Can You Sue for a Slip & Fall Injury?
If you have sustained a slip and fall injury, you may be wondering what your legal rights are and whether you should sue.
Litigation to cover the costs of a slip and fall injury falls under a broader category of tort, or personal injury, lawsuits. Some other tort lawsuits arise out of traffic accidents or dog bites. But unlike those incidents, slip and fall lawsuits may recover less money because the one who fell usually bears some partial responsibility for the fall.
If you believe you can show that the property owner or tenant caused the fall, you may be able to collect money to compensate you for:
- Your medical bills, including transportation costs for your medical treatment and therapy
- Lost wages both immediately after the fall and possibly in the future if you are permanently debilitated
- Pain and suffering
- Potential future medical expenses
- Loss of consortium, which means damage to your relationship with your spouse or family
Even if you have a pre-existing condition, if it has been exasperated by the fall, your medical expenses may be covered if you can prove the property owner or tenant was negligent in a way that caused your fall.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, slip and fall accidents are especially serious in adults over 65 years of age. One in three older Americans falls each year, with 20 percent to 30 percent of them suffering moderate to severe injuries that make it hard for them to get around or live independently. Such falls increase their chances of early death.
How to Prove a Property Owner Caused a Slip and Fall
To win a slip and fall personal injury lawsuit, you need to show that the property owner or tenant was negligent, meaning some action they took or failed to take caused the fall. With such trips, time is usually an important component in proving negligence. For example, how long was the hazard there and was it reasonable to believe that the property owner should have discovered the situation and remedied it before an accident occurred?
In some states, the person who fell may change how much care a property owner or tenant must take to prevent a fall. For example, in Ohio, a property owner owes his visitors the highest degree of care but a trespasser the least. A child trespasser, however, deserves a higher level of care than an adult trespasser.
In other states, such as California, the type of person who falls does not matter: All visitors to a property deserve the same amount of care and due diligence from the property owner or tenant.
Defenses to Slip and Fall Lawsuits
Defendants - the ones being sued - in slip and fall lawsuits have two primary defenses. The first is that there was insufficient time for the property owner or tenant to have discovered and fixed the hazard. The second and more common defense is that the injured person is to blame for the fall.
In many states, if a jury finds the plaintiff (the one bringing the lawsuit) partially at fault for the slip and fall accident, they can reduce the monetary award for the victim by that same percentage.
Plaintiffs and defendants have more than just their word to try to prove they are in the right. Evidence such as video surveillance footage from the scene of the accident can be introduced to establish how long a hazard existed. And several types of instruments can actually measure the slip index of the walking surface.
Because personal injury cases take a long time to litigate, you will be working with your slip and fall injury attorney for quite some time. Interview several and choose the one with whom you are most comfortable.