What Should I Know About Slip and Fall Accidents?
New Jersey slip and fall lawyers provide general information about slip and fall accidents when individuals or families fall victim to these incidents through no fault of their own. These injuries occur often due to negligence, malice, or carelessness. While victims cannot investigate these cases on their own, they can turn to a legal professional to learn more.
Slips and falls may seem minor at the time, but they can result in serious injuries. Everyone who is hurt in even the simplest accident should seek medical care and reach out to a lawyer for assistance. Report the accident to the manager or owner of the building and collect as much evidence as possible. If someone is injured because a residential or commercial property owner failed to properly maintain the premises or neglected to provide adequate notice of a risk of injury, they can seek damages under premises liability.
What is Premises Liability?
Premises liability focuses on how the owner or manager of a property cares for that property. Any property can host an injury, and there are varying levels of liability for these accidents. Premises liability stretches to any facility managed by an entity. While accident victims may feel they have no legal recourse, that is not true. The property is to be properly maintained under legal precedent, and the owner or manager must be held accountable for any lapses in judgment. These companies or owners must be very careful when caring for their properties, and that is why victims should look into the management of a facility or home after an accident. Premises liability can also be claimed in any incident where the facility may have played a role. Anyone managing a home, building, or facility must be careful to keep that property in excellent condition.
What are the Different Types of Slip and Fall Accidents?
A personal injury lawyer handles all issues related to a slip and fall claim, starting with an exhaustive investigation of the facts and circumstances of the case. They carefully gather, evaluate, and preserve all relevant evidence, and will prepare and file all necessary documents with the court. Common cases involve:
- Broken steps
- Damaged ramps
- Poorly maintained walkways
- Cracked or broken sidewalks
- Damaged parking lots
- Damaged, defective, or broken flooring
- Wet or slippery floors
- Animal attacks
- Drowning in unmarked or dangerous pools
While some of these examples may seem extreme, it is not far-fetched to assume someone walking up a ramp could fall and suffer serious injuries if the handrail falters or breaks. Damaged steps could send a victim falling down several flights of stairs. Because these falls are so violent, they can even cause paralysis or death.
Animal attacks can also occur on any premises if the animal is not restrained, or the premises does not have a sign warning visitors of a large or vicious animal, such as a guard dog. As the victim runs away, they could fall. Even if the dog does not catch up to them, they could be severely injured because the property owner did not issue an adequate warning. Likewise, someone who slips and falls into a pool could drown due to damaged flooring.
Assaults also fall under this category. Someone who should have a reasonable expectation of safety on the premises can claim that the owner or management team did not take adequate safety measures, such as repairing the locks on hallway doors around an apartment complex.
Where Could I Be Hurt?
In New Jersey, as in other states, the owner of a commercial or residential property has an obligation to inspect the premises to either fix any problems that pose an unreasonable risk of injury to others or provide adequate notice of the potential for injury. Common locations where premises liability accidents occur include:
Private homes: These must be maintained appropriately as any guest can file suit if they trip on broken stairs, fall over a broken deck rail, or step through a broken floorboard on the porch. Homeowners often believe a lawsuit will not come about because accidents happen, but a clear level of negligence can bring that case before the court, especially when the victim has been badly hurt.
Government facilities: These must be maintained appropriately, and they are not immune from legal action. Someone walking into city hall to get a building permit might slip on a marble floor and crack their head open. This person is due compensation for such a serious injury, and the local government can be held accountable. Even a location as simple as the local transfer station must be maintained properly in an effort to avoid injuries.
Retail stores: These facilities must be cleaned and maintained just like any other building. While the manager of a store or shopping center may be terribly sorry for an accident, a lawsuit can still be brought to claim compensation for injuries or deaths.
Hotels and resorts: These facilities are bound by the same guidelines; tourist destinations must remain in good condition if the owner or manager expects to welcome guests. Even an historic home must be maintained to avoid accidents. Certain parts of the house may not be suitable for the public, and guests should not be allowed in those areas. In any other part of the building, guests must feel safe to walk and explore.
Hospitals and nursing homes: These facilities must be kept in excellent condition as they are so busy. While keeping the facility clean is an important part of caring for patients, repairs and maintenance must provide a safe space for everyone coming through the door. Additionally, residents in nursing homes or patients in hospitals should feel safe walking around. Damaged rugs or floor tiles in a room can cause severe injuries.
Construction sites, offices, and office buildings: Guests and visitors may file suit when it is clear the building has not been maintained properly. Something as simple as cleaning a floor and not posting a wet floor sign is enough to cause a serious injury.
How Should I Handle Ice and Snow?
Winters in the northeast lead to accumulation of ice and snow that makes even a simple walk to the park dangerous. City and county ordinances may require snow and ice removal from private properties. For example, the ordinance may require snow removal for school children walking to school. While an adult may slip and fall on ice that a resident did not clean, the property owner can face a lawsuit because they willfully ignored the local ordinance.
Snow and ice buildup impacts residential management companies dramatically. Residents expect the sidewalks, walkways, and doorways to remain clear. Moreover, the roads and parking lots must be safe to drive and traverse. If the property management company subcontracts to a snow removal or lawn care company, that business might face a lawsuit when the property is unsafe.
