Knowing your rights will help you get back up
There's a lot of misconceptions out there about slip-and-fall accidents. The applicable area of law, premises liability, is quite complex. The basic principle is that property owners are responsible for maintaining reasonably safe premises. In order to prove liability and get compensation, we need to go through a rigorous legal process. Here's how we do it.
Establish your legal status at the time of the accident
Premises liability law sets different legal standards of care. These standards depend on your status on the premises at the time of the incident. There are three basic categories here:
- If you were an invitee, that is, someone who was invited onto the premises for a business purpose, then the property owner had an obligation to proactively inspect the premises and address any safety issues (or warn you of them). Examples of invitees include customers in a retail store during business hours and professionals who are called in to do work on-site, such as plumbers or electricians.
- A licensee is someone who is on the premises with the owner's knowledge and consent but not by invitation for a business purpose. This could be a social guest or a door-to-door salesperson. Property owners have a duty of care to address or warn licensees of any safety hazards the owner knows about. They generally don't have the same responsibility to proactively inspect the premises.
- Finally, a trespasser, someone who is on the premises without permission, has few legal rights. A property owner's only real responsibility to an adult trespasser is to not intentionally injure them (such as by setting traps). However, if the trespasser is a child, the standard of care is higher.
Remember, it's your status at the time and place of the accident that matters, so seemingly inconsequential matters such as whether the premises were open for business at the time and whether you were in an open area or an employees-only area can be legally significant.
Once we've established that the property owner had a duty of care to prevent your injury, we need to establish that duty of care was breached.
Proving liability and damages in a slip and fall case
To prove that the property owner was liable (legally responsible) for your accident, we need to show that the owner either caused the hazard that led to your injury, knew about it, or should have known about it and failed to fix it or warn you of it. We'll take action to secure camera footage, review physical evidence from the scene, interview witnesses and, if necessary, consult with experts to get to the bottom of what happened.
We also build the case for the full amount of damages (financial compensation) you need for your injury. Falls can be serious business; in fact, they're the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Such an injury may require years of treatment and permanently affect your ability to work. All of those costs need to be incorporated into your claim.
Once we've gathered this evidence and built the strongest case we can, we negotiate with the liability insurance carrier for the property owner. This may be business liability insurance or homeowner's insurance, depending on whether your accident happened at a business or a residence. Usually, we're able to reach a settlement with the insurance company. You have the final decision to approve or reject this settlement. If necessary, however, we're always ready to take a case to trial.
Make sure you take action quickly
Evidence in a slip-and-fall case can disappear quickly. Security camera footage, for instance, is often erased or overwritten within days if an attorney doesn't intervene first. That's why it's so important that you contact us right away to talk about your legal rights and options. Naturally, our conversation is confidential and there's no obligation, just candid answers about your situation. Give us a call or contact us online for a free consultation with Lawter & Associates. We work on a contingency fee basis.