When to Claim for a Slip and Fall and What to Consider
Speaking to Joshua Stein, we briefly uncover when victims should consider making a claim for an injury following a trip and fall and how such cases can be won against hardy and well-prepared business property owners.
With experience from the ‘other side’ after representing insurance companies, Joshua now works with accident victims on their cases, leaving the below article to be an insightful read.
When should you consider making a claim for an injury following a trip and fall and what are the legal elements to the case?
If the injury occurred because a property or business owner did not maintain their property properly or did not warn visitors of potential dangers, you may have a claim. Some examples include falling over equipment or supplies left in a walkway, an uneven walking surface, or the floor was wet and slippery. For simplicity, this article will generally refer to a ‘property owner’. However, mere ownership of the property is not enough. The fault lies with the entity who “manages, controls and/or is responsible for the property”. Understand, the property owner is NOT responsible for all injuries that occur on the property. Instead, to be successful, you must prove 1) you were legally allowed to be on the property; 2) there was a duty to keep the property safe; and, 3) the property owner had knowledge of the danger. Finally, you must prove the property owner’s knowledge of the danger was greater than that of the injured person. This means there is a burden on the injured person to prove they were not aware of the danger.
How long after a fall can you make a claim?
The statute of limitations varies in each jurisdiction. In Georgia, an injured person has two years to file a lawsuit for injuries. However, do not wait that long to start the claim. Immediately after the fall, you should gather as much information as possible. Take pictures of the dangerous condition that caused the fall and of any visible injuries. Report the fall immediately to the property owner and ask for an Incident Report. Ask for contact information from any witnesses in the area. Property conditions change, memories fade and witnesses move on – it is essential to lock these in. Immediately have a doctor examine any injuries and follow all medical instructions. Consult an attorney before talking to any business or insurance company related to the property owner.
How do you win slip and fall cases and what complications arise?
Property owners defend and fight slip and fall cases vigorously. Oftentimes, the injured person will be blamed for the fall by arguing they were not looking where they were going, or they were not being careful in how they were walking. Expect the property owner to present evidence of ongoing inspection procedures and how there was no way they could have been aware of the danger. An immediate request to the property owner to preserve and keep the video from all cameras maintained on the property must be made. The bottom line is surveillance videos do not lie – if the fall is caught on video its contents will go a long way in determining whether the case can be won. If the property owner will not voluntarily provide the surveillance video that is usually a tell-tale sign the case can be won. If there was surveillance video and the property owner did not keep it, they may be deemed to have destroyed evidence which will result in them losing defenses that may otherwise be available. Experts and consultants in premises liability are also key. Professionals with years of experience managing properties will give testimony about the way in which the property owner failed and how potential codes were violated. Finally, showing the property owner knew about the hazard and either ignored it, or failed to fix it will result in a win. And remember, at least in Georgia, even if you were partially at fault, you will win if you were less than 50% at fault.
Joshua S. Stein
J. Stein Law Firm
Joshua Stein is the Managing Partner of the J. Stein Law Firm. Following graduation from the UGA School of Law, Joshua worked for two years as In-House Counsel at Progressive Insurance Company and then 12 years for Goodman McGuffey, a regional insurance defense law firm, where he became an equity partner. In 2017, Joshua ‘switched sides’ and began using the inside knowledge he learned from representing insurance companies to represent those hurt due to the negligence of someone else.