Slip-and-fall accidents happen every day. Sometimes the result is nothing more than a bruised ego, but sometimes these accidents can cause catastrophic damage. The demographic most affected by slip-and-fall accidents are seniors. One in every three adults over the age of 65 experiences a fall every year in the US.
These accidents can happen anywhere. When it is no one’s fault, there is little you can do. However, if you suffer an injury from a slip-and-fall accident caused by another person’s negligence, you may recover compensation for your losses. The legal process in a slip-and-fall claim is complex, but an experienced slip-and-fall attorney will explain your rights and guide you through it.
How Do Slip-and-Fall Accidents Happen?
Slip-and-fall accidents can happen anywhere and under any circumstance. Some common causes of slip-and-fall accidents include:
- Damaged floors
- Poor lighting in stairways, walkways, and store aisles
- Raised carpeting or poorly placed rugs
- Bad weather conditions that cause accumulations of snow, ice, or water in parking lots, walkways, sidewalks, and in-door entrances
- Sudden dips or rises in flooring that are not obvious
- Objects left on the ground
- Hidden extension cords
- Loose railings
- Metal walkways
- Unsafe structures ranging from grocery store displays to defective balconies
Any of these conditions could quickly turn dangerous and cause a serious injury.
Common Injuries From Slip-and-Fall Accidents
Slip-and-fall injuries may range from mild to severe. Some examples include:
- Broken or fractured bones, usually in the hips, wrists, and ankles
- Back and neck injuries
- Head injuries, including concussions and traumatic brain injuries
- Hip and pelvis injuries
- Torn ligaments and tendons
These injuries not only cause physical damage but also financial and psychological damage. Seniors overwhelmingly suffer the worst of the injuries and need the help of a New York slip-and-fall accident lawyer.
What Laws Govern Slip-and-Fall Accidents in New York?
When you slip, fall, and suffer an injury on someone else’s property, you should explore the laws that govern slip-and-fall personal injuries in the state. If the property owner’s negligence clearly led to a dangerous condition that caused your injury, you may have an opportunity to recover the losses incurred with the help of slip-and-fall lawyers.
There are three primary laws that you should know about in a slip-and-fall incident: the statute of limitations, premises liability, and comparative negligence. Like any other personal injury case, the burden of proving fault falls on the plaintiff, and in a slip-and-fall case, this element is often difficult. A slip-and-fall accident attorney understands how fault affects your case and your compensation.
Statute of Limitations
Most laws have an applicable statute of limitations that dictates how much time you have to file a claim or lawsuit, and the state sets it. In New York, the statute of limitations for a slip- and-fall lawsuit is three years, which is the same for most personal injury cases. The clock begins on the date of the accident, and it applies to injury and property damage claims. If you miss the deadline, you can expect a dismissal of your case.
Premises liability is the legal concept that comes up in slip-and fall-cases. The basis of the rule is negligence, and the person filing a lawsuit must prove that the property owner acted negligently and that led to a dangerous condition that caused your injury.
In New York, every property owner has a duty of care that states that the owner of a property must maintain reasonably safe conditions on the property for guests. However, some states limit the property owner’s duty of care depending on whether or not the visitor is someone that was invited on the property, is trespassing, or is a licensee.
When you speak to a slip-and-fall lawyer, you should properly relay your role as a visitor on the property:
- An invitee received a direct or implied invitation from the property owner. These typically include family, friends, and relatives.
- A trespasser never received authorization to be on the property. Property owners typically owe no duty of care to trespassers.
- A licensee has permission to be on the property but is on the property for his or her own reason. For example, a licensee may include a salesperson.
These rules vary from state to state and are often difficult to understand without the help of a NYC slip-and-fall accident lawyer.
Examples of duty of care include:
- A store owner should train employees to conduct regular safety checks throughout a shift.
- A business owner should keep the parking lot free of dangerous conditions, such as snow and ice.
- A homeowner should maintain the sidewalks and walkways within the property line.