Business and shop owners must also remove ice and snow to allow a free flow of customers. When customers suffer injuries on the company’s property or upon entering the business, they may file suit. Additionally, business owners should use rubber floor mats that prevent falls as customers cross wet floors covered with snow melt. These cases can be tricky because the injuries and cleanup effort must line up with major storms passing through the area. Weather forecasts and pictures of the area or security footage will show how much snow or ice accumulated on the property.
Are There Other Causes of Slip and Falls?
Slips and falls may also occur when the property does not make walking, climbing stairs, or working easy. A few things that commonly cause slip and falls include:
Inadequate lighting: When guests or customers arrive, they may walk through areas with little to no lighting. For example, guests at an amusement park might walk into an attraction with several sets of steps and little to no lighting. When they cannot see the steps, they could easily fall. The same is true in parking lots, on walkways, and even inside buildings.
Inadequate traffic flow: This might cause accidents or injuries. When guests walk into a narrow hallway that floods with people every hour due to shift changes, that person could be injured. The same is true if guests or visitors must walk on unsafe steps or in areas with faulty handrails because the building allows no other form of egress.
Improper maintenance of the facility: This may cause slip and falls due to simple things like missing rubber stair mats, broken stairs, or lights that should have been replaced. Walkways covered with leaves in the fall could be as slippery as icy ground, and standing water causes slip and falls when the property does not allow for proper drainage.
Who is Liable for My Injuries?
When these accidents occur, the owner, manager, or staff of the facility will be held accountable for compensable injuries. For example, someone who is injured walking to their apartment can sue the owner of the apartment complex for their injuries because the sidewalks or stairs were not maintained properly.
If a separate management company runs the property, that firm can be sued for damages. The issue can become even more complex if multiple layers of liability are involved in the case. For example, someone hurt in a retail store might have been injured because the owner of the building did not send a crew to repair a broken floor tile. The management company overseeing the retail property might have negligently avoided repairing those floors, or the retail company itself might be liable because it owns that space, and the staff did not do its due diligence when caring for the facility.
The people who work in facilities are often not liable for these accidents. For example, a custodian who does not post the wet floor sign should have been properly trained and supervised by their employer. Only in acts of malice or ill-will could an individual be named in a lawsuit such as this. If malice or ill-will is alleged, criminal charges may also be filed, but those charges do not preclude the victim from filing a lawsuit for damages stemming from the accident. Review these facts with a lawyer to learn the best course of action.
What Types of Compensation are Available?
Compensation for a slip and fall claim covers a variety of injuries and out-of-pocket costs. When victims file lawsuits, they often do not realize that their claims are complex, must be calculated down to the penny, and should include a range of payments to help the victim recover.
A lawyer will request all additional documentation required to complete a claim for damages. Victims can bring forward information they collect, and a lawyer will engage medical experts to better explain the effect of the accident on the victim and their loved ones. Additionally, a lawyer will investigate the circumstances of the accident to determine if there is a level of malice involved. There is a difference between negligence and malice, and that difference is used to file a claim for damages. Compensation available after a slip and fall accident includes:
Medical expenses: Every medical expense related to the accident must be included in a claim for damages. While victims accrue emergency expenses, doctor visits, and surgeries, their care may take years to complete. Medical experts speak to the level of care that is required, including additional procedures, medical equipment, transportation, specialist care, home care, or even nursing home care. Counseling may also be necessary given the trauma experienced by the victim.
Lost earnings: This is equivalent to all the money the victim would have made if the accident had not occurred. When that trajectory is interrupted by a serious accident, a victim may have to undergo job retraining, or take a part-time job.
Pain and suffering, loss of companionship or consortium, and loss of familial support or financial support: These damages are calculated using industry best practices. A lawyer must determine how much the family is owed because their lifestyle has been turned upside down. Compensation for these losses is due so that the family at large does not suffer.
Punitive damages: In the State of New Jersey, punitive damages are awarded at trial by a judge or jury. These damages are capped and cannot exceed five times the other damages awarded or $350,000. Adding this value to a lawsuit helps the victims recover as much as possible given the trauma they suffered.
When Should I Hire a Lawyer?
Hire a lawyer as quickly as possible after an accident. Evidence from an accident grows cold very quickly, and it is possible that the issues that caused the accident will be repaired or covered up if it takes weeks or months to file a claim. While accident victims are encouraged to call 911, take pictures of the accident scene, and find eyewitnesses, that is not always possible. A lawyer will step in, review the case, and begin the legal process.
Building managers, owners, businesses, representatives, or lawyers might appear hoping to settle the case for as little money as possible. Do not speak to these people. A lawyer should answer these questions, accept settlement offers, and offer advice to their clients.
Families that lose a loved one deserve time to grieve, but they must hire a lawyer to help with a wrongful death claim. In New Jersey, the statute of limitations is two years for both personal injury and wrongful death claims. Because of this, families need to involve a lawyer in the grieving process. Delays in these cases might invalidate any claim the victim or family has.
New Jersey Slip and Fall Lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr Help Victims Injured in Slip and Fall Accidents
If you have been hurt through no fault of your own and find yourself in the midst of a premises liability case, reach out to the New Jersey slip and fall lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr for assistance. Call us today at 732-249-4600 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Highland Park, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout New Brunswick, Somerset, Piscataway, Edison, South River, Sayreville, Metuchen, East Brunswick, South Plainfield, Fords, Middlesex, Old Bridge, Iselin, Bound Brook, Perth Amboy, and Colonia.