still must be able to prove in court that the store (or wherever you fell) knew or should have known of the dangerous condition. There are two ways this is defined:
- "Actual Knowledge"
Actual knowledge is exactly what it sounds like. It means that you must show that the storeowner, manager, or some other agent actually knew that the condition was there. Statements like “I meant to clean that up,” or the like is what you’re looking for.
- Should have known (“Constructive Knowledge”)
In the event that no store representative will admit to knowing about the condition, you must prove the store should have known about it. What exactly this means is very difficult. In the Jefferson case, the Plaintiff tried to argue that it was apparent that there was a previous attempt to fix the groove but that the filling had eroded over time. But she offered no evidence of that except her own testimony. The Court went on to discuss a previous case in which a Plaintiff fell over an empty soda bottle. In that case, the Court found against the Plaintiff because there was no evidence should have known about the bottle because there was no evidence as to how and when it got there. As you get a sense, if your case lacks an statement of actual knowledge on part of the store, the Court will hold you to the fire so to speak, and will not think twice about dismissing your claim if the circumstances are right.
- "Actual Knowledge"
- Proximate Cause – You must be able to articulate how you fell specifically.
While not really focused upon in dismissing this case, the Court did make a point to consider the Plaintiff’s testimony as to how she fell. In essence, the Plaintiff states that she must have fallen over the groove because her foot “caught” something. The Court did not find that was enough because she couldn’t say with certainty exactly how she fell. If you cannot say exactly how you fell, your case will be very difficult.
- You must not have contributed to your fall – at all.
Virginia imposes a law called contributory negligence. Under contributory negligence, if you are found to be even 1% at fault for the accident, you don’t recover. That means if you weren’t looking where you were walking, you were on your cell phone, or you were doing something else distracting, the defense will argue that you contributed to the accident by not being aware of your surrounding. While you may think that’s ridiculous, be fully aware that that is the law in Virginia. Many cases have been lost on this point.
If you’ve been hurt in a slip and fall accident, this is the analysis that will need to take place to determine if you have a case. As you can see, the cards are stacked high in Virginia. Personal injury litigation is costly and time-consuming. So before you decide you want to file your claim, you need to consult with an attorney and be able to answer YES to ALL of these questions.