Slip and Fall Accident Lawsuits
If you are pursuing a slip and fall accident lawsuit to recover damages for your injury in court, then you will need to know what to expect from the legal process. Preparing for a lawsuit by gathering evidence, calculating damages, and identifying who is at fault for your injuries is critical, and you will need to know how you can give yourself the best chance at collecting the money you are owed. As with any lawsuit, you should not take action in a slip and fall injury case without the aid of an experienced attorney.
Slip and Fall Lawsuit Basics
Every lawsuit is different, however, there are some basic elements to building a slip and fall claim that you will need to be prepared for:
- After a slip and fall accident: What you do and say after a slip and fall accident can have a significant impact on your case. You will need to gather evidence (photos of the area and witnesses to the incident are ideal), and avoid saying or doing anything that indicates you are not injured or that the accident was your fault. If you are injured in a large business or grocery store insurance adjusters, employees, or attorneys may require you to fill out incident reports or answer questions, and it is important that you stick to the facts of the accident when questioned. If possible, decline to comment until you have spoken with an attorney.
- Proving slip and fall accident fault: A property owner is likely at fault for your accident if you can prove that the condition which caused the accident was one that he knew about, or should have known about, and was something he could have reasonably fixed before your injury. An experienced attorney will know all the evidence that is needed, but you should always take photos of the area immediately after the accident or get name and contact information from witnesses who can attest to the conditions prior to the slip and fall.
- Valuing a slip and fall accident lawsuit: Identifying what damages are available and calculating the value of slip and fall accident can be difficult, and requires a thorough review of all your medical costs, wages or work opportunities lost, additional expenses required to live with your injuries, and what ongoing expenses you face as you recover. It is very easy to overlook damages or undervalue a claim without the assistance of an experienced attorney.
- Dangerous conditions limit liability: If you should have been aware of the dangers of the area where you slipped before your accident, then you may not be able to collect any or all of the damages you claim. A defendant can point to posted warning signs or obvious hazards (ice, pooled water, etc) in an effort to shift responsibility for your injury to you.
Winning a slip and fall lawsuit, or negotiating a favorable settlement, is not easy. Property owners accused of responsibility in a slip and fall accident can argue that they did not cause the dangerous condition, were not aware of it, and did not have time to fix it before the fall occurred, or that you were partially or entirely responsible by not recognizing the danger and avoiding it. An attorney can counter the defenses to slip and fall liability, and give you the best chance at getting the money you deserve. Many attorneys offer free consultations and do not get paid unless you win the lawsuit or accept a settlement, so speaking with one comes at little financial cost.
TIP: If you intend on pursuing a slip and fall lawsuit, be aware that signing any settlement offer will prevent you from taking legal action in the future.
Time Matters in Slip and Fall Claims
A slip and fall lawsuit must be filed within a given period of time. This specific time frame is known as a Statue of Limitations (SOL) and varies from state to state. If you snooze on the deadline, you lose the right to sue, even though you have an otherwise valid cause of action. Generally, for a slip and fall matter, the SOL would be either one or two years. The deadlines are usually longer where a minor is involved, usually in the form of a delay in starting the clock until the child comes of age.
Just because there is a long period of time before a lawsuit must be filed does not mean that you don’t have to do anything during this period. Waiting for a generous settlement to drop into your lap is not a good move - you are better served by being proactive in all aspects of your slip and fall claim. Gather all your information—medical care and treatment, expenses-- and photos right away to justify the legitimacy of the value of your claim; get contact information or statements from witnesses, if any. Witnesses move, memories fade with time, and evidence can disappear. Do not rely on opposing parties, their insurance adjusters, or their attorneys to help you at any point during the slip and fall claim - you need to take action to gather evidence, pursue a favorable settlement, and hire an attorney to get the money you deserve.
TIP: If you are injured in a large business, a school, a government building, or a public place, you may have additional deadlines to file notice of the incident in order to preserve your slip and fall claim. These deadlines are usually very short, so contact an attorney as soon as possible after your claim.
Suing the Government for Slip and Fall Claims
Making a claim against a governmental entity, such as a city or county, does have some different rules, and these vary from place to place according to local laws or ordinances. Many government entities have a rule that you must file a “statement of intent to file a lawsuit” against them before filing the actual lawsuit. And then the time frame is shorter than the regular statute of limitations (for example, you may need to give 60 days notice of intent to file).
For Additional Reading See Articles on:
- What to Know About Slip and Fall Accidents
- What to Do Immediately After a Slip and Fall
- Slip and Fall Accident Attorneys