A slip and fall case is one of the quintessential personal injury lawsuits. Unfortunately, popular culture pokes fun at these claims, and these lawsuits contribute to personal injury attorneys getting the negative nickname of “ambulance chasers.”
In truth, a fall can cause significant injuries and even death. Furthermore, a fall is often a preventable accident that store owners and other businesses can avoid. If you were injured by a fall, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with a personal injury attorney to learn the strength of your claim and potential for damages.
Slip and fall cases follow premises liability laws. In these lawsuits, the owner or manager of a premises is considered negligent for creating an unsafe environment for patrons, clients, customers, etc. If the judge or jury finds the defendant negligent, then the fall victim can recover damages.
In Georgia, four elements of negligence must be demonstrated in order for the plaintiff to win their case. These elements are:
“Duty” refers to a relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant. Any business that’s open to the public or any property manager who invited guests to visit their home or place of work satisfies this criteria easily.
The tricky element in slip and fall cases is whether or not someone was trespassing. For example, if a door-to-door salesman trips on his way up a front porch, he was technically an uninvited guest. The home owners may try to argue that they don’t owe a duty to anyone who wasn’t asked to come to their house. Trespassing children also get special protection in many cases.
If there’s any question as to whether or not your were what the law considers an “invitee” to the place where you fell, you need to contact a personal injury lawyer. The attorney will be able to explain your guest status and whether or not you were owed a duty by the property owner.
“Breach of duty” refers to a wrongdoing committed by the defendant. In most slip and fall cases, the business owner or manager either failed to create a safe environment for customers or didn’t properly warn of a hazard. For example, a broken escalator may take a few days to fix. Prior to its maintenance, however, there should be plenty of warnings that the escalator shouldn’t be used.
It’s important to note that business owners need to have “reasonable notice” of a hazardous condition. In other words, if an item suddenly fell in your path there may not have been time for the property manager to prevent your fall. Similarly, if somebody committed a criminal act to cause you to fall, the manager may escape liability for your accident.
As slip and fall cases rely heavily on evidence that shows what caused your fall, it’s best to let a Georgia personal injury attorney manage your case.
Causation is a simple element to understand but is often the hardest to prove to a judge or jury. For this criteria to be satisfied, you must show that your fall was caused by something hazardous in the business, home, park, etc.
Common causes of slip and fall accidents include:
Countless other hazards can cause slip and fall accidents. As long as whatever caused your fall didn’t appear suddenly, proper documentation and evidence presented by your attorney should help you demonstrate this criteria.
Injury is perhaps the easiest element to prove for slip and fall negligence claims. Negligence claims typically involve accident survivors or families who are filing on behalf of a deceased loved one. You can’t file a lawsuit if you didn’t suffer an injury or have financial consequences, so a false claim is unlikely in a slip and fall.
If your attorney successfully persuades a judge or jury that all 4 elements of negligence were met in your lawsuit, then you will be able to recover damages.
Georgia is a modified comparative fault state. This means that as long as a plaintiff was less than 50% to blame for the accident, then the accident victim can recover damages.
In slip and fall cases, there’s often debate as to whether the hazard that caused the fall was “open and obvious.” In other words, would any other person have spotted what caused the fall and done anything to prevent the accident?
There may have been a distraction that prevented you from watching where you were going. Perhaps your child was running off or you were looking at your cell phone. Don’t assume, however, that you know how much you were at fault. Consult with a personal injury attorney before you sign any form of insurance paperwork. Signing too early could be an admission of fault, and you may lose your opportunity for any form of settlement.
There’s no denying that a slip and fall accident often boils down to a he said/she said argument. There’s less documentation than something like a car accident, so it’s up to the accident victim and their loved one to preserve as much evidence as possible.
Important steps to take after a slip and fall are:
If you were injured in a business or store, it’s likely that a representative from the business owner’s insurance company will call you to offer you a settlement. If your injuries were minor and the offer seems fair, it’s perfectly fine to accept the amount offered to you.
If, however, the amount doesn’t match your medical bills and time off, it’s likely that you’ll need to file a slip and fall lawsuit. Damages for slip and fall cases in Georgia include:
A personal injury attorney will explain to you how damages are calculated and will help you decide if you should settle or not. The consultation is typically free and we encourage you to use our directory of Georgia personal injury attorneys to find a legal professional near you.
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