If you are one of the countless people who sustain an injury from a fall each year, you know the resulting injuries can be worse than many suspect.
In addition to costly medical bills, many people with fall injuries suffer from intense pain and deep emotional distress. They may also see a permanent drop in their quality of life or develop a long-term disability.
To recover maximum compensation after a slip and fall accident, you need to take the right steps. The most important of these is to consult a slip and fall accident lawyer immediately. Once you hire an attorney, they can simplify the process for you, letting you focus on your medical treatment and other matters.
When to Consult a Slip and Fall Accident Lawyer
While your medical treatment comes first after a slip and fall accident, remember that a clock is ticking away in the background.
You have a limited window in which you can take legal action against the at-fault property owner or manager after a slip and fall, and you need an attorney’s help right away.
Your lawyer can gather and preserve critical evidence while you heal and handle the negotiations with the property owner’s insurance company. The sooner you consult a slip and fall lawyer, the more they can do, and the more likely you will recover all the compensation you deserve.
Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
Why does it matter how a slip and fall accident happened? It matters because you have to prove the property owner or another party caused the accident and your resulting injuries through their negligence.
The common causes of slip and fall accidents include:
- Wet or Slippery Surfaces: Freshly mopped floors, spilled liquids, or icy sidewalks can all lead to severe falls. To avoid accidents, businesses and property owners must ensure that these areas are safe and any potential hazards are clearly marked.
- Uneven Surfaces: Trip and fall accidents often happen due to uneven floors, loose carpeting, broken tiles, or potholes in parking lots. These hazards can catch someone off guard, leading to a fall.
- Poor Lighting: Inadequate lighting can make it hard to see potential hazards, such as steps or uneven surfaces. This is especially true in areas like stairwells or parking garages.
- Cluttered or Obstructed Walkways: Objects left in walkways, like cords, boxes, or other debris, can easily cause someone to trip and fall. Property owners and managers must keep paths clear to protect visitors.
- Faulty Stairs or Railings: Broken or poorly maintained stairs and railings are a significant safety risk. A loose step, wobbly handrail, or other issue can cause someone to fall and incur severe injuries.
- Weather Conditions: Weather-related hazards, like snow, ice, or rain, can make walking surfaces treacherous. Property owners need to address these conditions on their property promptly to reduce the risk of falls.
Who’s Liable for a Slip and Fall Accident?
To recover compensation for a slip and fall accident, you must prove that the property owner or another party caused the accident because they acted negligently.
Typically, this means showing that the liable party knew or reasonably should have known about the hazard that caused the accident.
You and your attorney can use your medical records, photos from the scene, maintenance records, eyewitness accounts, surveillance footage, and other evidence to substantiate your claim.
The liable party in most slip and fall claims is the property owner or business operating at the location where the accident happened.
The law says property owners and businesses have a duty to keep their premises safe for visitors. If they fail to do this – for instance, by not cleaning up a spill or fixing a broken step – and someone gets hurt as a result, they are responsible for the injured party’s accident-related losses.
However, liability in a slip and fall claim isn’t always straightforward. In some cases, a third party might bear responsibility for the accident.
For example, if a cleaning company didn’t properly clean or left a wet floor without a warning sign, that cleaning company could be responsible. Or, if the accident happened because of a poorly made or defective product (like a broken chair in a cafe), the manufacturer of that product could be liable.
You must consider the laws and rules of the area where the accident occurred. Different places govern liability in these cases.
In some areas, the level of care a visitor takes to avoid an accident is a factor in the liability question. For example, if someone was running in a clearly marked wet floor area and fell, they might be partly responsible for their own injuries.
The Timeline of a Slip and Fall Claim
You need patience during a slip and fall claim, as insurance companies count on you to give in to the pressure for a quick settlement. However, patience is challenging when you don’t know how long your case might take. Many slip and fall claims settle within a few weeks or months, while others take a year or longer.
To give you a better idea of how long your case might last, here are the main steps in a slip and fall claim:
Once you obtain medical treatment, you can start gathering evidence. This includes taking photos of the accident scene, obtaining witness contact information, and filing a report of the incident with the property owner or manager.
Consulting a Lawyer
After you have your initial evidence, it’s time to talk to a lawyer. They can help you understand your rights and the strength of your claim. A lawyer will also guide you through the next steps and handle communication with insurance companies.
Filing the Claim
Your lawyer will file an insurance claim for you. This involves submitting all your evidence and medical records to the insurance company of the property owner or another responsible party. The claim should clearly state your injuries and explain how the accident occurred.
Once you submit your claim, the negotiation phase begins. Here, the insurance company may make a settlement offer. Your lawyer will handle these negotiations to fight for a fair deal. This stage can take time, as it may involve several rounds of offers and counteroffers.
Settlement or Lawsuit
If the negotiations lead to a satisfactory offer, you can settle the claim. If not, your lawyer may advise that filing a lawsuit will get a better result. Filing a lawsuit can significantly extend the timeline of a slip and fall claim, as it involves court hearings, more negotiations, and possibly a trial.
The final stage is the resolution through a settlement agreement or a court judgment. Once you agree to a settlement or receive a court award, you collect your compensation, and your case concludes.
How Much Is a Slip and Fall Accident Claim Worth?
The value of a slip and fall accident claim varies significantly from case to case, depending on the specifics of each situation.
Factors like the severity of your injuries, the medical treatment you need, and liability questions all play crucial roles in determining the claim’s worth.
For instance, a minor injury with a quick recovery time generally leads to a smaller compensation amount than a severe injury requiring long-term medical care.
Additionally, your potential payout depends on the insurance policies of the involved parties, as these policies have limits on how much they pay out.
You can pursue compensation for many losses from a slip and fall accident. Medical expenses are a significant part of your overall compensation, covering everything from emergency room visits to ongoing physical therapy.
Lost earnings are another key area, as you may need compensation for the income you lost following the accident. If your injuries lead to a long-term disability or affect your ability to earn a similar income in the future, you can demand compensation for your lost earning capacity.
In addition to money for these tangible losses, slip and fall claims often include compensation for intangible, non-economic losses. One type of non-economic loss is pain and suffering, which encompasses the physical discomfort and emotional distress your injuries caused.
If the liable party acted in an especially egregious manner, a judge or jury may award punitive damages to penalize them and deter similar negligence in the future.
Each of these components adds to the total value of your claim, reflecting the broad impact the accident has had on your life.
Deadline to File a Slip and Fall Accident Lawsuit
Each state has a statute of limitations that specifies how much time you have after an accident to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. The length of time varies across states, with some giving you one or two years while others say you have up to four years to file.
Several years might seem like a long time, but a robust personal injury claim takes time to build. Furthermore, critical evidence can disappear within days or weeks, so you must act swiftly.
Finally, missing the filing deadline most likely means you will lose your chance to claim compensation for your injuries.
Consulting a slip and fall lawyer immediately after an accident gives you the best chance to recover the money you need.
Your San Diego personal injury attorney can build your case while you treat your injuries, giving you the time and peace of mind to focus on your recovery. Speaking to a lawyer right away can also speed up your claim so you can get the money you need faster.