Slip and fall accidents can happen anywhere, and the injuries sustained can be serious, costly, and even permanently change a person’s life. Conditions that result in a slip-and-fall accident vary—an icy walkway, a torn carpet, a broken step, a pothole—and can happen indoors or out. Though a negligence case may seem straightforward in this type of accident, there are three surprising facts about slip and fall accidents that can present a challenge to any individual seeking compensation for their injury.
The term “slip and fall” refers to a personal injury claim in which a person slips or trips and falls and is injured on someone else’s property. Slip and fall accidents are a form of negligence known as premises liability. As the name suggests, slip and fall accidents occur on-premises, on a property owned, operated or maintained by someone else in which the property owner may be held legally responsible.
1. Many Accidents Can Be Prevented
One surprising fact about slip and fall accidents is that most could have been prevented. Outside or inside, they result when properties are not maintained or kept up. Outside, inadequate lighting in a parking lot, driveway or walkway can lead to tripping over a curb, over cracks, holes, or uneven surfaces or falling on a step or stairs. Whether winter months, when ice and snow can accumulate or during the rainy season when puddles can form, such conditions can lead to slips and falls resulting in serious injuries. Inside, slippery floors, broken flooring, torn, worn, or bulging carpets or rugs or mats with curled edges, broken steps and waxed stairs, missing handrails can all result in a slip and fall accident that may lead to a personal injury claim.
Even if such an accident could have been prevented, you, the plaintiff, will have to prove owner negligence. The legal team representing the property owner’s insurance carrier will cast doubt on who was at fault for the accident. Though the cause of the accident may seem obvious, in Maine, a personal injury case can be subjected to a legal defense known as “comparative fault.” The concept presents a legal argument that assigns a percentage of the blame for an accident on the injured party. The plaintiff must be able to prove that they were less than 50 percent at fault to receive any compensation for the accident. The defense can shift responsibility from the property owner to you by arguing that you were 50 percent or more responsible for injuring yourself. In which case, you cannot collect any damages for your injury.
2. Slip and Fall Accidents Go to Trial More
This leads to another surprising fact about slip and fall accidents—unlike other personal injury claims, they go to trial more often than reaching an out-of-court settlement. Being able to prove that you didn’t cause the accident yourself, but also show that the owner created or knew of the condition and that it had existed for so long it should have been discovered and repaired by the owner is a challenge. The insurance company knows that. By going to court, the defense can prepare an argument that the injured party must bear some amount of blame for what happened. Doing so successfully can save the insurance company a significant portion of the settlement. If injured, you must be able to prove it was no fault of your own, and you should take action to prove it as soon as possible.
3. You Must Act Quickly to Pursue a Claim
Acting quickly is important for time is the third surprising fact about slip and fall accidents. There is only so much time available to pursue a claim. The Maine statute of limitations for slip and fall lawsuits gives you six years to turn to the state’s court system to resolve the case. The clock starts moving from the time and date of the accident. Even though that is a good amount of time, it can slip away. Dealing with recovery from an injury and then legal proceedings can take more time than you think. It is to your benefit to move forward with the case as quickly as you can.
If you are victim to a slip and fall accident due to a property owner’s negligence, contact Maine’s slip and fall attorneys, Hardy, Wolf & Downing for a free consultation. Hardy, Wolf & Downing’s experienced team of trial lawyers has won substantial settlements and verdicts for victims of property owner negligence for over 35 years. We will help you receive the just compensation you are entitled to.