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Generally speaking, a slip and fall case in Winston-Salem would be heard in Civil Superior Court, which is state court. If there is an appeal, the direct appeal would go to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Local slip and fall cases are classified as civil claims for negligence. To successfully recover damages in these cases, an individual or a skilled slip and fall attorney must prove negligence. To prove negligence, the elements  of the Winston-Salem slip and fall claims process include that the landowner owed the person a legal duty of care, that there was a breach of that duty, and that the breach of the duty was the proximate cause of bodily injuries which caused damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Defining Proximate Cause

Proximate cause involves connecting the dots between the landowner’s conduct and the harm caused to the plaintiff. Proving proximate cause involves two elements: that the type of harm was foreseeable from the defendant’s conduct, and that the harm was a natural consequence of the breach of the duty.

Steps to Take

The plaintiff would be the injured person or their representative. An example of their representative would be the administrator or executor of an estate if the incident led to a death. The defense would be anybody who owns or is in control of or occupies the land. With commercial businesses, sometimes there are the actual owners of the land and the lessees, so there could be multiple defendants.

The first step involves giving notice to the property owner about the accident and hiring counsel. There is typically an initial investigation phase by the property owner or their agents (usually the liability insurance company). After an investigation, the insurance company makes a determination about liability. Frequently these kinds of cases are denied based on an interpretation that the owner was not negligent or that the injured person was contributorily negligent. Once the claim is denied, then either a person files a lawsuit or walks away from the claim forever.

Clients should be prepared to discuss facts and information about the incident at the beginning of the Winston-Salem slip and fall claims process. Additionally, they should be prepared with photographs, information about their injuries, and the medical treatment they received. They should gather photographs, sketches, news articles, and witness names and contact information.

Filing and Demand Letters

The purpose of a demand letter in the Winston-Salem slip and fall claims process is to give the insurance company an opportunity to resolve the claim. Most demand letters include a general description of the incident, the injuries sustained, the medical treatment received, and the amount of the medical bills. The demand letter generally goes to the insurance representative for the premises owner. The plaintiff will argue that the premises owner or occupier was negligent in the maintenance of the premises and that the negligence caused bodily injuries which necessitated medical treatment. The defense will say the plaintiff was contributorily negligent or that the hazard was open and obvious. Open and obvious hazard is a legal term of art, and it negates duty.

Understanding Open and Obvious Hazards

Many injuries occur because of open and obvious hazards. One example is a pothole. Potholes are visible and are considered to be open and obvious hazards. People who see potholes should avoid them. Harder questions to determine include issues like water on the floor. If the floor is a light color or shiny, a person cannot always see water on the floor. That is a tougher case for the defense. The jury, though, will expect people to keep a reasonable lookout for their own safety.

North Carolina has the rule of seven when it comes to Winston-Salem slip and fall claims process for negligence cases. That means a child between the ages of zero and seven is presumed to be incapable of negligence (though in some situations, this is rebuttable). From seven to 14, there is a rebuttable presumption that the child is capable of negligence. After the age of 14, they are treated like adults.