Evidence in Premises Liability Cases
You’ve been seriously injured on someone else’s property — maybe you were walking out of a grocery store to your car in the parking lot, and tripped and fell because of a large pothole that you didn’t see because there wasn’t enough lighting. Instinctively, you know that the business owner was at fault for your injuries. He or she should have fixed that pothole, or at least provided enough light in the parking lot that you could have seen it and avoided it. But how do you go about proving that the business owner was negligent?
In order to prove that you deserve compensation, you need evidence to support your claim. There are a few things you want the evidence you gather in a premises liability claim to demonstrate. You’ll need to show that:
- The person against whom you’re making the claim is the owner or occupier of the premises where you were injured
- You suffered harm
- Your injuries were caused by some kind of unsafe condition on the premises
- The owner or occupier had a duty to either fix the unsafe condition or warn you about it and failed to do that
Types of Evidence You May Need
Evidence can take many forms, and the evidence you need in your case will very much depend upon the unique circumstances of your case and what exactly it is that you need to prove. Generally speaking, common forms of evidence in premises liability cases may include:
- Photographs — You’ll want pictures of the hazard that caused your accident. In the example of the pothole above, you’ll likely want pictures of the pothole itself, the parking lot, and the lighting conditions at the time of day when you tripped. The goal would be to demonstrate that the pothole presented a hazard that wasn’t obvious to you, and was significant enough to foreseeably cause your injuries. It’s best to get pictures as soon as is possible after an accident to accurately capture the defect that resulted in your injuries, and before the property owner has a chance to eliminate the defect such as by filling in the pothole.
- Accident Reports — If you made a report to police and/or the business owner, you’ll want to request a copy of the accident reports. Accident reports provide a narrative of what happened to you, and also may include statements from witnesses that can support your claim or that you’ll need to challenge in order to succeed in your claim for compensation.
- Property Records or Lease Agreements — Property records showing who owned the premises at the time of your accident, or lease agreements showing who occupied the premises, are useful tools to establish that you’re making your claim against the right person or company.
- Insurance Policies — If you’re making a claim against the owner or occupier’s insurance, you’ll want a copy of the insurance policy to make sure that your injuries or damages are covered by the policy, especially if there’s a dispute over coverage.
- Medical Records — Medical records will be one of the most important pieces of evidence in your case. Medical records show the extent of your injuries and the treatments you have to go through in the aftermath of your accident.
- Medical Bills — The medical bills for treatment of your injuries help establish the economic cost of your injuries and the amount of compensation you should receive.
- Pay Stubs and Tax Returns — Pay stubs and tax returns are useful when you lose time at work because of your accident. Your pay stubs and/or tax returns support any claim you might make for lost income.
- Witness Testimony — Witnesses who saw or heard your accident help provide a more complete picture of what happened to you. Their versions may help your case or they may contradict it. Either way it’s important to know what the people who saw the accident have to say. Other types of witnesses can help support other parts of your claim. For example, co-workers could establish that you lost time from work to support your claim for lost income.
- Expert Witnesses — Expert witnesses such as physicians or engineers can help draw the link between your accident and your injuries and convince a jury that your injuries were caused by the accident.
How a Lawyer Can Help
The idea of collecting all of these different types of evidence to support your claim may seem daunting. An experienced Chicago premises liability attorney can help you with the process of investigating your accident, interviewing witnesses, finding experts, and compiling the evidence you need. Your attorney then can put all of the different pieces of the story together to make your claim for compensation. Your lawyer can negotiate with the property owner or occupier, or the insurance company, to get a fair settlement of your claim. If no settlement can be reached, your lawyer can file a premises liability lawsuit and argue to a jury that you deserve compensation.