Occupier's Liability - Shouldering the Burden of Proof in Negligence Cases
There is sometimes a common assumption out there that if someone slips and falls or is otherwise injured on a commercial property, liability is obvious. In reality, the determination is rarely so cut and dry. We've previously discussed the importance of knowing who to sue in an occupier's liability claim. This week, we examine another critical factor when pursuing compensation: shouldering the burden of proof.
Negligence - The backbone of a claim
Fighting a successful claim begins with establishing negligence on the part of the property's occupier - typically the owner, landlord or tenant. The law requires the occupier to take reasonable steps to ensure that property is safe for those who enter. The kicker is in determining what efforts can be considered "reasonable" and what actually constitutes a failure in the occupier's carrying out their duty of care. Producing sufficient proof can be tricky. It often involves investigating such factors as the occupier's policy on cleaning standards and regularity in conducting safety inspections. It also requires examining such questions as whether the occupier knew beforehand about the hazard or took sufficient preventative measures to minimize the danger. The law expects those who enter a property to exercise a correspondingly reasonable level of care to avoid injury. So, even where some degree of negligence can be proven regarding the maintenance of the property, a claimant must still prove that the negligence actually caused the injury. Finally, compensation can only be granted for actual damages. Slipping and falling is not, in itself, compensable. But such factors as medical expenses and wage loss allow the claimant to put a figure on the claim. Proving negligence can be a challenge, but seeking legal help provides the best chance at fighting a strategic occupier's liability claim.
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