By Andrew R. Bronsnick
Slips and falls are among the most common accidents due to numerous indoor and outdoor risks. Here’s everything you need to know if you’ve been hurt and need to make a claim
Slip-and-fall accidents are among the most common because the risks are all around us, especially here in New Jersey. Rain, ice, sleet and snow are perennial offenders in causing this kind of accident, so our state is no stranger to them. (In 2018, we had the worst precipitation on record for our state.) The elements can turn a parking lot, sidewalk or flight of stairs into a serious threat.
There are also indoor factors to consider – a slippery aisle in a department store, an obstruction in a walkway or an uneven patch of flooring are just as likely to hurt someone. Data from the National Floor Safety Institute highlights that:
- Floors and flooring materials contribute directly to more than 2 million slip and fall injuries each year.
- Slips and falls are the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims.
- Compensation and medical costs associated with employee slip/fall accidents is approximately $70 billion annually.
If you’ve been hurt in a slip or fall, you need to understand your rights to prepare a stronger claim.
How a slip-and-fall claim works
To ensure you are properly compensated by an insurer or a property owner, the victim must prove that the accident could have been prevented if the proper measures had been taken. For example, a wet floor should have been prevented or properly marked and barricaded from public access. If it wasn’t, there’s a strong case for a claim.
Things become complicated when it comes to weather-based claims. Ice, snow, or other slippery elements are commonly cited in these claims. It’s necessary in these situations to prove that a property owner was negligent and didn’t move quickly to remove those threats.
If the property owner was diligent but the weather conditions could not be remedied, it may be harder to find them at fault. At the very least, property owners who cannot tackle a slip-and-fall risk immediately should provide high-visibility warnings for pedestrians and visitors to avoid the compromised area.
If property owners just sit back and allow hazardous weather to wreak havoc with no attempt to warn others or solve the problem, then their negligence or fault will be easier to demonstrate.
How property definitions affect an injury claim
Every commercial property has a responsibility to protect visitors on their premises, but what about residential properties? Single-family homes are typically exempt from slip-and-fall claims for common sidewalks since they have no legal obligation to keep the property in a certain condition regarding visitor safety. But all homeowners have an obligation to maintain the areas where their guests and visitors are expected to walk when approaching the house.
Multifamily dwellings like condos and apartment blocks have more responsibility. The owners of these structures are making a profit from the residents, so it’s their responsibility to make sure floors and stairwells are in good, safe condition or to clearly warn people in advance of any danger.
Don’t let the clock beat your injury claim
It is important to note that victims have a limited time to file a slip-and-fall claim in New Jersey – two years for an injury of this type. Waiting any longer than that could see them lose the chance to take the incident to court. Going to court is not always necessary (out-of-court settlements are more common), but it’s always best to respect the statute of limitations and file a claim as early as possible. More importantly, in a case involving a public entity, such as a town or city, a claim must be submitted within ninety (90) days of the incident.
How to file a claim after a slip and fall
Victims should immediately inform the owner of the property after the accident and try to document the scene as much as possible. Thankfully, this is easier for modern victims thanks to cell phone photos and video. It is possible that insurance might cover the incident and settle things. However, the insurance companies and property owners may also reject the claim and argue that the injured person was at fault.
Their counter-claim may even succeed if it can be proven that the victim shares some of the blame by ignoring warnings, wearing inappropriate footwear or by simply not paying attention. This is termed “shared fault” or “comparative negligence,” and may complicate the claim and affect the recovery.
In either case, we recommend working with our legal team to help document the events and build the strongest possible case. This will mean gathering evidence, getting a record of your medical condition after the accident and working to prove negligence on the part of the property owner.
Victims should never agree to the first sum offered before they understand the full extent of the injuries. Medical issues after a slip or fall range widely in severity, from a relatively quick recovery to a lifelong issue. Sometimes, the extent of injuries is not known until the proper medical tests have been carried out.
It is important not to accept the first settlement offer, no matter how much how difficult the situation. Medical expenses, lost wages through time off work or perhaps having to leave work permanently – settlements can be very large indeed.
Our experienced legal team has decades of experience in this area, and we’ll fight to make sure you get all the compensation you’re eligible for.