If you slip and fall on an icy sidewalk, you may suffer a serious injury that can be debilitating, impair your ability to function, and rack up expensive medical bills. You may want to know if another party is legally responsible for your fall and its consequences. While the question of liability is not always simple, this guide will help get you started if you want to earn compensation for your damages.
Who Is Liable If I Slip and Fall on an Icy Sidewalk?
Generally, the owner of the sidewalk is liable for a slip and fall accident. However, it is also possible that no one is liable. What matters is whether negligence caused the accident. Slipping and falling on an icy sidewalk does not necessarily mean any negligence occurred, even if the sidewalk was in a condition that caused your fall.
These factors must combine with the property owner’s knowledge if you are to have a case. In other words, the sidewalk must be in an unreasonably unsafe condition and the property owner must either know about it or be reasonably expected to know.
If the sidewalk on which the accident took place is not owned by a private entity, the municipality may own it. The procedure for seeking damages from either type of party is similar, though not identical, and there are special considerations in the latter case.
How Serious Can Slip and Fall Cases Be?
Even if a fall is not from a great height, it can cause extremely severe damage. According to the CDC, one in five people who suffer a slip and fall accident involve broken bones or a head injury. In addition, falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries and cause more than 95% of hip fractures.
Despite these statistics, fewer than half of people who suffer a fall do not inform their doctor.
If you undergo a fall because of unsafe conditions, you may have a personal injury case. You might wish to consult with an attorney if you wish to pursue damages from the party responsible for your injuries.
What Is Premises Liability?
Premises liability determines guilt in any slip and fall case. This revolves around the legal concept that the owner of a property is in the best position to keep it in suitable condition for visitors. If the owner of the property and its occupant are not the same person, the occupant of the property is generally held liable.
Premises liability applies to defects such as potholes, but it also applies to improperly maintained surfaces, including icy surfaces.
The concept can get tricky if the slip and fall happened during a storm, as property owners have a period after a storm ends to make the sidewalk safe again. In other words, if you slip and fall on someone else’s property during bad weather, you may not be able to hold the owner liable, as they are not legally required to take action until after a storm has passed.
What If I Slipped and Fell on a Public Sidewalk?
If the sidewalk you slipped on was not privately owned, then the municipality may be at fault. In this scenario, you can file suit against the municipality.
Most states have strict limitations if you wish to have a case against the municipality, however. Time windows for reporting the accident are narrow. The time window can be as brief as 30 days, which is the deadline for you to notify the city or town’s precise department; if you send notice to the incorrect department, the state may disqualify you from filing your claim. In your report, you must specify the exact location of where the accident occurred and its circumstances.
The law may also limit how much you can ask for from the municipality. These limits can be as low as $100,000.
What Sort of Evidence Is Used in a Slip and Fall Case?
Photographs of your injuries, your clothing, and the scene of the accident may be critical for your case. Cases that do not include photographs detailing the circumstances of the accident can be vastly more challenging. The more recent the photo, the stronger the case tends to be. This is because the conditions of the ice on the sidewalk can change very quickly.
While photographs are essential, there are other pieces of evidence used in such cases that can generally only be obtained by an attorney. This includes a record of any prior complaints the municipality may have received about the sidewalk. Such records may be necessary to prove that negligence occurred.
You may benefit from having witnesses who saw the accident occur, and you will need a record of all of your medical costs.
How Do I File a Slip and Fall Case?
If you have documented the circumstances of your fall, you may then consider filing a case against the guilty party. You can do this on your own or with the aid of an attorney. The case will be like any other personal injury case, and so there are some basic steps you can take. You will need to put together a complaint that asks for a specific dollar amount you want from the guilty party. Comprehensively detail your medical costs plus any other damages you may be seeking.
Because civil suits can be complex, there are helpful guides provided by the state if you wish to file one. For example, to begin the process, you must submit a summons to the court with your complaint attached to the Superior Court Clerk’s Office. After the Clerk signs the document, a State Marshal will serve the lawsuit to the party being sued. There is a fee involved, but if you cannot afford it, you may submit a separate form asking to waive it.
When Can an Attorney Do If I Want To Pursue Damages?
If you pursue a personal injury case such as that involving a slip and fall, you will be juggling healthcare visits, court orders, and large amounts of paperwork. You will need to be familiar with the laws in your state regarding personal injury suits as they pertain to your case. You will be doing this while managing your injury and possibly suffering lost wages as a result of it. You can choose to handle all of this on your own, but you can also ask for help from an attorney, who may have the experience necessary to handle all of these aspects for you.
Most attorneys work on a contingency basis; they will not charge you unless you win your case. In addition, consultations are often free, and an attorney will use the consultation to help you understand your options going forward. Importantly, he or she might be able to tell you if you have a case at all and what they believe you are entitled to.
Where Can I Get Help If I Want To File a Lawsuit?
At Gould Injury Law, we can help you through the process of earning compensation for any damages you suffer in a slip and fall as a result of someone else’s negligence. Contact us for a no-obligation consultation and we will help you get started.