What Causes Slip And Fall Accidents?
There are many kinds of negligence that can potentially result in a slip and fall accident, most of which result in dangerous hazards or conditions on a property or in a business. Some of the more common hazards that can cause slip and fall accidents include the following:
- Liquid spills
- Inadequate lighting
- Debris in walkways
- Stairs without railings
- Inadequate maintenance of sidewalks
- Hidden fixtures
- Cracked pavement
- Uneven stairs
- Torn carpet
- Cracked or uneven flooring material
Whether these and other hazards that can cause a person to slip and fall were the result of a property owner’s negligence is often a complicated legal question, so anyone who has been hurt in this type of accident should be certain to have their case evaluated by an experienced lawyer.
Liability for a Slip and Fall Accident in Portland
- You were on the property lawfully. In order to have a valid claim against a property owner, the first thing that you'll need to prove is that the property owner owed you a duty of care. This means that you must establish that you were on the property lawfully, as the only duty that a property owner owes to a trespasser is to refrain from causing wanton harm. If you were trespassing at the time of your slip and fall, you may have a difficult time holding the property owner liable for your damages.
- A hazardous condition existed on the property. The next thing that you’ll need to prove is that a hazardous condition existed on the property. Depending on the type of property where your accident happened, this might mean spilled food or drink, torn carpet, a depression in the walking surface, potholes, debris, fall objects, broken handrails, broken stairs, defective elevators or escalators, etc.
- The property owner knew or should have known of the hazardous condition. One of the most challenging things to prove in a slip and fall claim is not only that a hazardous condition existed, but that the property owner knew or should have known of the condition. Often, being able to prove this is about being able to prove that the condition lasted for an extended amount of time. For example, if you slipped on milk that was spilled in a grocery store approximately one minute before the slip occurred, it’s very unlikely that the property owner/grocery store manager could have known about the condition. On the other hand, if you slipped and fell because of a pothole in a crosswalk that the city had received multiple complaints about, there’s a strong argument to be made that the city knew of the hazard.
- The property owner failed to remedy the condition in a reasonable amount of time. It’s not just enough for a property owner to know of a condition; they must have had a reasonable amount of time to remedy the condition or post warning of it. For example, going back to the spilled milk in the grocery store situation, if milk is spilled and a grocery store manager sees it happen, they should act quickly to either clean up or cordon off the area. It’s reasonable for this process to take a little bit of time – however much time is necessary to grab rags, cones, etc. However, what would be unreasonable would be a situation where the grocery store employee or manager sees the spills, and then decides not to address it for an hour or more.
- The hazardous condition was the proximate cause of your injuries. Finally, you must be able to prove that not only did the hazardous condition exist, but that you would not have suffered the slip and fall and any subsequent injuries but for the hazardous condition. If you work with an attorney, your attorney can help you to recreate the accident and prove causation.
Consider that liability does not always fall on the shoulders of the property owner, although this is most common in a slip and fall accident. Sometimes, a third party could be held responsible. For example, if you suffered a slip and fall as a result of a defective escalator, the manufacturer of the escalator could be held responsible if the defect was a design or manufacturing defect. Or, the party responsible for maintaining/repairing the escalator could be held responsible. Similarly, if you slipped and fell as a result of an assault, the party who assaulted you could be held liable for your damages in a civil action (and may also face criminal charges as well).
Do I Need An Attorney After A Slip And Fall Accident?
Many people who are seriously hurt in slip and fall accidents wonder whether they need to take the time and spend the money to hire a lawyer to help them seek compensation. After all, if the fall was properly reported, a victim will often receive an offer for a settlement by the property owner’s insurance company within days of an accident even without hiring an attorney. Accepting the first offer made without talking to an attorney is generally not a wise idea, however, as insurance companies often lowball unrepresented victims hoping that they simply accept the offer and give up their right to sue. Assessing the value of a slip and fall claim is a complicated process and too often victims do not realize the true value of their case and may be tempted to accept an inadequate offer. The assistance of a qualified attorney will ensure that a slip and fall victim obtains the full and fair value of their claim.
Consider the following ways in which an attorney will support your case and help you to recover the full settlement amount that you deserve:
- Investigating your case, which will include traveling to the property where you fell, making a determination about the presence of a hazard, working with accident reconstruction experts when necessary, talking to eyewitnesses, recovering any video footage of the accident, and more.
- Identifying the at-fault/liable party. While this may be a property owner, it could be another third party in some cases. The investigative process will offer clues about who should be held liable for your injuries. Once determined, an attorney will send that party (or their insurer) notice of claim.
- Calculating your damages and determining what your claim is worth. This includes calculating the value of all of your economic and noneconomic losses, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
- Issuing a demand letter requesting a settlement for your full damages award against the at-fault party.
- Reviewing any settlement offer you received and determining whether it is fair. If a settlement offer does not fully compensate you, your attorney can reject the settlement offer and commence the negotiation process. A strong negotiator can have a big impact on the outcome of your case.
- If a settlement negotiation fails, an attorney can start to build your case and prepare it for court. If your case goes to court, your attorney will represent you during the litigation phase and handle all document filings, court filings, legal issues, and more.
Of course, in addition to the above, one of the benefits of working with an attorney is just having someone you can ask questions to and get honest, helpful answers from. At the office of the Johnston Law Firm, our lawyers are committed to remaining available and accessible to our clients along every step of the process.
If you are concerned about being able to afford an attorney, you should understand that you have nothing to lose by discussing your case with a lawyer. The Johnston Law Firm takes personal injury cases on a contingent fee basis, meaning that we will not charge you any legal fees unless we successfully recover on your behalf. As a result, there are no up-front costs associated with retaining an attorney.
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