Our Approach to Slip and Fall Cases in Virginia

Slip and fall cases are very difficult cases to bring in Virginia as the current status of case law does not favor slip and fall claims. The insurance industry has worked very hard for many years to advocate against expanding slip and fall liability in Virginia. There are a number of statutes as well as a number of cases that have established unfavorable positions for a potential slip and fall plaintiff in Virginia.

Therefore, I am driven by a pretty rigorous set of guidelines when I am handling a slip and fall case. The very first thing is going to be liability, which means who is at fault.

The first question when discussing liability in Virginia for slip and fall cases is the notice issue. In all cases in Virginia, there must be actual or constructive notice that there was a dangerous condition. For example, this means that for a wet spot or slick spot in a supermarket, which is a common slip and fall example, that store must be on notice that the spot was there or the plaintiff must be able to prove that the store should have been on notice, which are both very difficult things for someone who has been hurt. In a slip and fall accident, the victim’s first thought is not going to be, “Hey, did the store have notice? How can I make sure to preserve potential evidence regarding this?” Their first thought is going to be, “I’m hurt, how can I get the care I need to feel better after what has happened to me?”

There are a lot of immediate decisions to be made that aren’t necessarily the most intuitive in regards to the legal part of the case. In order to prove liability, the very first issue is proving notice. If the store is able to rely on a defense that they had no notice, they have a potential strong defensive position.

What to Look For First in a Slip and Fall Case

In a slip and fall case, in addition to notice, I would want to get information about liability and I would want to get information on what the potential slip and fall client was doing prior to the fall.

I would want to know if they were keeping an eye out, looking around their surroundings, or wearing shoes that insured sure footing. I would ask them about all those sights, smells, and sounds and what their impressions were immediately prior to and immediately after the fall. All those factors are very important in establishing whether or not we can prove liability as well as to prepare for potential defenses.

I would also want to know about potential flaws of the case, for example if the person was under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, that may be a potential issue that I would want to deal with.

That brings us to the larger picture of Virginia being a contributory negligence state, meaning that if someone is even one percent at fault for their own slip and fall, then they are barred from recovering.

I ask a lot of questions about what the potential victim was doing that day, where they were going, what they saw, what they smelled, and what they heard in order to determine what exactly was going on and what potential contributory negligence issues there could be in terms of proving liability.