Slips and falls are a leading cause of accidental injury in the United States, accounting for more than one million emergency room visits annually. An estimated 2,000 slip and fall accidents occur daily, costing Americans more than $34 billion each year.
Although these incidents are extremely common, few victims actually report them because they may believe that they are somehow responsible for their injuries due to their own carelessness or clumsiness. However, slip and fall accidents are largely preventable, and it’s the property owner’s responsibility to take measures to ensure that invited guests are safe.
Reporting slip and fall accidents that happen at a property owned by someone a victim personally knows and may even consider a friend or relative could further discourage individuals from coming forward. While it can be awkward to file a personal injury claim against a neighbor, business associate, family member or acquaintance, the bottom line is that it may be the only course of action that will allow a slip and fall victim to recover the damages which he or she is rightfully owed.
Insurance companies often fight liability claims in personal injury cases by insisting that the property owner, their client, acted prudently to prevent an accident. They may also try to place the blame for a slip and fall accident on the victim. If you’ve experienced a slip and fall on the property of someone you know and the insurance company or property owner is fighting your claim, let the attorneys at Berry Law handle the business of recovering damages for you. Don’t remain silent at the expense of your health or financial security.
Who Is Financially Liable for Slip and Fall Accidents?
Both public and private property owners have a responsibility under the law to keep areas they invite guests to free and clear of hazards. In the case of commercial or retail spaces, an invitation to the public is implied when the business opens its doors for commerce. For private property owners, the law states that any invited guest has a reasonable expectation or assurance of personal safety upon stepping foot onto a property.
When a property owner fails to fulfill his or her duty, they are negligent for injuries caused to guests, who are legally entitled to seek compensation for damages and suffering. Negligence is defined as any failure to behave with a level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised under similar circumstances. Regardless of whose property a guest is visiting, if the property owner is found to be negligent, he or she can be held liable for a slip or fall as long as the injured party was invited to be there.
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What Are Common Causes of Residential Slips and Falls?
Premises liability comes in to play when a property owner doesn’t maintain sufficient safety standards to protect guests invited to their home. A few common causes for slip and fall premises liability claims include:
- Uneven walking surfaces, including cracked or crumbling driveways, sidewalks or staircases.
- Wet floors caused by spills or recent cleaning.
- Recently waxed floors.
- Leaky ceilings, appliances or fixtures.
- Poorly maintained or improperly built staircases.
- Safety railings that are missing or in disrepair.
- Loose floorboards or torn or bunched rugs or carpeting.
- Cluttered floors or other tripping hazards such as unsecured electrical cords.
- A lack of proper lighting.
- Slick exterior surfaces due to weather accumulation like snow and ice.
As a Property Owner, How Can I Prevent Slip and Fall Accidents?
Remaining vigilant about household maintenance and upkeep can help prevent slip and fall injuries to guests who visit your home. You should also be aware of seasonal hazards like ice and snow, as well as general clutter around the house before inviting people to your property. Here are some preventative measures to help avoid a premises liability lawsuit:
- Clean up spills or hazards immediately after they’re discovered.
- Remove snow and ice from sidewalks, steps and driveways before allowing guests to walk on them.
- Place floor runners down on hard surfaces to absorb moisture and prevent puddling in entryways when it rains or snows.
- Choose cleaning solutions that don’t leave a slick film on hard walking surfaces.
- Keep walkways and stairways free from tripping hazards like bikes, toys, clothes, shoes, empty boxes and other debris.
- Be sure that rugs and floor mats lie flat against the floor without bunching or wrinkling.
- Arrange furniture to allow for sufficient walkways.
- Secure lamp cords and other tripping hazards.
- Ensure the presence and maintenance of handrails on staircases.
- Repair loose floorboards.
The National Institute on Aging provides additional resources for property owners on how to protect guests from accidents when they’re visiting your home.
What Damages are Commonly Awarded in Slip and Fall Cases?
Damages in a slip and fall case can include medical expenses, rehabilitation services, out-of-pocket costs, pain and suffering, and mental and emotional distress. Lost income and loss of future earnings may also be awarded depending on the nature of the injuries sustained and the victim’s estimated expectation and rate for recovery. Individuals who are involved in a slip and fall accident miss on average 11 days of work per month while they recover from their injuries, which can range from minor to severe.
Strains, sprains, bruises, bumps, scratches and cuts are common outcomes of slip and fall accidents. Additionally, fractures of the hips, arms, and spine often result, with 25 percent of those serious enough to require intervention by a surgeon. Injuries to the spinal cord and brain, as well as death, are among the most severe consequences of slip and fall accidents.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that one out of five slip and fall accidents results in a serious injury to the head or skeletal system. Slips and falls are also attributed to 700 deaths each year, making them the third leading cause of unintentional death in the country. These injuries can cause physical pain, permanent disability, emotional strain, and financial difficulties from mounting medical needs.
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How Can I Recover Damages if I Know the Property Owner?
There are two ways to go about recovering damages when you personally know a property owner. Both require the victim to be able to prove that the property owner was negligent and that his or her negligence caused the victim’s injuries.
A victim could make a claim on the property owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy. Most homeowners carry liability insurance as part of their insurance package. Speak with the property owner to find out if they have insurance and who their provider is. An attorney can assist in negotiating with the insurance company for you.
The second way to recover damages in a slip and fall case is to sue the property owner by filing a personal injury lawsuit. Most personal injury cases don’t end up in court, so filing a lawsuit does not necessarily mean the case will go to trial. However, it does give a claimant and his or her attorney more time to negotiate the terms of a settlement with the insurance company.
Keep in mind that civil lawsuits in Nebraska are subject to a statute of limitations. Victims have four years from the date the accident occurred to file a claim seeking damages. Contacting an Omaha personal injury attorney is the only way to know for certain if you have a case and who is liable for damages.
What Should I Do if I Slip and Fall on Someone’s Property?
Help protect your right to compensation if you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident by creating a record of the incident and any injuries you received as a result. Seek medical attention immediately and keep copies of all medical records related to injuries for which you are treated. This can establish that the accident happened and that your injuries were a direct result of the accident.
Take photos of the hazard that caused your slip if possible. Pictures of an accident scene can provide important evidence in the event that you are forced to file a claim to recover damages. Shoot from several different angles in good lighting and be sure to capture any visible liquids or loose materials that caused you to slip or trip in the image. It’s critical to document such evidence since a property owner may later repair or remove signs of negligence in order to deny liability.
Also photograph your injuries, beginning with a full body shot that can help to prove that the injuries in question belong to you and not to someone else. Take close up photos of bruises, cuts, scrapes, stitches, braces or casts.
Inform the property owner of your injuries as soon as possible following the accident. Avoid any discussion about fault or saying too much about the accident beyond the details of your injuries. Speaking with a lawyer prior to giving any official statements to property owners or insurance companies will protect your interests.
Collect the names, statements, and contact information of any witnesses that may have been present at the time of the fall in case they are needed to provide testimony in the future.
Hire an experienced personal injury attorney. Lawyers with a history of working with property liability cases will know exactly how the process works and will be able to negotiate with insurance adjusters on your behalf so that you can focus on restoring your health. To get started on your slip and fall case, reach out to us today.