You may have the opportunity to sue if you suspect negligence was the cause of a slip-and-fall. Insurance companies have a process in case someone trips on another’s property. However, you should become familiar with a few legal aspects.
Specific state laws apply to claims of slips and falls. They determine when a case is valid and when you can sue for compensation. Some attorneys are familiar with the laws and use the knowledge to benefit your claim.
Where Slip and Falls Occur
Around one million people visit a hospital every year for slips and trips. Many more people need to see a doctor for non-fatal falls. Around 20 percent of slip and fall accidents cause severe bodily harm, like a traumatic brain injury.
A slip and fall can happen anywhere.
Some prevalent locations include:
- Restaurants and shops.
- Grocery stores, malls, or restaurants can have liquid on the ground: Products may fall from the shelves and cover the floor with debris. Additionally, people may track in water during stormy or snowy weather.
- Parking lots: Some parking lots do not receive regular repairs, and cracks and potholes form over time. A person may not notice a hole or uneven surface and trip. The risk of an accident increases if the place lacks proper lighting.
- Sidewalks: Cracks can develop on sidewalks as well. An unsuspecting person may fall and hurt themselves as a result. Generally, the local government is responsible for dangerous sidewalks.
- Swimming pools: About 155,000 pool injuries are from slips and falls. Due to the nature of the property, the pavement surrounding the pools is usually wet. Swimming pools should have proper warning signs and inform visitors of the safety rules.
Victims carry a financial burden after a slip-and-fall accident. An insurance claim can alleviate some of the economic struggles that ensue.
State Slip and Fall Laws
Owners of both public and private property have a legal duty to keep visitors safe. They must ensure hazards like spilled liquid do not pose problems to anyone’s well-being. Even small objects on the ground can make the property owner or manager liable for fall injuries.
Every state has laws on slip and fall accidents. Whether you need to file an insurance claim or start a lawsuit, the law allows you to seek compensation. Individuals have the right to reimbursement if their injuries happen because of another person’s negligence.
The Statute of Limitations
One of the state laws an injured party must consider is the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a legal deadline for cases like slip and fall accidents. Once time runs out, the injured person generally loses their right to compensation.
The amount of time to start a slip-and-fall claim depends on where you live. Regardless of how long you have to file a claim, you should begin the process immediately after the incident to preserve evidence and strengthen your claim. Be sure to hire a lawyer to avoid missing deadlines.
State laws establish the requirements to prove liability for a slip and fall. To win compensation, you must prove the other side was negligent in keeping the environment safe. The law requires you to meet four elements.
The first element is the duty of care the liable party owed you. Generally, property owners have a legal responsibility to prevent visitors from experiencing slip and fall accidents. A few exceptions may allow the at-fault owner to argue they did not have a duty toward you.
The next step is to provide evidence the other person failed their duty of care. An example of a failure is if an employee did not clean up a puddle. If the ground had large cracks, you must show how the property owner knew about them but did not fix them.
Another element is causation. The owner’s breach of duty must be what led to the accident. The defendant may attempt to argue that you fell due to other reasons.
Lastly, you must establish the link between the fall and the resulting injury. Typically, medical records help prove the final element of negligence. A lawyer can assist you with showing how the other side was at fault.
When a Property Owner Has a Legal Duty
Some states have laws to dictate when a property owner must take measures to keep people safe from slips and falls. The rules may classify individuals into one of three categories. The first of which is an invitee.
An invitee is someone who enters the property for a business-related reason. They satisfy the company’s interest as well as their own. Therefore, property owners and managers must keep them reasonably safe. Customers who enter a shopping center typically count as invitees.
The second visitor status is a licensee. Licensees have permission to be on someone else’s land. However, they are at the location for their own purpose. An example would be a friend visiting a person’s home. The owner should warn the licensee of possible dangerous conditions.
An individual may be a trespasser if they do not have the owner’s permission to be on the premises. As a result, the property owner does not owe the person a duty of care. An exception may be if the owner purposely created an unsafe condition for a suspected trespasser.
Attractive Nuisance Doctrine
All property owners have a significant responsibility to keep children safe. Someone is still liable even if the minor trespasses if the state has an Attractive Nuisance Doctrine for slips and falls involving children.
Under the doctrine, an individual is accountable if their property has an object a minor would find attractive. A person may have a trampoline, or a child may come across a public swimming pool. Since young children do not understand the hazards, they are more likely to sustain fall injuries.
