Knoxville Slip & Fall Lawyer
Knoxville slip and fall lawyer Mark Hartsoe represents residents and visitors to Tennessee who have suffered injuries as a result of slipping and falling due to dangerous conditions--whether in business establishments, at work, or outdoors, in public places or private residences. If you or someone you love was injured in a slip-and-fall accident caused by a dangerous condition (such as a slippery floor or unlit staircase), you have a right to seek compensation for your injuries from the negligent party who was responsible for that condition.
You may pursue compensation for your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost earnings (including future earnings), any permanent disability resulting from the injury, as well as other related damages (such as emotional distress or loss of consortium). Please contact us today for an assessment of your case, drawing on our decades of experience with slip-and-fall cases.Elements of a Slip and Fall Claim
A slip and fall claim is a type of personal injury case, in which a victim tries to show that they were injured because someone else acted negligently. In the context of maintaining property, this means that the owner or possessor of the property failed to take reasonable steps to keep the property in a safe condition. The person or entity that has control over the property must repair any hazards of which it is aware or should be aware, and it must provide warnings to visitors until the repair is completed.
Sometimes a victim will be able to show that a property owner actually knew about the hazard that caused the accident. Perhaps the property owner created the hazard through their own negligent or intentional acts. More often, though, the victim will need to show what is called constructive notice. This means that the property owner should have been aware of the hazard because a reasonable property owner in their position would have been aware of it. Consulting an attorney can be critical for this phase of the case because they may be able to preserve evidence to show constructive notice.
In addition to showing the existence of a hazard, a victim must show that they were injured because of the hazard. They also need to present evidence supporting the types of damages that they sustained, such as the examples listed above. Evidence might consist of both documents and witness testimony. For example, a victim might present both their medical records and testimony from their doctor about the limitations caused by their injuries. They also might present testimony from their friends and family members to explain the more subjective forms of harm that they suffered.
A victim must prove each element of a slip and fall claim by a preponderance of the evidence, as with other personal injury cases. This means that they must establish each element of their claim sufficiently so that the jury is convinced that it is more likely than not to be true. The preponderance of the evidence standard is relatively lenient compared to other standards of proof, but the burden is still on the plaintiff and should not be taken lightly.
It is extremely important, therefore, to ensure that a slip and fall incident is thoroughly investigated as soon as possible, and that key evidence is preserved so that it can later be used to prove who was at fault. Photographs of the dangerous conditions as they existed at the time of the accident are extremely helpful in reaching a successful resolution to a claim. Unfortunately, people sometimes suffer severe injuries in a slip and fall—broken bones, brain injuries, back injuries, and the like; in such cases, they will not be able to investigate their own accident.Comparative Negligence
While property owners are required to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition, people who are visiting the premises are also expected to be reasonably alert to their surroundings. For example, someone who is texting on their phone rather than looking around them might slip and fall on a spilled substance that they could have avoided otherwise. A property owner and their insurer might make an argument based on comparative negligence if some evidence suggests that the victim’s own negligence was partly responsible for the accident.
Tennessee does not use the harsh contributory negligence rule, which prevents a victim from recovering any damages if they were responsible for an accident to any degree. Nor does it use the pure comparative negligence rule, which allows a victim to recover damages that are proportionate to the defendant’s fault, regardless of how much each party was at fault. As a compromise between these extremes, Tennessee applies a modified comparative negligence rule. This rule provides that a victim can recover damages from a defendant if they were 49 percent or less at fault for the accident. If a victim was 50 percent or more at fault, they will not be allowed to recover any damages.
However, if a victim was 49 percent or less at fault, they can recover an amount of damages that corresponds to the defendant’s percentage of fault. In other words, if a victim was 25 percent at fault, they can recover 75 percent of their costs and losses from a defendant that is found liable for the remainder. For example, a victim who sustained $800,000 in damages could recover $600,000 from the defendant if the victim was 25 percent at fault.Child Trespassers
Compared to adults, children are less likely to understand the hazards that they may encounter, especially on an unfamiliar property. As a result, most states have developed some version of the traditional attractive nuisance doctrine. This places a greater burden on property owners and possessors to account for the safety of children, even when they are not lawfully on the property. Section 29-34-208 of the Tennessee Code contains the current version of the attractive nuisance doctrine.
To establish liability for injuries or death to a child under this section of the law, a plaintiff and their attorney must prove five elements. First, they would need to show that there was a dangerous condition on the premises of which the property owner or possessor knew or should have known. They also would need to show that the property owner or possessor knew or should have known that it was likely for children to be present in the area. The child must have been unlikely to recognize and understand the risk that the hazard posed, considering their age and level of maturity.
In addition to these three elements, the plaintiff will need to show that the risk posed by the condition outweighed the burden of removing it. Finally, they will need to show that the defendant failed to use reasonable care in removing the condition or preventing children from getting access to it, such as by installing a fence around the condition. Some common examples of hazards that might attract children include swimming pools and other artificial bodies of water, as well as construction equipment.Importance of Taking Prompt Action
Similar to other personal injury cases, a slip and fall case must be pursued within one year of the accident. Section 28-3-104 of the Tennessee Code provides this rule. The statute of limitations is a strict rule that has very few exceptions. If a plaintiff fails to file their case within one year, the defendant can get the case dismissed at the outset, even if the evidence suggests that they were responsible for the accident.
The same time limit applies to a wrongful death case that arises under Section 20-5-106 of the Tennessee Code when someone dies from a slip and fall. In that situation, the spouse of the victim will have priority in filing the claim, which is meant to substitute for the personal injury claim that the victim could have filed had they survived the accident. If the victim does not have a spouse, a surviving child can file a claim. If there is no spouse or child, the personal representative of the victim’s estate can file the wrongful death claim. They can seek damages for the victim’s medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering before their death, as well as the costs that the estate incurred for the victim’s burial and funeral. Family members traditionally were not allowed to recover separate damages in Tennessee wrongful death claims, but recent reforms have permitted this possibility. They now can recover damages based on the loss of their relationship to the victim.Contact a Slip and Fall Lawyer
At the Hartsoe Law Firm, we understand what is necessary to prove negligence in a slip and fall case. We also understand the trauma and expenses that injured people face, in Tennessee as elsewhere, as a result of slip and fall incidents. If you become our client, we will help you build the strongest case possible, negotiate with insurance company representatives on your behalf, and, if necessary, take your case to trial in order to seek fair compensation for the harm you have suffered.