Failure to keep a proper lookout is contributory negligence in most states. In some states such as Alabama, District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, or Virginia, any contributory negligence on the part of a plaintiff will be a complete defense no matter who the defendant may be. Other states have longstanding law that if the defendant is a governmental entity, then any contributory negligence on the part of a plaintiff will prevent the plaintiff from obtaining a judgment against that defendant. (For example, Indiana’s comparative fault law is not applicable to lawsuits brought against governmental entities and thus any contributory negligence on the part of a plaintiff acts as a complete bar to any recovery of damages. If a jury determines that the injured party is just 1% at fault, the injured party will not receive any damages even though the City or State may have been 99% at fault. Consequently if a person fall downs on the property owned or maintained by a governmental entity, Indiana law recognizes that if the plaintiff was at fault for not looking where he is stepping, then such a plaintiff may not recover any monetary damages.)
In addition to legitimate falls, there is growing concern about people faking falls. (See video above.) A person may have a conscious or unconscious incentive to get out of work or to see a health care provider for a chronic condition at someone else's expense. This unfortunate scenario seems to becoming more common in our litigious society. A growing group of people have now been caught purposely tripping on sidewalks and in stores. Doesn't it seem a bit too coincidental that a person's best friend or relative just happens to catch the fall all on video? The video is almost always impressive and is typically used like a crowbar to extract a settlement offer or ultimately threatened to be used to inflame a jury. Think about it! What are the odds that a friend or family member just happens to video a fall? (Some staged fall videos are included below.)
Uneven concrete is a common, unavoidable consequence of sidewalks being exposed to the extremes in weather. It is impossible to have completely level outdoor sidewalk surfaces. Particular caution needs to be exercised with regard to manhole covers, drains and gratings. From our early youth we are taught, "watch your step." Yet whenever someone falls, they are quick to blame their fall on someone else and almost never except responsibility for their own failure to keep a look out. Lookout is so important that it is hard to navigate anywhere without our sense of sight. Yet those who refuse to lookout for their own safety often expect juries to ignore their common sense when interpreting the law which requires people to exercise reasonable care for their own safety. Being careful while walking around uneven surfaces or slippery areas is common sense; however, when someone falls, they are often looking for "cents" that add up to large dollar verdicts or settlements. It is no wonder that the cost of doing business, procuring insurance or running a governmental entity in the U.S. has become so cost prohibitive in this litigious society.
A man is under a duty to use common and ordinary caution for his own good. Even if a defendant being at fault will not dispense with the requirement that the plaintiff must use ordinary care for himself. While perhaps one may expect to encounter less trip hazards indoors, ignoring potential trip hazards while walking outdoors is simply not responsible.
Article Sources include:
How to Fake A Fall
Faking A Fall To Get Out of School
Best Ways To Hurt Yourself at Work
Fake Fall Down For T.V.
Youtube Video above.