Knew or Should Have Known

By Jedidiah McKeehan

Often I will speak to individuals who tell me they have received some horrific injury at someone’s business or on someone’s property because they fell down stairs or slipped on some surface.

While I sympathize with these people, just because they sustained an injury on someone’s else property does not mean they have a lawsuit worth pursuing.

When I talk to people about their personal injury cases, I tell them they have to have two essential elements present to have a case, “liability” and “damages.” If they do not have both items present, then they do not have a case that is worth pursuing.

If they are hit by another driver who ran into the rear of their vehicle, then the accident was the other driver’s fault. However, if they sustained no damages, then their case is not worth pursuing.

What we often see in premise liability (which are often called “slip and fall” cases) cases is an issue with liability. Someone may be hurt, but unless you can show the owner of the property where you got hurt is liable, then you have no case.

Specifically, in premise liability cases you have to show that the owner, knew or should have known that a dangerous condition existed and did nothing about it. For example, if you slipped and fell on some liquid at Walmart, but Walmart had no reason to know that the liquid was there, then they are not liable.

As you might be able to tell, that makes winning premise liability cases very difficult. You essentially have to get the defendant to admit that they knew about the dangerous condition and did nothing about it. Otherwise, you will have a hard time proving that you should win.

Because premise liability cases are so hard to win, attorneys will often only take them on a higher contingency percentage. Where they may take a car wreck case and agree to be paid one-third of any recovery, often attorneys will request a fee of forty percent of any recovery on a premise liability case.

If you believe you may have a possible premise liability case, I would encourage you to think about whether your case has both liability and damages because those will be the key elements you need in order to be successful.

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.