FAQs about Slips and Falls in Indiana
Below are the answers to common initial questions many clients have when they first contact Keller and Keller. We hope that the information below address many initial concerns you may have, but if you don't find the answers here, please contact us with questions specific to your case. The consultation is free and confidential.
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What is a "slip and fall" case?
"Slip and fall" is a term used for a personal injury case in which a person slips or trips and falls, and is injured on another person's property. These cases usually fall under the broader category of cases known as "premises liability" claims, because slip and fall accidents usually occur on property (or "premises") owned or maintained by someone else, and the owner or possessor of the property may be held legally responsible.
Dangerous conditions such as torn carpeting, changes in flooring, poor lighting, narrow stairs, or a wet floor can cause someone to slip and hurt him or herself inside a building. Other instances of slip and fall incidents can occur when people trip on broken or cracked public sidewalks, or trip and fall on stairs or escalators. In addition, a slip and fall case might arise when someone slips or trips and falls because of rain, ice, snow or a hidden hazard, such as a pothole in the ground.
Who is liable for my injuries as a result of a "slip and fall?"
There is no precise way to determine when someone else is legally responsible for your injuries if you slip or trip. Each case turns on whether the property owner acted carefully so that slipping or tripping was not likely to happen, and whether you were careless in not seeing or avoiding the condition that caused your fall. Here are some general rules to help you decide whether someone else was at fault for your slip or trip and fall injury.
In most cases, a person injured in a slip and fall on another person's property must prove that the cause of the accident was a "dangerous condition", and that the owner or possessor of the property knew of the dangerous condition. A dangerous condition must present an unreasonable risk to a person on the property, and it must have been a condition that the injured party should not have anticipated under the circumstances. This latter requirement implies that people must be aware of, and avoid, obvious dangers.
In order to establish that a property owner or possessor knew of a dangerous condition, it must be shown that:
The owner/possessor created the condition;
The owner/possessor knew the condition existed and negligently failed to correct it; or
The condition existed for such a length of time that the owner/possessor should have discovered and corrected it prior to the slip and fall incident in question.
For a property owner or possessor to be held liable, it must have been foreseeable that his negligence would create the danger at issue. For instance, if a can of paint falls to the ground and spills into an aisle in a hardware store and, one day later, the store has not noticed or cleaned up the spill, and someone slips in the paint and is injured, one might argue it was foreseeable that the store's negligence in failing to inspect its aisles and clean up spills would result in someone slipping and injuring himself on a spilled item.
Occasionally, a plaintiff can prove negligence by showing that the property owner violated a relevant statute. For example, building codes often dictate when and where handrails and other similar features must be installed. If you fall on a stairway that lacked appropriate handrails, and the lack of the handrail caused your injuries, you may have a valid claim against the building owner based on his or her building code violation.
How do I recover compensation for a "slip and fall?"
In order to recover for a slip and fall injury sustained on another's property, there must be a responsible party whose negligence caused the injury. This sounds obvious, but many people do not realize that some injuries are simply accidents caused, if anything, by their own carelessness. For instance, if someone falls simply because he/she was not looking where they were walking, they cannot recover against the property owner if the owner was in no way at fault, no matter how serious the injury. If an injured person is only partially at fault for his/her own injury, he/she might still be able to recover from another, but the dollar amount of the recovery might be reduced.
If someone falls on a broken piece of a city sidewalk and is injured, can they sue the city?
In many states, statutes giving local governmental entities immunity prohibit recovery in many kinds of cases against cities or towns. If there is not such a statute or ordinance in place, however, someone may have a case against the city. Municipalities have a duty to keep streets and sidewalks in repair. An injured party might have a successful case against the city if he or she can show that it failed to maintain the sidewalk properly. There are very important deadlines and requirements for giving municipalities notice of such claims, however, about which the attorneys of Keller and Keller can advise you.
What if someone gets injured while at the home of a neighbor, who invited him or her there for a party?
Social guests are sometimes able to recover from their hosts, depending on how their injuries happened. Homeowners must tell their guests about, or correct, any dangerous conditions that guests are unlikely to recognize. For example, if an injury was caused when a guest tripped on a throw rug, he or she may be able to recover if he/she could prove that the host knew other people had tripped over it and the guest was unlikely to realize its danger. The host probably should have warned guests about it, removed it during the party, or secured it to the floor with tape or tacks.
Can someone receive compensation from a store where he or she was injured in a slip and fall accident?
The specific facts of each case will determine whether an injured party can recover damages from a store for a slip and fall accident. Stores have a duty to keep their floors reasonably safe for customers, and employees should routinely inspect areas the public might access, to discover any potentially dangerous conditions. If a slippery substance on the floor causes a fall, and a plaintiff can show that the substance had been there for a relatively long period of time, or that the store otherwise had notice of it, he or she may be able to recover damages.
When will the law say a property owner "should have known" about a dangerous condition on his or her property?
In most cases, the law will say a property owner "should have known" about a dangerous condition when it existed for such an amount of time that a reasonably careful person, under similar circumstances, would have discovered it.
Is the fact that someone warned an employee of a store about a spill important in proving a slip and fall case resulting from an accident caused by the spill?
Yes, the fact that an employee of the property owner (or possessor) was given notice of the dangerous condition is very helpful in establishing that the owner knew of the dangerous condition, and was negligent in failing to remedy it.
Can a building owner's violation of a building code ever be used to help a plaintiff win a slip and fall case?
Yes, occasionally a plaintiff can prove negligence by showing that a property owner violated a relevant statute or code. A building owner must ensure that his or her building's structure is in compliance with applicable building codes. For example, building codes often dictate when and where handrails and other similar features must be installed. If you fall on a stairway that lacked appropriate handrails, and the lack of the handrail caused your injuries, you may have a valid claim against the building owner based on his or her building code violation.
What information is an insurance adjuster looking for?
The insurance adjuster will attempt to establish if there is an injury and what your responsibility was in the fall, and may attempt to resolve (settle) the case immediately. The adjuster may ask you a series of questions such as:
The extent or type of injury?
What were you doing just before the accident?
Warnings that may have been ignored?
Whether you had a reason for being in the area?
It is generally not in your best interest to speak with the adjuster without having reviewed the specifics of your case with an experienced law firm. The law offices of Keller and Keller will help ensure your rights are protected, and that you receive the compensation that is rightfully yours.
Does an accident report have to be filled out at the time of the fall?
Ideally, an accident report should be completed at the time of the incident noting what happened, who witnessed both the accident and the conditions that caused the fall along with any other relevant information such as lighting. The requirement for a report is generally a store or business policy, rather than mandated by law.
If a report is not completed at the business location or occurred at private location or was not observed by others, compile a record of what happened yourself. Include information such as:
A description of the circumstances
Who was present
The comments made by those who saw or helped after the fall
If possible, take photos of the area. If you were physically hurt, have your injury checked out immediately to help substantiate your claim.
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