- A grocery store employee places proper signage around or ropes off an area in the store that is under construction.
- A store owner replaces busted lights to ensure that no areas are too dark.
When a property owner neglects the duty of care, accidents sometimes occur. An experienced slip-and-fall accident attorney must understand the concept of premises liability and how it affects your case.
Considering the importance of fault in a personal injury case, comparative negligence is particularly relevant. The rule of comparative negligence relates to the percentage of fault to the awarded compensation. A jury decides what percentage of fault you carry for the accident and deducts that percentage from compensation.
Every state follows either one of the two types of comparative negligence: modified or pure. Modified comparative negligence states that the plaintiff is not eligible for compensation if he or she bears more than 50% of the responsibility for the accident. Pure comparative negligence states that the percentage of fault does not affect eligibility for compensation.
New York follows the rule of pure comparative fault. For example, if a jury awards you $10,000 in your slip-and-fall case and finds you 60% at fault for the accident, you receive $4,000 in compensation after the 60% deduction.
Who is Liable in a Slip-and- Fall Accident?
Determining fault in a slip-and-fall accident is more difficult than most personal injury cases. Proving that a property owner is responsible for your injury requires that one of the following must be true:
- Any reasonable person would have known that the dangerous condition existed and taken care of it, therefore, the property owner should have known.
- The owner of the property caused the dangerous condition and did not remedy it.
- The property owner must have known about the dangerous condition and chose not to fix it.
The most common argument is the first. In most slip-and-fall cases, the judge relies on common sense when reaching a fault determination.
Standard of Reasonableness
As you build your case with your slip-and-fall lawyer, you must focus your argument on proving that the defendant did not act reasonably.
A slip-and-fall accident lawyer may ask any of the questions below to determine liability:
- Did poor or broken lighting contribute to the dangerous condition that caused your accident?
- Did you fall after tripping over poor floor conditions, such as torn carpet or broken tile? Was it there long enough for a reasonable person to notice?
- Has the property owner put a procedure in place to maintain safety on the property? If so, can the property owner provide proof of the procedure?
- Would a partition have helped the situation and prevented an accident?
- If you tripped over an object left on the floor, did the property owner or an employee leave the object for a legitimate reason?
- Did the owner leave the object on the floor for longer than necessary?
- Was there a safer place available for the object?
A slip-and-fall accident attorney may ask any of these questions and use the answers in determining whether or not to take your case. If you answer in your favor to any of the questions, you may have a chance to recover compensation for damages incurred.
Your Own Liability
You should expect an objection from the defendant and his or her legal representation, and the most commonly used argument is that you are responsible for the accident, either entirely or partially. They may question the shoes you wore or your actions at the time.
Some questions you may ask yourself include:
- Were you doing something that distracted you at the moment? This could mean looking at your phone, talking to another person, or looking through a bag.
- Did you ignore any warning signs and walk through a dangerous area anyway?
- Would a careful person notice the dangerous area and avoid it?
- Did you have a legitimate reason for entering the dangerous area?
Your slip-and-fall accident lawyer will guide you through the questioning of your liability, but proving to an insurance adjuster that you were careful does not fall under your responsibilities in the case.
When Should You Hire a Slip-and-Fall Lawyer?
If you suffered an injury from a slip-and-fall accident, consider speaking with a slip-and-fall accident attorney right away. The details of the accident are freshest in your mind in the immediate aftermath. If you speak with an attorney right away, you can avoid making any costly mistakes.
If you are unsure whether or not you can or should sue, ask yourself these questions:
- Did your accident occur on another person’s property? Sometimes you may not see the potential liability of the property owner and need the advice of a professional.
- Did your accident cause an injury that required medical treatment? A slip-and-fall case requires both liability and injury. If no injury occurred, you likely do not have a case.
