Slip, Trip, Fall Injury
Slip, trip and fall cases are amongst the most common way I see people being injured. It is very common for someone to fall on uneven or broken sidewalk or curb, or to step into a pothole they did not think was there, or slip on spilled milk or pop or even grapes at a local supermarket.
The first thing you should understand about these cases is that they are a lot more complicated than people think. A lot of people I talk to think that a property owner or manager is automatically responsible for injuries on their property. But the exact opposite is true.
The law is written to protect landowners. Like in every injury case, you must be able to prove that the land owner did something they should not have, or failed to do something that was their duty to do, and as a result, you got hurt. In a car accident case, that’s pretty simple who ran the red light or stop sign, right?
But in premises liability slip trip and fall injury cases, there are a whole set of rules that, if you are not familiar with, you will have no chance at all at properly evaluating your injury case. First, the thing that caused you harm must be €œunreasonably dangerous. In other words, if a hole is too small, or a problem with a sidewalk is too minor, the Court will throw your case out before you ever see a jury. Second, you must be able to prove that the landlord or property owner knew about the problem OR that they should have known about it, with enough time before you were injured to fix the problem. That’s called Notice and it is the death of so many fall down type cases, you might not believe it. It is a very hard to prove, but experienced lawyers can do it if they get a case right at the beginning.
Other rules that few people know about include the natural accumulation rule, which means that you cannot sue someone when snow or rain falls on a sidewalk and you fall because of it because no one shoveled. And another is the open and obvious rule which says that if a hole in a sidewalk or other problem is something that is obviously dangerous or could cause an injury, you cannot sue for it.
There are exceptions to all of this, and I do not mean to scare you away from consulting with a lawyer or making a claim. Just be aware that this is a much tougher area of law than many give it credit for.
Believe it or not, I see more broken bones in fall down cases than I do in car accidents. A broken leg or broken ankle is the most common type of injury I see when someone has a fall down accident. I also commonly see a broken hand or wrist when someone tries to catch themselves when they fall, and chipped or broken teeth are not uncommon. A fall down injury can also involve a blow to the head, which can cause subdural hematoma (bleeding in the brain), which can result in serous injury, permanent disability, or even death.
So not only does handling such personal injury cases require knowledge of liability law (the rules, their exceptions, and all the wrinkles and exceptions-to-exceptions carved out in the case law), but skill and knowledge of a broad base of medicine and medical treatment to handle proof of the injury aspects of the case.
And, insurance companies these days do everything in their power to defeat an inured person’s claim right from the beginning, before the injured person knows their rights . They do things like take recorded statements from witnesses and injured people before they know their rights, and get injured people to sign papers before the injured person knows what is at stake. Insurance companies ALWAYS want a recorded statement from a fall down injury victim, because they know they can destroy the injured person’s case with just a few of the wrong words.
Here are the Top Five Guaranteed Ways to Destroy Your Injury Case
1. Fall For What I Call the “Good Cop–Tell Me All About It” Routine. This is when the insurance adjuster acts like he is she really cares about you, your injuries, and your financial needs, especially after a motor vehicle collision. They call you, tell you not to worry about the medical bills, that “everything will be taken care of.” Be aware, they are doing this so that you open up, let your guard down, and provide them with a recorded statement, or sign away your rights on paperwork they send you to sign. Once the insurance adjuster uses the skills he or she has in getting the RIGHT kind of answers out of you (RIGHT for the insurance company, but WRONG for you and any chance of getting a fair recovery) and once the Medical Payments coverage is exhausted, their attitude changes. They got what they wanted, and now, you cannot get a return call or any help whatsoever.
2. Give a Recorded Statement. Every insurance adjuster out there is trained by insurance company lawyers about WHAT questions to ask, and more importantly, HOW to ask them to get the answers they need to defeat your claim. That’s why the ONLY time I allow one of my clients to give a statement is when they are in my office and being represented and advised by me.
3. Sign the paperwork . This sounds like a horror story out of a book. And it is so underhanded and rotten, I can barely believe it myself. But early in my career, I was contacted by an elderly gentleman who could not read too well. He got hurt in an accident. The Insurance company told him “sign these papers we send you and we will send you $1,000.00 for your pain and we will pay all of your doctor bills.” Guess what? He got the $1,000, but because he could not read too well, he did not realize that notwithstanding the promise to pay the doctor bills he was told on the telephone, he signed away his rights forever. Even highly educated people’s eye glaze over when an insurance company sends them a document with teeny tiny print using legal mumbo jumbo. But that “legalese” can kill your chance at fair compensation.
4. Tough it our and don’t see a doctor (or see a doctor 3 months after the accident) . When a seriously injured person fails to be seen by a doctor after an injury, it is like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Eve all rolled into one for an insurance company. They love it. Now, you and I know that MOST people do not like going to a doctor, and MOST people put it off until they just cannot stand it anymore. But, when someone tries to explain that at trial, juries are skeptical. They think “this guy is asking for money for his injuries–how bad could the pain have been if he waited a month to see a doctor?”– EVEN WHEN THEY THEMSELVES HAVE PUT OFF SEEING A DOCTOR FOR MONTHS OR EVEN YEARS FOR THEIR OWN MEDICAL CONDITIONS.
5. Try to Hide a Prior Medical Condition, Old Accident (or Lie About Anything, Really). When I was a young lawyer, I heard stories about lawyers who told their clients to keep old injuries a secret, or to try to suppress they fact that they had a car accident before. Aside from the fact that this is completely unethical, a lawyer can lose his license for suggesting this, and a client can lost their case, it is just plain stupid to try to do this. We live in the computer age. Believe me, there are databases that track everything about you, including prior accidents, prior medical treatment, you name it. You are just asking for trouble. I always advise my client to tell the whole truth. As Benjamin Franklin said: If you always tell the truth, you do not have to remember anything.
Obviously, these are just the top five–I see many, many more mistakes made in injury and accident cases all the time, but the above five are probably the most common.
The best way to level the playing field and ensure that your rights or the rights of a loved are protected are to order my Special Injury Report and Audio CD, to arm yourself with the knowledge you need to protect your rights. And consider hiring a skilled, aggressive, and ethical personal injury lawyer. Insurance companies hate it when a good lawyer gets involved in the case, because they know the shenanigans stop, and the injured person then has their best chance at fair compensation–the very thing the insurance company goes to great lengths to avoid.
I hope that this information has been helpful to you. If you have any questions or would like to consult with me about handling your case, you can contact me HERE.
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