Actual Vs Constructive Notice In Slip And Fall Cases
Most property owners owe some duty of care to people who visit their properties, especially when those individuals were invited. However, just because someone was hurt on another person’s property does not mean that he or she will automatically be entitled to damages. Instead, the injured party will need to prove that the property owner was negligent in some way. A failure to inspect the property or to repair an obvious hazard could, for instance, be enough to establish liability for a slip and fall accident. Often, one of the biggest issues in these kinds of cases is whether a property owner actually knew of the danger posed to visitors. This notice can either be actual or constructive and could dictate whether an injured party could recover damages for accident-related losses.
How Notice Works
Premises liability cases are grounded in the concept of negligence, which basically means that injured parties will need to prove that a property owner failed to exercise reasonable care in maintaining the premises in a safe condition. Property owners cannot, however, be expected to protect against dangers that aren’t foreseeable or anticipated. When evaluating whether an accident was foreseeable, courts will look to whether the property owner had notice of the dangerous hazard in question.
Actual and Constructive Notice
There are two types of notice in premises liability cases: actual and constructive notice. Actual notice means that a property owner knew that the hazard existed because he or she saw it or was told about it by someone else. Constructive notice is a bit hazier and refers to an indirect knowledge of a hazard. A property owner can, for instance, be deemed to have had constructive knowledge of a hazard if it existed for so long that there was no way (if the property owner had been exercising reasonable care) that he or she didn’t know about it. Alternatively, if a certain kind of hazard occurs often, then it can be deemed foreseeable through routine.
Actual notice is difficult to prove, unless a property owner is willing to admit that he or she actually saw the danger or was informed about it. For this reason, most slip and fall claims rely on proof of constructive notice to establish negligence. In these cases, an injured party will need to prove that the property owner would have known about the danger if he or she had been exercising the proper amount of care. Satisfying this standard will be easier in cases where a hazard has clearly existed for a lengthy period of time. A leaky pipe that creates a puddle, missing railings on staircases, uneven flooring, or a spill that has congealed are all examples of hazards that likely existed for enough time that a property owner should have become aware of, and ultimately addressed them.
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