The first question we need to ask in a premises liability case is, who owns the property in question?
Once we know who the owner is of the premises, then we can investigate whether similar accidents have happened there in the past.
Then, we consider who is responsible for the hazardous condition other than the landowner. As an example, were we to consider a trip and fall on a sidewalk, we ask questions such as, who constructed the sidewalk, was the sidewalk construction subcontracted to another party, what are the names and roles of those individuals who constructed or knew about the construction of the sidewalk, and how long did the subcontractor work for the general contractor.
Another important question to consider is whether any or all of the parties have liability insurance coverage.
Additionally, one of the biggest challenges during discovery is to determine the level of knowledge each party had of the alleged defect which is why having information about any prior incidents is important to determine if any of the parties were made aware of similar issues, whether any changes were implemented or not implemented, and how the parties had addressed the prior complaints. Knowing this information can give us an understanding in learning the landowner’s intent and whether they had actual or constructive notice of the defect or hazardous condition in question.
In many cases, it may be necessary to visit and inspect the accident site. If you are handling a matter that involves a faulty sidewalk, you may need an engineer to determine what is wrong with the sidewalk and take proper measurements. If the matter involves a defective stairwell, you may need a city planner to identify the code violations.
In other circumstances, you may retain other experts to take photographs and otherwise document the site where the accident occurred. Unfortunately, in some situations, by the time the inspection of the scene takes place, it may be changed, or the defect may have been remedied. In those cases, you may only be able to get a general idea of what the area looked like at the time of the accident. This is why time is of the essence and it is of utmost importance that you consult an experienced attorney from Brian J. McManus & Associates, Ltd.
Video surveillance is also very useful if you can obtain it. In one case, for example, a person tripped over an exposed wire that was lying across a walkway. In this case, video surveillance showed the wire on the floor and the person tripping over the wire and resulting in her injuries. In a deposition in this case, an agent of the premises owner admitted fault which led to a more advantageous position in the case. If video surveillance is available, it is imperative that we promptly learn of it and request it as it is excellent evidence to prove a personal injury case.