It could happen anywhere: your friend’s house, a new apartment, the local garden center, or your favorite restaurant. One minute you are chatting with someone and the next you are falling down some rickety stairs or landing on broken concrete.
The injuries you sustain could go far beyond a skinned knee to include broken bones, significant blood loss or a concussion. The medical bills for tests and treatment could be extensive. And, to make matters worse, you could miss an extended amount of time from work.
If you find yourself or a loved one in such a situation, you may be wondering if you can sue to recover costs. A bad fall may be just bad luck, but it may also be someone else’s responsibility, in which case, you can sue. The key is knowing the difference.
What is a “Slip and Fall?”
In simple terms, a “slip and fall” occurs when you trip, slip or fall on someone else’s property and sustain an injury. These cases generally fall under the category of “premises liability” claims and, for the property owner to be held responsible, there must be at least one dangerous condition present that directly caused the fall. Indoor dangerous conditions may include wet or uneven flooring, torn carpeting, narrow or broken stairs, poor lighting, or the presence of hazards such as unsecured cables and cords.
Dangerous outdoor conditions are similar with regards to lighting at night and broken stairs or walkways, but can also include weather-related hazards. These hazards more often occur in climates where snow and ice can cause very slippery conditions, however, rain may also create problems.
In order to have a compensable case, you must have sustained injuries and suffered financial losses that could be remedied by the courts, including lost wages, medical bills, and temporary or permanent disability accommodations.
Determining who is legally responsible for your injuries is not an easy task. Each case is unique and hinges on whether the property owner took reasonable care to prevent a slip and fall, or whether you were in some way careless and caused the accident. As discussed above, you must prove that your injuries were caused by the presence of a “dangerous condition.” What is more, the property owner must have been aware of it and failed to act in a timely and appropriate manner to fix the problem.
In addition, the property owner must have been reasonably able to anticipate that the dangerous condition could cause an injury, however, at the same time, it must be a hazard that you could not have reasonably anticipated. We have the responsibility to be aware of our surroundings and avoid obvious dangers, but many are hidden and difficult to avoid if you are unfamiliar with the environment.
In the state of Texas, one of the defenses a property owner can mount in a slip and fall case is that you are, in some way, partially responsible for the accident. If they can prove this in court, it could significantly impact your case and the amount you are awarded, if you are awarded anything at all. Your lawyer will ask questions to help determine whether you need to be concerned. Some examples of shared fault include:
- You can be proven, through video for example, to have been distracted to what the property owner will argue was an obvious danger. Perhaps you were texting while walking or were walking backwards while talking to a couple of friends.
- You ventured, perhaps without permission, into an area of the property where visitors were not allowed. It is important to always watch out for signage and not let your curiosity get the better of you.
- You did not take care to avoid a hazard that was blocked off with caution tape or signs. In other words, the dangerous condition should have been obvious.
Even if you are embarrassed about your role in your injuries, it is important to be honest. Being able to weigh all the facts of the case will help your lawyer come up with the best possible plan of action.
Statute of Limitations
If you or a loved one is injured in a slip and fall accident, it is important to seek legal advice promptly. Texas has a statute of limitations of two years for personal injury in premises liability cases, which means that starting on the date the accident occurred, you have two years to file a case, after which point you will be unable to do so. It may feel overwhelming to consider contacting a lawyer while you are in the middle of a painful recovery, however, it is important to keep that time clock in mind when balancing your need to recuperate and your need to take legal action.
Seek Legal Advice
When you are ready to consider your legal options, contact us for a free consultation. Our team of trusted attorneys at GreeningLaw P.C. will bring their expertise and compassion to the table to work for you. We appreciate that you may need help before you have the money for it, which is why we work strictly on a contingency basis. We do not receive payment unless you are awarded funds. We are here for you. “We fight the legal battle, so you have time for healing and renewal.”