Slip and fall accidents are much more common than most people think. They are second only to vehicle accidents in terms of numbers of accidents nationwide.
By slip and fall accidents, it doesn’t just mean slipping over on a slippery surface like a sheet of ice on the sidewalk. It includes accidents in which people trip up over all sorts of obstacles or hazards that may be in the way when they are walking along.
The main worry when slipping over is the possibility of serious injuries when you fall over and land awkwardly on part of your body. Slip-and-fall accidents can end up with thousands of dollars of medical bills, long term impairment and loss of income or even a job itself.
For this reason, most property owners who own property accessible by the public take out liability insurance in case someone hurts themselves as a result of a hazard on the property.
Succeeding in a personal injury claim against a property owner is rarely straightforward because the injured person must be able to prove that negligence took place before a claim has any validity.
Can You File a Claim Without Getting Hurt?
By definition, a personal injury claim cannot be made if the person who fell over on someone else’s property was not injured, even if the property owner was demonstrably at fault.
A plaintiff must be able to show that his or her injuries were caused by a hazard which was present on that property as well as show that the property owner was liable for the accident.
In fact, even if the person was only slightly injured, say a few bruises and a cut or two, it might not be worth pursuing a claim considering the difficulty in proving liability.
A claim may be made against the property owner, however, if the person who fell over was carrying an expensive piece of equipment or another item which became damaged by the fall.
For example, imagine that a visitor to a museum was carrying an expensive camera worth $2,000. The visitor tripped over on a patch of uneven carpeting and the camera becomes completely shattered beyond repair during the fall. However, there are no injuries involved and it seems unlikely that any long term harm has come to the visitor.
The owner of the museum, or its staff, may be still sued by the visitor for allowing the carpet to be in an unsafe state and claim the replacement value of the camera and anything else that was damaged.
Whether someone has been injured or their property has been damaged in a slip and fall accident, liability must be proven. There are a lot of gray areas here and if the injuries are serious or the item broken is particularly valuable getting the help of an attorney is the best suggestion.
The plaintiff must be able to prove that:
- The property owner, or an employee who was in charge of the place where the accident took place, either knew about a hazard and did nothing to remedy it, or had had sufficient time to know about the hazard and had done nothing to remedy it
- The defendant(s) knew about the hazard, but did not attempt to sufficiently warn members of the public about the hazard.
Most states have laws which take into account how much the plaintiff was responsible for their own accident. The personal injury payment or small claims payment (in the case of no injury but damage to property) is then calculated according to the relative blame attached to both the plaintiff and the defendant(s).
You May Need an Attorney
An accident attorney who is experienced in slip and fall claims will be able to assess your chances of success and help you to claim damages against a negligent property owner or others at fault by compiling evidence, including witness statements, that can be used to prove liability.