When someone is accused of allowing a dangerous condition to persist and causing injury, a common response is to say that they did not know about the condition. In this way, they claim it was not their fault and there was nothing that could be done.
For instance, you could slip and fall on an unmarked spill in a store. You feel that it’s the owner’s fault for leaving that wet area on the tiles, and you want compensation for your broken hip. They claim they didn’t know about the spill and they could not have been expected to mark a hazard they had no knowledge of.
But should they have known the danger was there?
This reasoning can work, but you’ll often see it stated that someone is liable if they knew about the dangerous condition or “should have known” about it. It isn’t enough for a property owner to claim ignorance of a danger — they must be able to show that they had no reasonable way of knowing it was there in time to prevent an accident.
Say that the spill in the store mentioned above happened five minutes before you got there. A customer caused it and — rather than reporting it — just hurried back to their car. There was no way anyone could have been expected to find the spill in a few minutes, and it could even be that an employee was on the way to get a wet floor sign and just didn’t have enough time.
But, if the spill happened four hours ago, things are very different. If the staff does not look for hazards often enough to find one in four hours, it could mean they’re not looking at all. This attitude could be viewed as negligent because it could allow all manner of dangerous conditions to continue to exist. If you do get injured in an accident, you may be able to seek compensation for your losses.