According to the National Safety Council, slip-and-fall accidents accounted for nearly 7 million hospital visits in 2019, making them one of the leading causes of hospital visits in the United States. Although fractures are the most common result of these types of emergencies, they can cause more extreme injuries and may even result in death.
If you have been the victim of a slip-and-fall accident in Missouri, you know just how scary and traumatizing an ordeal it can be, especially when your accident could have been avoided. But a St. Louis personal injury lawyer can help. It’s important to understand this area of law so you will be prepared to defend your rights and fight for compensation.
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Where can a slip-and-fall accident happen?
A slip-and-fall emergency can happen virtually anywhere. However, there are certain conditions that make this accident more likely to happen. Of course, not every slip-and-fall results in a personal injury lawsuit, but if a property owner could have reasonably prevented the accident, you may have a case.
Unfortunately, slips and falls can happen for a variety of reasons. Usually, they happen because a person loses traction or trips over an object. Here are some of the dangerous conditions that can increase the risk of slipping and falling:
- Broken or uneven sidewalks
- Missing or broken handrails
- Uneven steps
- Uncovered or unmarked cables
- Poor lighting
- Loose carpeting or rugs
- Broken or poorly-maintained flooring
- Debris on the floor
- Spilled liquids on the floor
- Oily surfaces
- Snow or ice
If you were injured in Missouri because you tripped, slipped or fell due to any of these dangerous conditions, call an attorney. The property owner may have had a duty to prevent the problem and keep you safe.
When is a property owner liable for a slip-and-fall?
Sometimes, an accident is just an accident. Other times, however, a little bit of care or maintenance could have prevented the whole unfortunate experience. In those cases, the property owner may be found liable for the resultant injuries.
Residential, commercial and government property owners all have a duty to the people who visit their property. However, the type of property might determine the level of responsibility. In general, a property owner has these responsibilities:
- To keep the property reasonably safe
- To take reasonable care in discovering dangerous conditions
- To repair, replace and warn visitors about any dangerous conditions that can reasonably be expected to cause harm
Remember that a property owner will not be liable for freak accidents that could not have been reasonably prevented. If a defect on the property is trivial, the owner can’t be held responsible if it somehow causes an accident.
How do you prove fault in a slip-and-fall accident?
Proving that a property owner was negligent and that the negligence caused your injury can be difficult. Documentation that proves any of the following occurred can be hugely beneficial:
- There was publicly available data about the dangerous conditions
- HOA meeting minutes or newsletters prove the owner knew about the conditions
- There was a history of incident reports or complaints
- Maintenance or inspection logs prove that the owner was negligent
- Company policies, safety manuals, etc. prove that there was a standard of maintenance that was not met
The primary question in these types of lawsuits is: Could the property owner have reasonably prevented the incident? If it seems like more care or attention on your part could have prevented the accident, you may have a harder time winning the case. Ultimately, two major factors can impact the outcome:
There are some basic questions that will help the court determine whether the property owner could have reasonably prevented the event. Answering questions like those outlined below will set the tone for the case:
- How long was the defect present before the injury occurred?
- What kind of cleaning or maintenance does the owner engage in?
- Was the object that was tripped over left in a suitable place?
- Could the owner have predicted you would be in the area at the time of the accident?
These are the kinds of details that will give the court insight into the property owner’s actions and motives.
2. Your Level of Care
In some states, there is a law of comparative negligence which states that the amount of responsibility the victim holds for the accident will affect the amount awarded to that person. In other words, your actions matter just as much as the property owner’s. As a victim, you should be prepared to answer these questions:
- Did you have a legitimate reason for visiting the property on the date and time of the accident?
- Would another person under similar circumstances have noticed and avoided the dangerous conditions?
- Did the property owner post any warning or barrier that was ignored?
- Were you running, texting, jumping or otherwise behaving in a way that contributed to the accident?
You don’t have to prove that you showed an extraordinary level of care. But if it seems that you were likewise negligent, it could put your case in jeopardy.
Types of Injuries that Can Result from a Slip-and-Fall
If you’ve never experienced a slip-and-fall injury for yourself, you might wonder why a lawsuit would be necessary. After all, most people survive minor incidents of this type on a weekly basis.
Unfortunately, an injury from a fall can have disastrous effects. And if you are left handling a serious injury on top of medical expenses and time away from work, the situation can become extremely difficult. Here are some of the most common injuries that lead to a personal injury lawsuit:
- Broken bones
- Spine or nerve damage
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Sprained ankles and wrists
- Muscle strains
- Shoulder dislocations
- Knee damage
For older victims, it’s more likely that at least one of these injuries will occur after a slip or fall. No matter your age, you should pursue compensation if the injury could have been avoided. Start by calling a St. Louis slip-and-fall lawyer for a free case evaluation.
How to Determine the Compensation You May Be Entitled After a Slip-and-Fall
Depending on the severity of your injury, you could be entitled to thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in compensation. The statute of limitations in Missouri for filing a claim in a personal injury case is five years. Several factors could make a difference in the final amount you deserve.
You can’t make a claim for a personal injury payout without evidence to support an argument for premises liability. If you can provide photos of the accident scene, testimonials from witnesses or footage from security cameras, that could help prove your fall accident case.
The other factor that will come into play is the amount of money your fall injury has and will cost you. If you have needed extensive treatment, time in the hospital or therapy, the total cost will play a role in the amount of compensation to which you are entitled.
The best way to ensure you get the full compensation you deserve for a slip or fall due to a property owner’s negligence is to hire a personal injury attorney early in the process. You can often take advantage of a free consultation to learn about your legal options.