Slip & Fall Accidents
In general terms, “slip and fall” accidents refer to situations where a person is injured by slipping, or tripping, and falling due to a dangerous condition on the premises. Such falls can happen inside or outside a building, and be caused by such conditions as bad flooring, wet floors, poorly lighted steps or, in the case of outdoor accidents, weather-related or hidden hazards. An icy patch outside a door or a crack or pothole can be the cause of a slip and fall in a parking lot.
All slip and fall accidents are covered by negligence law and deal with the concept of premises liability. Property owners have a “duty of care” to see that their property is safe. This includes insuring that the building has no structural defects that could cause an accident, both inside and out. In some states the property owner may also have a duty to reduce problem areas caused by weather. Structural defects can include: loose floor mats, rugs, or tiles; water on the floor; poorly lit stairs or steps; cracks or holes in sidewalks or parking lots. Weather-related hazards may include standing water and icy spots. A plaintiff or claimant also has a duty to exercise reasonable care, so if any action of yours contributed to the accident, you may share in the negligence.
If you experience a slip and fall accident, you should try to determine what made you fall and if it could have been anticipated and prevented. If anyone saw you fall, be sure you get the names and addresses of all witnesses. Try to note the conditions in the area – was the lighting poor, was there some substance that made you slip. If you did slip because of something on the floor, try to obtain a sample. Also, try to get pictures of the area. Report any such accident to the manager or owner and insist that they make a record of it.
It is your responsibility to prove that a hazard existed and that it was the cause of your accident.
Personal Injury Damages
When a person is injured by another, the law provides a means of seeking compensation, known as damages, for those injuries and the detrimental effects they have caused in the victim’s life.
In a case of personal injury, a judge or jury may find the defendant liable for several types of damages for varying amounts of money. For example, medical bills, lost earnings, or property damage may be part of the damages picture. The plaintiff may also experience significant and continuous pain and suffering due to his or her injury. All of these factors are considered worthy of recompense under personal injury law, which seeks as much as possible to return the victim to the state of living he or she enjoyed prior to the injury.
In most personal injury cases, the victim must have suffered some sort of physical, mental, or financial harm to have a strong claim for damages. In some intentional tort cases, however, such as assault and battery, proving the misconduct of the defendant alone may be enough to find in favor of the plaintiff. The types of damages that can be awarded are compensatory, punitive, or nominal depending on the merits of the case.
Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care to avoid a foreseeable harm to person or property.
To prove negligence, several criteria must be met:
First, you must show that there was a duty owed from one person to another. The nature of that duty may change depending on the relationship of the parties. Typically, persons owe a duty of “ordinary care” to other people. However, a child is held to a lower standard, that being what another child would do under the circumstances, as opposed to what an adult would do. Certain professionals and tradesmen are held to a higher standard, that being what other persons in that profession or trade would do under the circumstances.
Second, it must be shown that there was a breach of that standard of care. In other words, someone failed to do what they should have under the circumstances in light of the duty owed from one person to another.
Third, it must be shown that the breach of that standard of care was the actual and “proximate” or legal, cause of the injury. This means that the injury was the foreseeable consequence of the breach of care.
Lastly, damages must be shown to have resulted from all of the above.
Comparative & Contributory Negligence
Comparative and contributory negligence are defenses available to mitigate the amount that a defendant may have to pay to a plaintiff for damages. Each of these defenses is based on an assessment of fault towards the plaintiff. Depending upon the laws of the state where the case is venued one of three different versions of these defenses may be applicable. Pure contributory negligence is, by far, the most oppressive to the plaintiff. In those states that allow this defense if a defendant can prove that the plaintiff is one iota to blame for the accident, then he or she recovers nothing. For instance, if the evidence shows that a defendant was speeding and went through a stop sign and that the plaintiff was only one percent at fault because he or she didn’t swerve or brake quickly enough, then the plaintiff may be entitled to no recovery.
Less oppressive to the plaintiff and more prevalent are the two different versions of comparative negligence. The first version is what is commonly known as “pure” comparative negligence. In “pure” comparative negligence, the award of damages to the plaintiff will be reduced in direct proportion to the plaintiff’s percentage of fault, no matter what the ratio. For instance, if you are 30 percent at fault for an accident, you could recover 70 percent of your damages. If you are 70 percent at fault for an accident, you could recover only 30 percent of your damages. All of the other parties alleged to be at fault would then be responsible for paying you 30% of your total damages, apportioned between them in proportion to the amount of fault assigned to them.
The last of these defenses is also fairly common amongst the states. It is known as “limited” comparative negligence. With this version in order to be able to receive any damages, the plaintiff must be no more than 50 percent at fault for the injury. If the plaintiff is no more than 50 percent liable, but is still partially at fault, then the award of damages will be adjusted according to the plaintiff’s percentage of fault and the plaintiff’s award will be reduced accordingly. For example, suppose a jury awards you $100,000 in damages as a result of a car accident, but it finds you 30 percent at fault for your injuries because you did not properly use a signal. After applying comparative negligence, you would be entitled to $70,000 in damages – $100,000 minus 30 percent.
In the above example, the judge or jury determines the degree of the each party’s negligence and apportions to each party a percentage of the total damages suffered, based on each party’s percentage of fault for causing your injury. If you were found to be 51 percent liable, you would be unable to collect any amount.
If you or a loved one is in need of legal assistance, call our office. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to handle your case, we will work on a contingency fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary recovery of funds. In many cases, a lawsuit must be filed before an applicable expiration date, known as a statute of limitations. Please call right away to ensure that you do not waive your right to possible compensation.