If you have a slip and fall accident, you may believe that all you should do is call a lawyer and you will be able to sue and win a lot of money for your “pain and suffering.” You are not alone in this belief, and you may be awarded a large sum for your injuries, especially if they are severe. However, there is a lot more to winning a slip and fall accident case than just showing the court that you fell on the defendant’s premises.
Slip and fall liability cases are often difficult to prove. Presenting evidence in court of fault (or liability) for the accident can be difficult and complicated. Below we discuss seven factors that you should familiarize yourself with to understand how a person (including yourself) or business may be held liable for your slip and fall incident.
1. Know the main causes for slip and fall accidents that could potentially create liability.
Owners of property, whether business or personal property, are required to keep their premises in reasonably proper order so as not to not create a possible danger to others. Some of the most common causes of slip and fall accidents for which an owner can be liable are:
- Faulty or inadequate lighting
- Drinks, food, or other spills on the flooring
- Damaged or defective pavement.
- Handrails in need of repair
- Damaged, uneven, slippery, or worn tile, wood, or carpeted flooring
- Uneven or damaged grounds and flooring
- Exposed wiring or electric cords
- Snow or ice on the pavement, steps, or deck
- Clutter on floors, such as toys, trash, or clothing
2. Be aware of what steps need to be taken after slip and fall accidents.
To protect your health and legal rights after the accident, there are important steps you need to take as soon as possible:
- Get medical help for any injuries: Your medical needs should be your main concern. Get immediate medical attention to treat and document your injuries to protect both your health and any future legal case. Your medical records can become the most crucial piece of evidence to help you get the compensation you deserve.
- Make a report of the accident: Report the accident to the owner or manager in charge of the property at the time of the slip and fall. Make sure to get it put in writing and get a copy.
- Do not accept or place blame: It is imperative that you refrain from giving statements about the accident, especially to an insurance company or potentially liable person or business, until you have a chance to speak with an attorney.
- Do not accept a quick settlement: It is not uncommon for owners or insurance companies to try to settle with a low-ball check before you have a chance to speak with an attorney. Never accept that check until you retain an attorney and get legal advice.
- Document everything: Memories fade quickly, so it is important to document everything in detail about what happened while your memory is fresh. Get any witnesses names and contact information, and take photos of where the injury took place, if possible.
- Hire a slip and fall attorney without delay: A delay in getting legal representation can cost you more than you may realize. Many slip and fall liability cases have been lost because an attorney was not immediately retained and important evidence was not preserved. Retain an attorney as soon as possible to protect the evidence in your slip and fall liability case.
3. Think about any ways in which the accident could have been prevented.
Try to think about the full circumstances of the slip and fall, then ask yourself if the owner of the premises, or even you, could have done anything to prevent it from happening. That is why it is so important to document all the facts, no matter how small or trivial you may think they are.
It is normally clear that if there is an obvious defect on the grounds or in the home or business than can be a hazard, the owner should fix the problem or they can become liable for any injuries the defect causes. However, if the defect is obvious to visitors, and especially if there is a posted warning about the situation, it may be much harder to recover your damages because you should have recognized an obvious danger and avoided it. If you were incapacitated with alcohol, drugs, or health problems, then the court may hold you partially or totally responsible for the fall, lowering or eliminating your recovery.
4. Property owners are not usually required to remove snow and ice.
Unless there is an extremely unnatural accumulation of snow or ice on a premise, owners are not usually required to remove any snow or ice from their outside property and will not be held liable for a slip and fall that occurs. However, since this is a little subjective and risks a negative interpretation, owners should try to maintain walkway and steps free of snow and ice to protect the residents and guests and avoid a lawsuit.
5. A slip and fall liability case must be filed within three years.
Massachusetts law has a strict statute of limitations regarding time limits in which to file a negligence case in court against an individual or business for slip and fall injuries.
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident or suffered damage to your property due to the accident, you must file the lawsuit no later than three years after the date of the slip and fall injuries or you waive any right to file in the future.
6. Even a tenant can be held jointly liable for slip and fall injuries.
Tenants often don’t realize that if someone has an accident in the property that you rent from your landlord, that both the tenant and the owner of the property (the landlord) can be named defendants of a law suit and could be found liable for damages. Even if you are renting, you may want to consider purchasing liability insurance.
7. Property and building code violations can get you sued.
If a person has a slip and fall accident that may have been caused by a code violation, this can often be used as strong evidence of negligence and you can be held liable for their injuries.
Every property owner is responsible to make sure that their properties are following all building and property codes, even if the danger of lack of compliance is not obvious.