The winter season is in full swing, and we all know that the weather outside can get frightful! Although many of us enjoy the pleasures of the winter weather, many others may fall victim to an icy slip and fall injury.
Slip and fall accidents are a personal injury and are one type of “fall down” accident. There are four general types of fall accidents:
- Trip-and-fall accidents, where there is a foreign object in the walking path
- Stump-and-fall accidents, where there is an impediment in the walking surface
- Step-and-fall accidents, where there is an unexpected failure or hole in the walking surface, and
- Slip-and-fall accidents, in which the interface of the shoe and the floor fails
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over one million Americans suffer a slip, trip and fall injury and over 17,000 people die in the U.S. annually because of these injuries.
If you have been the victim of a slip, trip and fall injury, below are several frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the injury:
I tripped and fell recently, how will a court determine who was at fault?
While it is most certainly true that we have a responsibility to watch where we are walking and to avoid danger when possible, it is also most certainly the responsibility of the property owner to maintain safe conditions on his or her property. ‘Comparative Negligence’ relates to your own responsibility in the accident, in comparison to the property owners’ responsibility. A court will establish a percentage of liability for each party. The percentage of liability determines the percentage of the resulting damages each party must pay.
A crucial part of determining blame is also an examination of the unsafe or hazardous condition that caused your injury. A “hazardous condition” is a situation where there is potential for injury. Hazardous conditions can be permanent (such as a broken stair) or temporary (as in the case of ice on the sidewalk). Property owners are often responsible for permanent conditions, because they should have known about the situation, thus having the opportunity to correct it and prevent your injury. But property owners may not have had prior knowledge of temporary conditions, thus potentially alleviating responsibility. Often time becomes a factor in temporary hazards: did the owner have enough opportunity to realize the situation and correct it?
How do you prove your injury was the direct result of a ‘hazardous condition’?
In order to establish that a property owner or possessor knew of a dangerous condition, it must be shown that:
- The owner/possessor created the condition;
- The owner/possessor knew the condition existed and negligently failed to correct it; or
- The condition existed for such a length of time that the owner/possessor should have discovered and corrected it prior to the slip and fall incident in question.
For a property owner or possessor to be held liable, it must have been foreseeable that his or her negligence would create the danger at issue. For instance, let us say a store has a leaking roof, is aware of the problem, and places a bucket on the floor to collect the leak. However, let us then assume that the bucket overflows and someone slips and falls. One might argue it was foreseeable that the store’s negligence in failing to properly monitor and maintain the leak would result in someone slipping and injuring himself.
If an insurance adjuster calls, what information should I give them?
It is usually not in your best interest to speak with an insurance adjuster until you have spoken with an experienced personal injury attorney, and have reviewed the specifics of your case with him or her.
It is common that an insurance adjuster may want to know the extent or type of injury, what were you doing just before the accident, warnings that may have been ignored, and whether you had a reason for being in the area. This helps the insurance company to establish if there is an injury and what your responsibility was in the fall, and may also lead them to attempt to resolve (settle) the case immediately.
You can help your case by taking pictures (if possible) of the area when the injury occurred. Small details like poor lighting or even ripples in the carpet may be a big help to your claim.
What can I be compensated for if I file a slip, trip and fall personal injury claim?
Compensation for a slip and fall accident is similar to all personal injury claims. Recovery can include:
- Medical bills
- Wage loss
- Pain and suffering
- Potential future medical expenses
So please, walk carefully! But in the tragic event that you do fall victim to slip, trip and fall injury, make sure you contact an experienced personal injury lawyer immediately.