I Slipped and Fell; Do I Have a Personal Injury Case?

 

 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, recorded more than 200,000 business-related slip and fall cases in 2009. Businesses are required by OSHA to maintain clean and dry floors as well as maintain the premises as one  in a state of good repair. The floors must be free from protruding parts, debris and clutter. These requirements are mandated in order to reduce the incidence of slip, trip, and fall accidents.

But what if despite OSHA’s call for safety on premises, you still slip and fall? Do you have a personal injury case?

Let us start by defining a slip and fall. Please read the sample scenarios below of slip, trip, and fall accidents.are still added to the slip and fall statistics. What can you do?

Scenario 1

A man who was entering a coffee shop at around 8 p.m., was reported to have broken his back from slipping on the shop’s wet floor and falling. According to the witnesses, one of the other customers had spilt his coffee near the entrance. The entrance part of the shop was dimly lit and the tiles were colored brown making the spilt liquid difficult to see. The man was walking fast when he suddenly lost his footing and found himself hitting the floor hard with his back. None of the employees were able to  immediately mop the floor dry or put a warning sign regarding the wet floor.

Scenario 2

A woman fell forward when the heel of her shoe got caught in a small tear in the floor of a carpet in an establishment. Thankfully, she did not suffer any serious harm. The woman told the shop owner about the accident. The following week, another woman experienced the same incident. While she was trying to cross the floor, the heel of her shoe got caught in the tear and she fell forward. She fell awkwardly and hurt her neck in the process. The  woman  had to wear a neck brace, which also prevented her from reporting to work for two months.

The question becomes are these people who have suffered from the slip and fall accidents scenarios entitled to some compensation? To answer this question we must first discuss the mechanics of a slip and fall personal injury case.

Nolo Law says that if you slip and fall in someone’s property (such as shops and other establishments), the property owner may be liable for your injuries.

A slip and fall personal injury case must have the following characteristics:

  • Liability

Somebody must be liable for your injuries. When is the property owner liable?  To be legally responsible for the injuries you suffered from slipping or tripping and falling on someone else’s property, Nolo says one of the following must be true:

  1. The owner of the premises or an employee must have caused the spill, worn or torn spot, or other slippery or dangerous surface or item to be underfoot.
  2. The owner of the premises or an employee must have known of the dangerous surface and done nothing about it.
  3. The owner of the premises or an employee should have known of the dangerous surface because a “reasonable” person taking care of the property would have discovered and removed or repaired it.

Take note of the word “reasonable”. This refers to the reasonable steps the property owner undertakes to prevent accidents from happening in his premises. This means that the owner must show records that maintenance is a regular activity in his property. Worn parts are inspected and repaired on due time. Warning signs are also posted on places wherein there is a greater possibility for accidents. There must also be a clean up policy for spilt liquids and the like that can cause slip and fall. The premises must have conformed to building codes and safety provisions like using good lighting and non-slippery or appropriate tiles. If the property owner has undertaken all the necessary precautions to make his premises safe for visitors, then it would be harder to prove who is more accountable for the accident. Negligence on the part of the property owner must be established in order to make your claim valid.

In the second scenario above, one good question to ask is, “How long ago was that tear in the carpet?” If the owner was informed already by a person who had tripped on that carpet, what actions did the owner undertake in order to prevent another accident from happening? Questions such as these will help establish liability.

  • Time Frame or Time Limit

In Utah, if you are a victim of a slip and fall accident, you are given up to four years to file a personal injury lawsuit. If the accident happened more than four years ago, you are no longer qualified to file a complaint. Utah also applies a “comparative fault rule” to every slip and fall accident. This means your contribution to the accident will be determined. The percentage of the accident that was your fault will be deducted from your compensation. For example, it was discovered that you were also at fault for the accident. You tripped and fell because you were using your cell phone while walking. This is the reason why you did not notice the protruding part of the floor. If this carelessness on your part is computed to be 20%, then you will receive only 80% of the total compensation that is due to you. If your contribution to the accident is 50%, then you are not entitled to any compensation.

Take extra precautions on the words you are going to use when narrating your accident. Words such as “I was not looking”, “I was careless”, “I was using my phone” and the like, point out your fault and is going to make you bid for a claim less than successful.

If the accident happened in a government office or if the accident involved a government employee, you are only given up to one year from the date of the accident to file a written notice. Beyond one year, your complaint will no longer be applicable. The Government Immunity Act of Utah is an excellent resource on knowing and understanding the details on how to go about such complaint.

How much can you get as compensation for a slip and fall accident? You must be able to compute how much you are entitled to. Hospitalization cost and medical bills are easy to see and no computation is needed. If the medical expenses incurred from the slip and fall accident is less than $3000, then your case is not worth your time and effort.  Now, if your hospitalization or medical expenses amount to more than $3000, then it is good to pursue your claim. Also, there are future expenses like therapy and other treatments. Much more if you are going to take a few months off from work as advised by your doctor in order to fully recover from your injuries. You are also entitled to receive a compensation for loss of income. Expenses could pile up and filing a personal injury lawsuit can help you get relief from the financial burden brought about by your accident. It is best to seek the help of a personal injury lawyer to guide you through the claim process.

  • Proof of Injuries

To qualify for a personal injury claim, there must be a proof that can be presented. If the victim went to a hospital for a treatment, then there are records such as hospital bills and medical certificate to show for the extent and cost of injuries. The doctor or a physical therapist might also certify the need for future therapy or treatment sessions because of the sustained injuries. Keep all receipt on expenses related to the injuries. This includes receipt for the purchase of medical equipment such as neck brace, cane and other assistant device, as well as receipts for the purchase of medicines and surgery bills.

  • Loss of Income

How do you compute for loss income? For example if you are earning $65,000 a year and due to the accident, you were not able to work for four months, then your lost an income is $21, 667.00. It would be a different matter if as a result of the accident (broken back, broken/fractured hip) the victim is no longer fit to perform his usual job. If the victim is no longer employable because of the accident, the calculation can amount to thousands of dollars since the number of productive years will be considered. We call this as “loss of potential income” and should be compensated.

Your case would be quite different if you are unemployed at the time of the accident. Nevertheless there are ways of establishing loss of potential income. If you are self-employed or a businessman then filed tax returns can be a good basis to start to understand the potential loss income.

  • Pain

This is something that is difficult to compute. There is no standard that can be established how much pain is worth. The jury will decide on the amount after hearing the side of the plaintiff and the defendant. Based on the authenticity of the claim, the jury will deliberate and decide how much compensation will be given for pain.

To summarize, a slip and fall personal injury case must established the property owner is liable for the accident and considerable medical cost is involved for the pain and injury. Trauma is present and loss of income and potential income are involved. If most these factors are present, then you have a good case.

Christensen & Hymas has prepared resources for you to learn more on slip and fall accidents. Contact Utah’s Personal Injury Attorneys.

You can also give us a call at (801)-506-0800 for a free initial consultation.

PhotoSlippery When Wet Sign, Caution, Floor” copy right of Mike Mozart 

 

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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