In many cases, slip and fall accidents are cause for nothing more than a few embarrassed chuckles and a dusting of the pants. However, in other cases, slip and fall accidents result in serious injury, extensive medical bills, missed work, and sometimes permanent damage. If your slip and fall incident is more reminiscent of the latter scenario, the best thing you can do for your health and your financial well-being is to contact a Wyoming slip and fall injury attorney. An experienced lawyer can help you prove liability in your Wyoming slip and fall accident and aggressively pursue the compensation you deserve.
General Negligence Principles in Wyoming
Before you hire an attorney to fight on your behalf, you should first determine if you were lawfully allowed to be on the property on which you sustained your injuries. Per the State of Wyoming Retail Compendium of Law, a “possessor of land” owes a duty to invitees to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition. This duty extends to licensees as well. “Possessor of land” refers to a person who owns, occupies, or leases the land.
The standard of care to which possessors of land must abide is reasonable care under the circumstances. What this means is that the owner, occupier, or renter must actively work to protect visitors against hazards known to him or her against dangers that would be easily discoverable by the exercise of reasonable care. A property owner also has a responsibility to warn invitees or licensees of any existing hazards if said hazards cannot or have yet to be repaired.
Wyoming property owners do not owe a duty of care to protect trespassers. However, Wyoming possessors of land may not intentionally, willfully, or wantonly injure a trespasser. Trespasser, as defined by Wyoming law, is a person who enters a premise without the owner or occupier’s permission, either express or implied.
Notice and Constructive Knowledge
It used to be that, in order to hold a possessor of land liable for damages in slip and fall injury cases in Wyoming, the owner, occupier, or renter of the land must have had constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition. However, the Wyoming Supreme Court has since done away with that requirement. Today, a plaintiff need only prove that the circumstances were such as to create the reasonable assumption that a hazardous condition would arise and that, because the probability existed, a property owner need not have actual or constructive knowledge.
Comparative Fault and Assumption of Risk
Wyoming is one of 33 states that recognize modified comparative negligence. It is one of 21 states that follow a 51 percent Bar Rule. What this means is that a plaintiff may assume up to 50 percent of the blame for the accident that caused his or her injuries and still recover compensation for damages. However, his or her settlement or award is reduced by the percentage of fault he or she assumed.
For instance, if the decision makers in your case decide that you were 25 percent liable for the accident, and if they were set to award you $1,000,000 in damages, your $1,000,000 award would be reduced by 25 percent. That means that, at the end of your case, you would walk away with $750,000.
The other 12 states that abide by modified comparative fault laws follow a 50 percent Bar Rule. The theory is more or less the same except, in those states, plaintiffs may assume up to only 49 percent of fault before the courts will bar them from recovery.
Now that you understand the different factors that establish a premises liability case in Wyoming, it’s time to explore the different factors the courts consider when determining fault. According to FindLaw, there is no standard procedure the courts use to determine if someone else is legally accountable for a plaintiff’s slip and fall injury. Each case ultimately comes down to whether the property owner or occupier was careless in his or her maintenance of the property and/or whether your own carelessness contributed to your accident in some way.
The burden of proof in slip and fall cases ultimately lies with the plaintiff. In your slip and fall case, you will be required to show that your injuries were caused by a hazardous situation. Beyond that, you will also need to prove that the property owner or possessor of land knew that the hazard existed and that the condition presented an unreasonable threat to visitors to the property. However, remember that in Wyoming, the burden of proof is less than what it is in other states. Instead of having to prove that the possessor of the land had constructive knowledge of the condition, you must only prove that the circumstances were such as to create a reasonable probability that a dangerous condition could and would arise. Finally, you must prove that the condition was indeed a hazardous one and that you did not merely trip on, for example, a stair or a grocery display.
To ascertain that the possessor of land should have known of the dangerous condition, you must show that one or more of the following is true:
- The possessor of land was the one who created the condition;
- The possessor of the property knew that the hazard existed but failed to fix or remediate it; or
- The dangerous situation was present for such a length of time that any other reasonable property owner or possessor of land would have noticed and fixed it before anyone was able to get hurt.
Finally, because premises liability torts are brought on the basis of negligence, you must show that it was foreseeable that the property owner or occupier’s negligence would lead to a dangerous situation.
As you can see, proving a slip and fall injury claim is far from easy. Much of a case relies on hard evidence and faith that the plaintiff is telling the truth. For this reason, it is essential that you have a strong slip and fall attorney on your side from the very beginning of your case until the end. The right lawyer can paint you and your situation in a positive light and work to gain the insurers’ and jurors’ favor. To find that right lawyer, contact The Wyoming Advocates at 307-466-0003 or online today.