When you step onto someone else’s property, whether it’s a store, a friend’s house, or a public venue, there’s an inherent expectation of safety. But accidents happen, and sometimes they happen because of negligence. If you’ve been injured on someone’s property because of their negligence, you deserve to have your losses compensated for. Read on to understand more about what you’ll need to prove, and connect as soon as possible with a premises liability lawyer in Houston to get help with the specifics of your case.
Burden of Proof
Burden of proof refers to the responsibility one party bears to prove the allegations they’re putting forth in a lawsuit. In civil cases, like premises liability lawsuits, the burden of proof falls on the plaintiff: that’s the person bringing the lawsuit.
Proving Negligence in Premises Liability Cases
When you bring a premises liability lawsuit in Texas, the onus is on you and your lawyer to demonstrate several elements to establish the property owner’s negligence. Here’s what you’ll need to prove:
Existence of a Dangerous Condition
Firstly, you must show that a hazardous condition existed. This could be anything from a wet floor without a warning sign to a poorly lit staircase.
You must then prove that the property owner knew, or reasonably should have known, about this dangerous condition. If a store manager was aware of a spill and failed to address it promptly, this would fit the criteria.
Failure to Rectify
Finally, it’s essential to establish that the property owner did not take reasonable steps to rectify the situation or warn visitors. This might involve showing that no preventive measures, like barriers or signs, were put in place.
Gathering and Presenting Evidence
The type and quality of evidence you have can influence a judge or jury’s perspective significantly. Good evidence will even help in the negotiation stage: if the defendant sees that your evidence is strong, they are more likely to negotiate in good faith and reach a fair settlement. If they think your evidence is weak, they are more likely to hold out, since it may not be worth your while to go all the way to court with your case.
Here’s some of the evidence you’ll want to gather, with the help of your lawyer. Your lawyer will use this evidence to make a strong case:
Items like torn carpeting, broken railings, or any other tangible evidence that can be linked to the hazardous condition can be pivotal. Photographs and videos, especially those taken immediately after the incident, are invaluable in painting a clear picture of the scene.
Eyewitness accounts can offer a first-hand perspective on the conditions leading up to the injury. Their testimonies can corroborate your claims and provide insights into the negligence or lack of preventive measures taken by the property owner.
Medical documentation, from initial emergency care to ongoing treatments, is essential to show the reality and severity of your injuries. These reports can help in proving that the accident on the premises directly led to the injuries you’ve suffered.
In some cases, you and your attorney might introduce expert witnesses, like building inspectors or safety experts, who can provide professional opinions on code violations or the presence of unsafe conditions.
Failing to Meet the Burden
If you fail to meet the burden of proof in your case, the implications can be significant. The case might be dismissed, or if it reaches trial, there’s a strong chance of an unfavorable verdict. Without compelling evidence to support claims of negligence, achieving a successful resolution becomes a lot more challenging. For more information, click here.
Understanding Comparative Fault
In Texas, the doctrine of comparative fault, or “proportionate responsibility” is important in premises liability cases. This rule requires that any compensation awarded would be reduced by the percentage of fault the plaintiff bears.
How could someone be partially responsible for their own injuries? Imagine there’s a dangerous condition, like a pool of water on the floor in a store, and the store owner knew about this danger but hadn’t yet cleaned it up. Maybe he even put up a sign, but the sign wasn’t in a prominent place or was too small and thus easy to miss.
Now, let’s say a customer didn’t see the sign or puddle, and so slipped and was injured: but the customer was also texting on their phone at the time it happened. The court may find that the customer bears some responsibility in this case, since someone who was paying due attention to their surroundings would have been more likely to see the sign.
It’s important that you prove the negligence of the premises owner; it may be equally important to defend yourself against claims of negligence so you don’t lose out.
Working With a Premises Liability Lawyer in Houston
Experienced attorneys can guide you through each phase of your claim. Your attorney will also defend you against any claims that your own negligence was the cause of your injuries. Working with a qualified attorney is always important to get the best result.
The burden of proof lies on you in your civil lawsuit, so be sure to contact an experience attorney to ensure you’ve met it.