Everyone has slipped and fallen at some point in their life. Often, the incident only hurts our pride. However, there are some falls that end with a serious injury that requires medical attention and that might even lead to a permanently debilitating condition. If this happens to you, you need legal representation to help you get the compensation you deserve from the people who were ultimately responsible. That is where the personal injury attorneys at Lavery, Selvaggi, Abromitis & Cohen can help.
Slip and Falls and Personal Injury Lawsuits
You can be compensated for the injuries you sustain in a slip and fall injury if someone else caused it through their negligence. This typically requires the injury to happen on someone else's property – if you slip and fall on your own property, there is rarely someone else who can be held responsible for your injuries.
This makes slip and fall law a part of premises liability law, which is itself a subset of personal injury law.
Common Slip and Fall Situations
Slip and fall cases can begin in a huge variety of ways, from any number of dangerous or hazardous conditions on someone else's property. Common situations include:
- Slipping on food or a liquid in a grocery store,
- Sliding on a wet floor in a shopping mall,
- Tripping on a protruding leg of a display in a department store,
- Crashing through a weak step in a staircase,
- Falling on snow or ice on the sidewalk outside a store or the store's parking lot,
- Stumbling over a loose rug or protruding floorboard, or
- Falling down a stairwell because one of the stairs was loose or the handrail was broken.
Elements of a Slip and Fall Lawsuit
Because lawsuits for slip and fall injuries are a subset of personal injury lawsuits, they need to show four things in order to be successful:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care to keep you out of harm's way,
- They breached their duty of care,
- That breach caused your injuries, and
- You were, in fact, hurt.
Much of the success of a slip and fall lawsuit relies on the first element: If the person you are suing did not have a duty of care towards you, then they cannot be found liable for your injuries. In New Jersey, whether a landowner owed a duty of care towards you is largely determined by your relationship with them under the rules of premises liability. Most successful slip and fall cases involve victims who were invitees of the landowner: People who were invited onto the property by the landowner, often for the landowner's financial benefit. Invitees are owed a high duty of care: Landowners need to protect them from any dangerous conditions on the property that the landowner should have discovered through a reasonable inspection of the premises.
If you are an invitee on someone else's property, often by shopping in a store, and you slip and fall on a hazard that should have been found by the landowner, then they have breached their duty of care towards you. If your injuries were caused by this breach, then you should be compensated.
Details Matter in Slip and Fall Accidents
The question of whether the landowner should have known of a danger is not a simple one. Instead, it relies on the idea of foreseeability, which depends on the exact circumstances surrounding the accident.
For example, you can slip on a grape that had been dropped on a tile floor and get hurt in the fall. The foreseeability of the accident changes dramatically if you were in a grocery store at the time of the incident, or in the shoe department of a clothing store. The grocery store is far more likely to be held accountable for your injuries because it is much more foreseeable for someone to get hurt by an errant grape. Employees in the shoe department, on the other hand, are far less likely to be aware of the dangers and protect you from them.
Who Can Be Held Responsible for a Slip and Fall Injury
People who own the property you slipped and fell on are not the only ones who can be held responsible. If you slip and fall on a puddle of liquid in a grocery store, the grocery store does not escape liability simply because they were renting the property from someone else. Instead, liability for your injuries can fall on the owner, the occupier, or even the manager of the premises. It can even fall on an independently contracted cleaning crew who failed to do their job properly if that is what caused your injury.
The Role of Insurance Companies and the Statute of Limitations
If you do get hurt in a slip and fall incident and have insurance, both your insurance company and the insurance company for the landowner will step into the fray. It is important to remember that, in the U.S., insurance companies are private, for-profit corporations whose sole purpose is to make money. This means they are going to try to minimize the amount of money they pay out in a slip and fall situation, often by making a settlement offer within days of the accident and well before you can possibly know how badly you have been hurt.
In New Jersey, you have two years to commence a lawsuit for a slip and fall injury under the state's statute of limitations, so rushing into a settlement with an insurance company serves no good purpose.
New Jersey Slip and Fall Attorneys
Getting the compensation that you need and deserve after a slip and fall accident is something that the personal injury attorneys at Lavery, Selvaggi, Abromitis & Cohen take very seriously. Reach out to our New Jersey law office for the legal representation that you need by calling us at (908) 852-2600 or by contacting us online.