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Effect of Contributory Negligence in a Virginia Slip-and-Fall Case

If you receive injuries from a fall on business or private property, you may be entitled compensation.  However, in Virginia, your own contributory negligence in a slip-and-fall case can affect your right to receive reimbursement for your injuries.

Legal Responsibility for Slip-and-Fall Injuries

Many different conditions cause slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall injuries.  Slippery floors from spills (especially in grocery stores) are a common reason for this type of accident.  However, many other dangerous conditions on property lead to injuries, including:

  • Uneven or unrepaired flooring
  • Poor lighting on stairways or in hallways
  • Defective design of raised thresholds, stairs, or other walking areas
  • Weather-related conditions (like snow and ice) inside or outside the premises

Slip-and-fall cases are part of an area of law referred to as premises liability.  Specific legal rules apply to determining whether a property owner or lessee is legally liable when someone receives injuries on their premises. 

All property owners and lessees have a carefully defined legal responsibility to make sure their property is safe for invited visitors.  To recover for a slip-and-fall injury, the person who fell must demonstrate that the property owner was negligent and failed to fulfill that legal duty.

A property owner who fails to use reasonable care to keep the premises safe may be liable if someone suffers injuries because of a dangerous condition.  If the owner knew or should have known about a dangerous condition and did nothing to remedy it or warn about it, the owner likely was negligent.

In addition to showing that a property owner or lessee negligently maintained the premises, an injured victim also must demonstrate that the owner’s negligence actually caused the accident and resulting injuries.  This element of a slip-and-fall case constitutes the legal requirement of causation, which depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident.

An important aspect of causation in a personal injury case is whether the injured person contributed in any way to his or her own injuries.  This question brings into play the legal principle of contributory negligence.

What Constitutes Contributory Negligence in a Slip-and-Fall Case?

Virginia has a strict contributory negligence rule that applies to all personal injury cases.  If an injured individual shares any responsibility or fault for the accident, the law prevents that individual from recovering any compensation from a negligent person. 

It does not matter if the negligent person who caused the injury was 99% at fault and the injured victim was only 1% at fault.  If contributory negligence was a factor in the accident to any extent, the law bars any recovery by the injured individual.

When someone makes a claim for slip-and-fault injuries, the at-fault person’s insurance company attempts to avoid paying the claim by showing contributory negligence of the claimant.  The company tries to use facts and circumstances to show the injured individual’s fault, such as:

  • The victim wore shoes or clothing that made it difficult to walk normally or see where they were walking, such as high heels, flimsy flip-flops, or a big floppy hat.
  • The victim’s attention was elsewhere due to texting or talking on the phone or another distraction, so he or she did not see an obvious danger.
  • The victim ignored warning and hazard signs around the dangerous condition.
  • Alcohol or drug consumption affected the victim’s coordination and judgment.
  • The accident occurred on a part of the property clearly marked as not open to visitors.
  • The victim trespassed on the owner’s property.

Thorough investigation and analysis of the accident is the only way to reach conclusions about contributory negligence.  If a case goes to trial, a jury may decide the issue.  In some situations, the judge may rule on contributory negligence as a matter of law.

In any claim, a number of facts and issues relating to the accident affect determinations about contributory negligence.  All those considerations enter into settlement negotiations between the injured person and the property owner’s insurance company. 

Talk With a Virginia Beach Slip-and-Fall / Premises Liability Attorney

If you suffered serious, long-term injuries in a slip-and-fall on business or private property, you should discuss your case with an experienced premises liability lawyer.  It is not prudent to make your own legal judgments about negligence or contributory negligence in your accident. 

Above all, you should not talk with the insurance company or an adjuster who represents the property owner or lessee or try to settle the claim yourself.  Their only goal is minimizing the compensation you receive or show contributory negligence so that you receive little or nothing.  They even try to get you to make statements that will hurt your case.

A skillful attorney knows what compensation you deserve and will pursue your rights aggressively to make sure you get fair compensation.  An experienced attorney knows how to negotiate with insurance adjusters and how to maximize your financial recovery.

The best time to contact an attorney is as soon as you are able to do so.  The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to recover evidence in the case.  In addition, Virginia has a two-year time limit (called the statute of limitations) on filing personal injury cases.  If two years pass from the date of your accident, you lose the legal ability to pursue your claim.

Talk With an Experienced Virginia Beach Slip and Fall Attorney

Respected Virginia Beach personal injury attorney Jeff Brooke knows how to recover damages for slip-and-fall accident victims. The Jeff Brooke Team helps seriously injured premises accident victims recover the full financial reimbursement they deserve. 

Contact us by phone at (757) 552-6055 or by using our online contact form. Do not hesitate to contact us if you are in the hospital or confined at home — we will meet with you at home or in the hospital.

Jeff Brooke is a personal injury attorney devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligent and careless actions. The Jeff Brooke Team serves all of southeastern Virginia. The firm helps clients in the Greater Tidewater and Greater Hampton Roads areas, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Chesterfield. The Jeff Brooke Team also handles cases in northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks.

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