- Did you receive a call from an insurance adjuster or the property owner with a monetary offer? Sometimes, the property owner is aware that he or she is responsible for your fall and may attempt a settlement offer right away. This is a clear indicator that you may have a strong case, and you should speak with a slip-and-fall accident lawyer. You may potentially recover a much higher settlement than the one they offered.
- Did your injury result in time off of work? The loss of wages could stem from time off for medical treatment, doctor’s appointments, or disability caused by your injury. Loss of income is a form of damage that you could potentially recover.
When you speak with a slip-and-fall lawyer, you can assume that he or she knows how to properly assess the details of your case and determine eligibility for a lawsuit.
What are the Potential Damages You Can Recover From a Slip-and-Fall Accident?
Similar to all personal injury cases, the potential damages that slip-and-fall victims may recover include economic and non-economic damages:
- Economic, or special, damages include quantifiable damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, future medical bills, future lost wages, loss of earning capacity, property damage, and any other expenses related to your accident that you paid for out of your own pocket.
- Non-economic, or general, damages include pain and suffering, mental anguish, wrongful death, loss of enjoyment in life, and loss of consortium.
General damages do not have an obvious monetary value. You often need the help of an experienced slip-and-fall accident lawyer who can use the results of similar cases and make a reasonable judgment on the value of your claim.
The value of special damages comes from medical bills, future estimates for medical treatments, pay stubs, tax returns for valuing your future loss of wages, and any receipts for expenses related to your injury, including any household help or adjustments to accommodate a disability.
What Should You Do if You Experience a Slip-and-Fall?
If you slip, fall, and injure yourself in an accident, there are a few important steps you should take in the immediate aftermath that may affect your case and your health:
- Seek emergency medical assistance if necessary. If you are hurt badly, you should call for medical assistance right away or ask someone else to call for you.
- Document everything at and around the scene of the accident. If you are able, you should take photos of the spot where the fall occurred, the injuries you incurred, and the area surrounding the scene, which may include any proper signage or lack of signage.
- Write down the information of any potential witnesses. If anyone saw the accident, your slip-and-fall lawyer may contact those people for statements that corroborate your claim.
- Notify the appropriate authority on the property. If your fall occurred in a store or restaurant, you should request a manager and ask for a copy of the incident report. If your fall occurred on a residential private property, notify the owner of the property. Do not offer any admission of guilt. This step proves that you took the accident very seriously from the outset.
- Seek medical attention if you did not call for emergency assistance. Just because you did not need emergency help does not mean that you should skip going to the doctor entirely. Not all injuries show immediate symptoms, and sometimes the most dangerous of injuries are latent.
- Contact a slip-and-fall accident attorney. You may file an insurance claim for yourself or even represent yourself in a lawsuit. However, defendants in premises liability cases typically offer a great deal of kickback in response to a claim. An experienced slip-and-fall injury lawyer is better equipped to provide legal advice throughout the process and help you secure a better settlement.
When you build your case and start looking for evidence in support of your claim, the information you gathered at the scene is vital to your argument and helpful for a slip-and-fall accident lawyer.
How Can a New York City Slip-and-Fall Lawyer Help You?
There are many ways in which an attorney provides both personal and professional advantages. Any accident that results in injury can cause devastation. A slip-and-fall accident attorney can provide much-needed support through a difficult time. You should focus on healing while your attorney handles the insurance adjuster and the defendant’s legal representation.
Additionally, you may need someone on your side with experience in your type of case.
Some other advantages of personal injury attorneys include:
- They often work on contingency, which means that they only get paid when you get paid. It also means that you can trust that they have faith in your chances of winning if they take your case.
- They know when you reach the highest possible settlement, and that saves you from wasting time in continued negotiations or unnecessarily taking your suit to trial.
- They offer objectivity during an emotionally charged time.
If you or a loved one slipped, fell, and suffered an injury on someone else’s property, you may benefit from talking to a slip-and-fall lawyer at Elliot Ifraimoff & Associates, PC. Our attorneys have over 60 years of combined experience and can provide outstanding legal representation. Contact us today for a free consultation.