A serious slip and fall accident changes your life. You may face a long recovery and the inability to work or take care of your family. Depending on the type of accident, your mobility or mental capacity may end up impaired permanently. Property owners and managers have a duty of care to ensure their properties are free from hazardous conditions. If such conditions exist, commercial property owners must warn pedestrians of the hazard or cordon off the area. An example is Wet Floor signs and yellow tape keeping people away from spillage in a supermarket.
For instance, commercial property owners must ensure that parking lots are safe for pedestrians. Unfortunately, many parking lots are not well-maintained and contain potholes, uneven or cracked pavement, or debris.
Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
Common causes of slip and fall accidents include:
- Broken flooring
- Broken pavement
- Cords running across walkways
- Debris in walkways
- Ice and snow
- Lack of handrails
- Poor lighting
- Torn carpeting
Whether the property owner is liable for the slip and fall accident depends on several factors. This includes how long the hazardous condition existed and whether they had time to fix it. If a bottle breaks when hitting a supermarket floor and someone immediately trips on it, the property owner may not be liable because they did not have a reasonable time to mop it up and post warning signs. If the wet, slippery condition is in place for a longer time period and nothing was done to alleviate it, that is a different situation.
Common Slip and Fall Injuries
Common slip and fall injuries include:
- Back injuries
- Broken bones
- Neck injuries
- Shoulder injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injury
Liability for Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall accidents fall under the category of premises liability. In most cases, the property owner or management company is the defendant in premises liability claims. They are the parties with the duty of care to keep the premises safe.
Depending upon the circumstances, third parties may also prove liable. These third parties may include:
- Maintenance companies
- Lawn care or landscaping companies
Your attorney will investigate and determine which parties are liable for your slip and fall.
What to Do After a Slip and Fall Accident
Slip and fall cases are won or lost over documentation, so it’s important to know what to do after a slip and fall accident. If you hurt yourself in a slip and fall accident, document the incident as much as possible. That may not prove easy when you are in pain and isn’t possible if you’ve suffered a head injury and lost consciousness. However, if you are able, take photographs and videos of the accident scene, as well as your injuries.
It is important to establish that a hazardous condition existed at the time of your slip and fall. It’s not uncommon for an establishment to fix a dangerous condition right after the fall occurred. For example, you might have tripped over items left in a walkway. It takes little effort to remove these trip hazards after your fall, and without photographic evidence, the defendant will deny the presence of clutter.
Report the slip and fall to the owner or manager. Request a written report. Failure to report the accident will severely impact your claim.
Seek immediate medical attention, even if you don’t think you were badly injured. Some injuries are not apparent right away. If you wait to obtain medical help, insurance companies will allege that your injuries were unrelated to the trip and fall or that your injuries were not serious.
If there are eyewitnesses, obtain their names, addresses, and contact information.
Do not post any information about your slip and fall accident on social media. Insurance companies have employees scouring social media posts trying to discredit claims. Even an innocuous comment can affect your claim’s credibility.
Keep the clothes and shoes you were wearing at the time of the slip & fall in a safe place. Do not clean or repair them. These items could turn out to be relevant pieces of evidence.
Do not make a statement to the insurance company or agree to a settlement offer before consulting an attorney.
Statute of Limitations
In New Jersey, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is two years from the accident date. Failing to file a claim within that timeframe bars the court from allowing it to go forward.
If the slip and fall accident occurred on public property, the statute of limitations is much shorter. You must file a notice of claim with the government entity within 90 days of the incident. After filing the claim, there is a six-month waiting period for the public entity to respond before you can file a lawsuit.
However, it is crucial to obtain legal counsel as soon as possible after a slip and fall accident. As noted, evidence is critical when it comes to proving your case, and waiting too long to contact an attorney means valuable evidence may vanish. It is also possible that you were unaware that your fall took place on public property.
For instance, video footage can substantiate your case. There are no laws pertaining to how long a business or property owner must keep security camera footage. With many systems, old footage is recorded over in a matter of weeks or even days. A lawyer can take measures to preserve this vital evidence, but only if retained promptly.
Expect the defendant in a slip and fall lawsuit to argue that you were at least partly at fault for your injuries. Typical arguments include that the dangerous condition was obvious, or that the plaintiff was wearing inappropriate footwear that contributed to the fall. Perhaps you were looking at your phone at the time of the fall or otherwise not looking at where you were going.
In New Jersey, as long as you were not more than 50 percent responsible for your slip and fall injury, you can still receive compensation under the doctrine of comparative negligence. The amount of compensation is reduced by your fault percentage. That means if the jury finds you 20 percent at fault for your accident, a $100,000 award is reduced to $80,000.
Compensation, or damages, available in a slip and fall accident include:
- Medical expenses, current and future
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
In rare cases, punitive damages are awarded. Punitive means punish, and juries award these damages to punish a defendant when they have acted in a particularly egregious manner
Contact a Monmouth County Slip and Fall Lawyer
If you or someone you know was seriously injured due to a slip and fall accident resulting from a property owner’s negligence, you need the services of the experienced slip and fall lawyers at Harrell Injury Law. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Located in Wall Township, we serve Howell Township, Freehold Township, Jersey Shore communities, and the rest of Monmouth County.
After reviewing your claim, we will let you know your options. While most claims are settled, we will take your case to court when necessary. We can help you obtain the compensation you deserve for your injuries.