If a landowner knows they have something a child would become interested in, they must take precautions. Fences, locks, and warning signs are common ways people can avoid liability issues. If they fail to take adequate measures, you can sue for injuries.
Defenses to a Slip and Fall Claim
Open and Obvious Danger
If you plan to file a lawsuit for a slip and fall, prepare for the other party to plan a defensive argument. One defense is the hazard was open and obvious to the plaintiff. If a dangerous condition is reasonably apparent to an individual, the property owner has no responsibility to warn them.
However, the at-fault party may have distracted the visitor from noticing the plain slipping hazard. Therefore, the injured party can sue if the owner did not provide an adequate warning.
Did Not Know About the Hazard
The at-fault party may argue they did not know the dangerous condition existed to escape liability. They may argue that they could not discover it in a reasonable time before the accident occurred. However, they must give evidence to prove their claim.
A Third-Party’s Actions Were Unforeseeable
A third party might have caused a spill or left objects on the ground. Therefore, the property owner may claim they did not cause injuries because they could not have foreseen the actions of another party.
The third party might have been on the premises for the business’s interests. For example, contractors may perform work in or around the building. As a result, the property owner would have known about the third party and should have taken the necessary precautions to prevent injury.
You may have been at a recreational facility or property, such as a playground. The owner, lessee, or manager of the land may not be liable for any trips or falls. However, you could pursue compensation if you believe your injury happened due to malicious intent or gross negligence.
Another exception to the defense is if you paid a fee to enter the recreational premises. For instance, you likely have the right to sue for a slip or fall at an amusement park after you paid admission.
The defendant may find other reasons to argue they are not liable for your injuries. They could fight aggressively to have the lawsuit end in their favor. As a consequence, have a lawyer by your side. An attorney gathers sufficient evidence to disprove the opposing party’s arguments.
Why the Insurer Contacts You Immediately
In several cases, people receive a call from the insurance company within a few days after a slip or fall. The timing may seem convenient since you must speak to the insurer to file an accident claim. However, the adjuster contacts you almost immediately with specific intentions.
The insurance company wants to resolve the claim as soon as possible. The adjuster usually acts before you can evaluate the extent of your injuries. A person is more likely to agree to a low settlement if they are unaware of the damages they can claim.
You will be unable to pursue additional compensation in the future once you agree to a settlement. Therefore, you should not lower your guard if the adjuster sounds friendly and concerned for your well-being. Instead, seek a lawyer to help you with your slip-and-fall claim.
What if You Fell on a Friend’s Rented Property?
A slip, trip, or fall may happen at a friend or neighbor’s house. The resident may seem like the liable party at first. However, someone else could be at fault if the accident was on rented property.
The property owner or landlord could be liable if keeping the environment safe was their legal duty. Alternatively, a third party might be responsible for injuries. The landlord may have hired a company to provide upkeep to the area. If the workers are careless, the business can be liable for a slip or fall.
Nonetheless, the resident could still be the at-fault party, depending on the terms of the lease agreement. You do not need to sue your friend or neighbor despite their accountability. Their insurance company typically covers the cost of medical bills and lost wages.
If you are unsure who should pay you, consult a law firm. An attorney knows how to determine which party failed their duty of care.
Can You Sue if You Had a Pre-existing Condition?
The insurance adjuster can deny a claim under the argument of a pre-existing condition. They would not owe money for the entire injury since the accident was not the direct cause of the injury. The insurer may try to view your previous medical records to look for a past injury.
Even if you have a pre-existing condition, you can still seek reimbursement. The fall may have worsened the injury, and you had to spend more money on treatment. The property owner may be liable for the bills you face after the accident.
A claim for a slip and fall is complicated when it involves a pre-existing condition. A lawyer will work to assist you in fighting the insurer and getting the settlement you deserve.
Questions in a Slip and Fall Lawsuit
If you decide to file a lawsuit, the insurance adjuster and other lawyers may have several questions about the accident, particularly regarding the location of the hazard and when the incident occurred. Lawyers on both sides want an idea of what happened.
The other side may question you for more details about the circumstances of the fall. For instance, the defense could want to know why you were on the property and if you paid attention to your surroundings. The opposing party may look for statements to prove the danger was obvious or another defensive argument.
Other questions center around the injuries you sustained. You may need to explain the type and extent of any injuries. Further inquiries could ask about when you sought medical attention and the length of your recovery.
While you must be honest, be careful about what you say when speaking to the other side. A lawyer can help you create a response and prevent the defense from using your words to hurt your case.
Contact a lawyer today to learn more about your rights after a slip and fall accident.