Slip and fall injuries can impact someone’s quality of life immensely. The National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) notes that slips and falls account for approximately 1 million emergency room visits yearly. Accidents will occur without warning. There’s usually no predicting how or when they’ll happen. However, forewarned is forearmed. If you’re entering a person’s property and are involved in a slip and fall accident, is anyone else liable? Can you sue the owner for falling on their property because of a dangerous condition? If so, what are you entitled to get in compensation from this case?
Knowing who you’re suing is also a crucial part of the process. A business owner may be responsible for injuries that happen on his or her premises. But they may also be liable for an accident claim for an injury that happened within their parking lot. Agents of the owner may also be responsible and held liable in a personal injury lawsuit.
How To Tell if You Have a Valid Slip and Fall Claim
If you’re planning to sue someone for slip and fall injuries, you’ll need to prove liability in your personal injury claim. In Virginia, personal injury of this sort falls under the Code of Virginia § 8.01-243. You can claim for a premise’s liability case in certain specific situations. For you to establish that negligence was at play in your case, the following may apply.
Slip and fall injuries usually occur because of something happening within the boundaries of a person’s property. When you slipped and fell within that property, it resulted in severe injuries. Unsafe conditions may have caused these injuries. The stipulation for property owners and their agents is to ensure that the location is reasonably safe. In such a case, the most pertinent question would be if the unsafe condition existed for long enough so that the owner or the agent could have dealt with it. Examples of these kinds of conditions include a wet floor or even an area with poor lighting.
The Property Owner was Aware of the Hazard
Occasionally, property owners may be well aware of a hazardous condition that exists on their premises. However, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, a hazardous condition may have occurred between the time the premises were last inspected and when you had your accident. In these cases, it would be unfair to hold the property owner responsible for the hazard since it’s unlikely that he or she would have known it existed. The owner holds a duty of care to anyone on their premises. If the owner or agent knew about the danger yet refused to act on it, you might be entitled to a settlement for your severe injury from a slip and fall. This situation means that the owner or agent (liable party) willfully kept the hazard on the property, despite knowing how harmful it could be to others.
No Warning Was Issued
When a hazard exists on a property, the least an owner can do is warn others of the presence of the problem. If the owner fails to inform the visitor of the issue, the accident may be due to that oversight. In some cases, the property owner may attempt to warn a visitor about a condition by placing a sign strategically. In This situation, the sign must be clearly visible to be constituted as a warning. A poorly placed sign reflects badly on the owner or the agent, as doers a sign placed with inadequate lighting to illuminate it. Some courts of law may consider the poor placement of the sign as an indication of negligence. If there was no sign, then it’s a clear sign that the owner or agent was negligent in their duty of reasonable care. You are well within your rights to file a premise’s liability claim.
Proving You Weren’t Responsible
Unscrupulous individuals may take advantage of property owners. In these exceptional cases, a person may willfully injure themselves through their own action, then try to blame it on the owner’s negligence for settlement negotiation. A typical argument that many property owners (or the homeowners’ insurance company that represents them) may make is that the injured party is partially or fully responsible for their own injuries. Virginia is one of a handful of states that rely on contributory negligence. Most other states use comparative fault for personal injury cases. Comparative negligence allows the injured party to have some part in their own injuries and still recover fair compensation. On the other hand, contributory negligence states that if the injured party is even one percent at fault, they could lose the right to compensation for their injuries. This gives an advantage to the at-fault party in taking the case to litigation.
For you to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you were not responsible for your injuries, you’ll be required to show that you didn’t engage in behavior that led to your own accident in your injury claim. If there were signs placed for your safety, the defendant would attempt to prove that you ignored the warnings. Finally, if you were invited to the property and had lawful access to the premises is the only way you can sue an owner or agent for personal injury. If you were present through unlawful means or without an explicit invitation, the owner is not at fault for the injuries sustained.
How Long Do You Have to File?
Typically, you’d deal with your injuries first, but once you’ve done that, you may want to consult a personal injury lawyer to file a suit. In Virginia, you are allowed to file for slip and fall injuries up to two years after the initial incident. If property damage occurred because of a slip and fall injury, the statute of limitations allows for five years for filing a claim. If a slip and fall resulted in wrongful death, the statute of limitations provides up to two years after the incident for filing.
The Role of Insurance Companies in Slip and Fall Accidents
Many times, when you file a slip and fall claim for injuries, you may be faced with the property owner’s insurance company. These insurance companies spend a large quantity of money getting their legal teams prepped and ready to deal with whatever you may bring to the table. An insurance adjuster may also reduce the amount you attempt to claim for. When you initially file for a slip and fall case, an insurance company’s lawyer might decide it’s better to let the case go to trial. In areas that contributory negligence is the rule, such as in Virginia, the insurance company can get away with paying nothing if they can saddle you with even some blame for your injury. Because this situation favors the insurance company, they would prefer seeing the matter make it to court. Settling out of court is usually not in their best interests.
How Much Can You Get for a Slip and Fall Injury?
If you decide to sue a property owner for slip and fall injuries, it might be challenging to come up with a fair settlement figure. A general rule of thumb that many expert personal injury attorneys advise is to come up with a total for the “hard” costs. This figure includes coverage for medical bills, lost wages, and other summary expenses. Once you get a general figure, you should multiply it between two and five times to come up with a figure for pain and suffering. Severe injuries such as a spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury could impact your quality of life for a long time. Future costs may need to be considered in addition to what the negligent party would pay for a common injury.
When estimating the medical care bills you have to pay, don’t forget all the extraneous costs associated with your stay. Costs like ambulance rides and the cost of medicine may also factor into the final settlement figure. Additional expenses (like lawn care or housekeeping that you could not do while injured) may also fit into this broad category. Your lost wages claim can also look at hours lost from overtime that would contribute to your household income. For pain and suffering, you should carry around an injury diary that keeps notes about your pain levels during the day. This diary is a helpful tool in ensuring that you communicate how the accident left you feeling.
Choosing a Slip and Fall Injury Lawyer
Whether you get injured because of a wet floor or in a parking lot, an experienced VACAIL slip and fall injury attorney should be your first stop. Since the insurance company might be able to get away by assigning even a tiny portion of blame to you, you need an expert to deal with these cases. Looking up a skilled personal injury attorney gives you the edge in such a case. These lawyers can deal with an insurance adjuster trying to lowball you on a settlement easily. You will be up against the combined force of lawyers hired by the insurance company to protect their clients. The choice of an attorney is a crucial one since it may determine whether you get anything out of the case or not.