Slips and falls happen all of the time. While they’re usually fairly harmless, sometimes they can cause serious injury. When that happens, you end up paying out of pocket for all medical expenses, and you lose wages when your injury prevents you from working. In that situation, when the fall occurred because of an unsafe or dangerous environment, you’re entitled to compensation. These claims are also known as “premises liability” claims, since they typically occur on property that is owned or maintained by someone else, making that property owner legally responsible.
Property owners have a duty to provide a safe environment to others, and when they fail to do so, resulting in your injury, you may have a right to claim for damages incurred due to your injury. In many cases, you may be able to claim for damages like pain and suffering, lost wages, and medical expenses.
Why do you need an attorney to settle your claim?
Let’s say you tripped and fell, and now you would like to claim compensation for the medical bills incurred by the fall. While some cases are fairly clear, and can be handled without the help of an experienced attorney, most slip and fall situations can be difficult to prove. If you need compensation for your slip and fall accident, it’s in your best interest to hire an attorney that can help you win your case.
What factors affect the outcome of your case?
Determining Liability – The first major point that you’ll have to prove in your slip and fall premises liability claim is that the property owner is actually liable for your injury. You will have to show this in at least one of the following ways:
- That the property owner or his employee should have been aware of the dangerous condition, because a “reasonable” person would have noticed the issue, and promptly fixed it.
- That the property owner or his employee was aware of the dangerous condition, but chose not to repair or fix it.
- That the property owner or his employee caused the dangerous condition, in situations like a spill, broken flooring, or broken banister.
Determining liability is often the most difficult part of a slip and fall case to prove, since there’s no real cut and dry way to show that the property owner “should have known.” That’s why it’s important to have a good attorney to handle your case. An experienced attorney will be better able to present the materials in a way that benefits you in this very subjective type of case.
Reasonability – To show that the property owner is in fact liable for your slip and fall accident, you will have to prove that the owner did not fix or solve the dangerous situation in what would be considered a reasonable amount of time. To prove that, you and your attorney will have to answer a few of the following questions:
- How long had the condition been present before you slipped and fell? Had a stair been broken for months, and the property owner just refused to fix it, or had it just broken the day before?
- How often does the property owner inspect and clean the area/property? Is it well maintained, and if so, is there proof that he or she regularly maintenances and inspects the area?
- If you fell because you tripped over an object, was there a reason for that object to be there? Had it just fallen off a shelf, or was it being used in the vicinity?
- If you did trip over something that had a legitimate reason for being there, say a rake in the lawn, did that reason still exist at the time of your accident? Suppose you tripped over the rake in the middle of winter when it was covered in snow. While it would make sense for a rake to be left out in the fall, there’s no reason for a rake to be left outside in the middle of winter.
If you and your attorney can prove that the object you tripped over, or the dangerous condition that caused your slip and fall had no legitimate reason to be there, you’re one step closer to receiving your fair compensation.
Carelessness – The final factor that can affect your premises liability claim is your own degree of carelessness. Most states follow a rule of “comparative negligence” when determining slip and fall accidents. That means that if you were multi-tasking, texting and walking, or were in some way distracted, your final award will be lessened, since according to the court you had a part in your fall as well. There are some questions here that you and your attorney will want to answer as well:
- Were you on the property for a legitimate reason, and was the owner expecting you? Should the property owner have planned for someone to be in that area, if not you?
- Would someone else in the same situation, with “reasonable caution” have noticed the dangerous condition and avoided it? Would they have handled the situation any differently? Would another person with reasonable caution have avoided the slip and fall in any way?
- Was there a sign or barrier that announced the presence of the danger? Was there any way you could have known, and reasonably avoided the dangerous condition?
- Were you acting in a way that could have facilitated your slip and fall? Were you watching where you were going, or were you on the phone and walking? Were you running around the edge of the pool, or skipping on an uneven surface?
When you talk to someone regarding your slip and fall incident, you will probably get a lot of these questions. While it’s not expected that you were being extremely careful, the insurance company will want to know that you were not acting negligently in any way. So long as it can be shown that you were not acting negligently, you shouldn’t experience any deductions from your compensation award.
What to do following a slip and fall accident
In the event that you do have a slip and fall accident, there are a few certain precautions you’ll want to take to ensure the best possible outcome.
Write down what happened – And when we say that, we mean everything. Every last detail will be useful and called upon when you make a claim for compensation. Here’s a few specific things you’ll want to write down:
- The date, time, and location of your fall
- The condition of the area of your fall: what kind of lighting there was, and what the weather was like
- What you were doing, and what you were looking at when you fell
- What caused your fall – a spill, broken floorboard, ice patch, sticking up piece of carpet, etc.
- If there was any warning sign of the dangerous condition – caution tape, a barrier, or a sign.
- What shoes you were wearing. You should include an accurate description of them.
- What happened in the fall: what injuries you sustained, if you lost consciousness, etc.
- The names and contact information of property owners and relevant employees
- The names and contact information of anyone who was a witness to your fall
- The names and contact information of anyone who talked to you after the incident, and what they said
Take pictures of the accident, and all related surroundings
While it’s not possible to take a picture of every accident scene, (maybe you slipped on ice, and it melted before you had a chance to get back) if it is possible, you should document the hazard with photos. Do whatever you can to get picture documentation of as much as is relevant. Photos of your injuries, and the area where you fell are completely warranted.
Alert the property owner
After the event, you’ll want to make sure you give the property owner written notice of your slip and fall, as well as a brief description of your injuries, for a few reasons:
- So the property owner does not later try to claim that they were unaware that the incident even occurred.
- So the property owner takes corrective action in order to protect others that enter the property in the future.
- So there’s evidence that your claim is legitimate. Most jurors expect that a person injured on someone else’s property will alert the property owner to the situation, and to the dangerous condition that needs to be repaired.
In most cases, once the property owner receives your notice, they will alert their insurance company, who will in turn call you. Be careful what you say to them, because once you make a claim, anything you’ve said to the insurer over the phone can be used as evidence for the case.
Continue medical care
Other than seeking immediate attention for injuries sustained during the fall, you’ll also want to make sure you keep up with your doctors appointments. You need to attend any follow-up appointments, and follow any and all of your doctor’s recommendations, even if they refer you to a specialist.
Your doctor will keep your injuries in your medical record, so it’s important that you explain to them exactly what happened, and how you got each injury, so there’s medical proof to show on your behalf later on.
Talk to your trusted attorney
One of the most important things you can do if you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident, is contact your trusted, experienced attorney. They will be able to help guide you through the sometimes confusing legal process, and give you your best chance of obtaining fair compensation.
Slip and fall accidents can be difficult to receive compensation for, but if they medical bills are piling up, you may have no choice. Call the expert attorneys at the Epstein Law Firm today for your free initial consultation! We’ll help you receive the compensation you deserve. Schedule your consultation online, or give us a call at 773-522-7000.
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