Q: If an elderly person is forced to step up a high curb when there should be a ramp, was the elderly person contributorily negligent in the sense that he or she should have recognized that it was dangerous to attempt it?
Contributory negligence on the part of the injured person, elderly or otherwise, is a defense the insurance companies try to raise in every type of personal injury case. However, people shouldn’t be put in situations where they have to forego basic life activities like grocery shopping or going to the movies simply because those public places have made themselves unsafe.
To assess whether there was contributory negligence, you need to ascertain what the person reasonably would have seen and what reasonably they would have been expected to do under the circumstances. Sometimes, that requires expert testimony on the topic of how people actually function in the world, how they function at the grocery store, how they function when they are getting in and out of their car.
There is a lot of science on what people actually should be expected to see and react to. There has been significant research on the efficacy of signs and warnings. We know that some warnings help, and others are entirely ineffective. Each case requires a close look.