Monday, August 17, 2009

Slip and Fall--Do You Have a Case?

By Rex Curtis Bush, Doctor of Jurisprudence, Attorney at Law

Many times when a person falls in an apartment complex, a parking lot at the store, or just someone else's property, we wonder who is to blame. Should you have been more aware of the surroundings? Did they know of the issues and not handle it accordingly? When filing a claim it's a tricky business, so you have to figure out the appropriate precautions.

What it comes down to is there are a few factors that will tell you whether or not the defendants should be liable for your injury. Each law is different from one state to another, so you should consult a local lawyer and know your rights.

One of the primary considerations to determine who is responsible is the duty. For instance, is Wal-Mart expected to be responsible if you fall in their parking lot? It's a complex question, but one with many considerations.

For instance, if you're getting out of your car at an apartment complex and you slip due to the ice, should they be held responsible? The truth is they might not be, especially in cold climate areas.

If the fall happened instead on a flight of stairs, however, the apartment's duty to keep those stairs clear is much greater. Falls on sidewalks are treated similarly, though the responsibility is usually the city's. The major difference between the first situation and the latter two is that a parking lot is a large area which cannot be expected to be free of ice, while the latter are smaller areas on which pedestrians have the reasonable expectation of walking safely.

The good news is they aren't always this hard to judge. In fact, if a company has poor lighting, water, or various other areas with issues, they could be legally liable for not having the issue resolved before the accident occurred. Just think about these conditions if you've come across an accident of your own.

* The fall must be caused by an establishment's owner or one of its employees.

* They knew about the problem and didn't fix it.

* In some circumstances, it can be argued that the owner or employees *should* have known about the cause had they taken reasonable care of the property. This is usually determined via common sense, and by determining if the owner has made reasonable prior maintenance efforts.

It's kind of sad that the scenarios have to be this tricky, but the best way to overcome it is by looking into the practical questions.

* Has the cause of the fall been around for long enough for the property owner to have realistically addressed it?

* If the cause was an object, was there a good reason for the object to be located there? Could it have been realistically located elsewhere and not cause injury?

* Could a warning sign or barrier kept you from getting hurt?

Then again, there will be questions against you as well regarding negligence. Here's a few you may need to answer.

* Were you distracted at the time of your fall?

* Is the obstacle something a reasonable person would have avoided?

* Why were you in the area where the accident occurred in the first place?

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