So you slipped, fell, and got hurt. Falls can be very damaging and costly. According to John Hopkins Medicine, in 2012 the average cost for hospitalization due to a fall was $34,294. That’s more than pocket change for most of us, and doesn’t take into account missed work and other peripheral consequences. Unfortunately, accidents like this do happen sometimes. Other times they’re not accidents, but the direct result of someone’s negligence. If you believe your fall was due to someone else’s error, what should you know before pursuing a personal injury lawsuit?
The crucial piece for slips and falls is establishing negligence. This means that not only do you have to make the claim another person or company was liable for your fall, you have to make the case that the other person or organization was negligent. Liability without negligence can happen; for example, tripping down a staircase. They may be liable for the staircase being there, but that doesn’t mean putting it there was an act of negligence.
Furthermore, in establishing negligence, you have to be able to make a strong case that it was not your own oversight, clumsiness, or carelessness which led to your fall. Establishing negligence is key–and not always easy to do.
With a few exceptions, it’s nearly impossible to prove cause for a fall. Slip & fall cases rely on multiple factors: the extent of the injuries, the conditions under which the fall took place, your actions leading up to the fall, and the property owners’ knowledge and responsibility in maintaining the premises. Your attorney will work with you to establish a hazard outside of your control: conditions which led to you falling in spite of your awareness and careful movements.
Next, it has to be established that the property owner either knew about the hazard and failed to correct it, created the hazard, or that the hazard existed for long enough that a reasonable person should have known it was there. The key to proving fault, then, is proving that this fall should have been anticipated and therefore can no longer be counted as pure accident, but negligence.
Of course, given the convoluted nature of fall conditions, it’s not always easy to establish negligence and prove fault. Additionally, it isn’t always all or nothing. Oftentimes the judge will find partial fault with the property owner and partial fault with the plaintiff. For example, perhaps there was some negligence at play, but the risk was a reasonable risk in that an observant person would have seen, and stepped around, the hazard. In a situation like this, you may be awarded partial damages while still bearing some of the responsibility for your own fall.
In another example, maybe there was a hazard present, but you were looking at your phone and didn’t see the hazard. In this case it may be considered mostly your fault since you were distracted, and you may be awarded only minimal damages. Your attorney will work with you to establish fault as much as possible and reduce your own liability in court; however, the nature of your fall might not be so black and white.
Slips and falls are unfortunate realities for humans traversing the world on two legs. They can be costly and devastating. It’s our responsibility to objectively and honestly do our best to establish liability when a bad fall happens. But until then, let’s all do our best to prevent trip hazards and tread carefully. We’ve only got two legs, after all.
If you’ve been injured at work, let our team at EPIC fight for you. Contact us today.