Each time you leave your own property and enter someone else’s, you are entrusting the property owner with your safety and assuming that they have upheld their duty of care by properly maintaining the area. You have every right to expect that your visit will be safe from hazardous conditions each time you legally enter private property, public property, commercial property, or government property, as well as when you travel on municipal walkways and sidewalks. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and there are many instances across the country each day when someone is injured on someone else’s property due to an avoidable or correctable hazard that the property owner failed to properly warn them about.
The expectation that a property owner will properly maintain their property—and clearly warn visitors of ongoing hazards—is known as premise liability, and failure to do so can lead to serious consequences for the owner (or, in certain situations the party contractually responsible for maintaining the conditions on someone else’s property). Regardless of who, specifically, takes on the liability for the property, the only thing that matters to you is that you are safe in your visit, and if you are injured due to a hazard, that there is legal recourse for you to recover compensation. Balkin & Mausner Injury Lawyers LLP is here to help.
Contact Balkin & Mausner Injury Lawyers LLP For a Free Consultation Today
The team at Balkin & Mausner Injury Lawyers LLP is here to help after a slip and fall accident. We understand that this is a difficult time in your life, especially as your medical bills mount, your injuries keep you from living your life the way you could before, and your lost wages begin to threaten serious economic problems for you and your family. Working with a slip and fall attorney is one of the best ways to reduce your stress about this situation, focus on your recovery, and let a legal professional fight for your rights and fair compensation.
Read more below to get a better idea about what to expect for the legal process following a slip and fall accident, and contact our law firm as soon as possible to connect with an experienced slip and fall lawyer to get the legal support that you deserve through this difficult time. Trying to work directly with property owners or their representative insurance companies on your own is stressful and discouraging, which is why it is recommended that you hire an attorney after a slip and fall.
What Is a Slip and Fall Accident?
To understand the situation, it is important that we first discuss the specifics of what a slip and fall accident actually is. Simply put, “slip and fall” is a term used for any accident where someone slips, trips, and falls on someone else’s property, which is a tort and triggers a premise liability claim. Since this is a tort, it provides a legal framework for the victim to seek monetary compensation from the responsible party, which is typically the property owner, but may also be a third party that leases the property for commercial purposes, or is contracted to handle all maintenance, and therefore assumes liability for any failures to do so.
Common slip and fall accidents include the following:
- Wet floors
- Uneven walkways or surfaces
- Folded carpeting
- Recently mopped floors
- Code violations
- Broken stair treads or handrails
- Messy floors
Of course, the list above is only a limited collection of the many different ways that someone can slip or trip and be injured in a fall. Whether or not your slip and fall accident is provided in the examples above, contact our firm now for your free initial consultation so that we can discuss the specifics of your accident, the extent of your injuries, the impact that this unfortunate situation has had on your life, and how we can help.
Understanding a Property Owners’ Duty of Care
One of the most important terms in any personal injury case is the “duty of care,” which is the legal term for the obligation that a defendant has to the plaintiff to keep them safe from harm. Doctors have a duty of care to their patients, bus drivers have a duty of care to their passengers, and property owners have a duty of care to their visitors. Depending on the type of property and ownership arrangement, different parties may have different duties of care.
Private or Residential Property Duty of Care
To hold a private property owner or landlord accountable for a slip and fall, we will need to prove that the owner was responsible for the condition that caused your accident, that repairing the issue was not unrealistic or unreasonable, that the conditions were obviously dangerous and that they failed to do so.
For example, if you enter someone else’s property legally and there is a hole in the floor too their basement that you fall through, we will need to prove that they were aware of the hazard and responsible for fixing it, chose not to repair or properly warn you of it, and you were injured as a result. However, according to 740 ILCS 130 – Premise Liability Act, you are not entitled to any compensation if you were trespassing.
Commercial Property Duty of Care
On commercial property, we will need to prove similar conditions to on private property. Namely that the owner, operator, or employee of the commercial space either caused the hazard or knowingly failed to address a hazard. However, simply claiming ignorance of the hazard will not exonerate the responsible party, as in this case we will need to prove that any reasonable person should have been aware of the hazard.
The ubiquitous “wet floor” sign that we see at the front of bathrooms or in grocery store aisles is set out to warn visitors of a potential hazard, but if an employee were to clean a bathroom and not warn you of the wet tiles, and you were injured as a result, this is a likely situation that will easily be recognized as a tort.
Government Property Duty of Care
Slipping and falling on government property is a complicated and often frustrating situation due to special rules that may grant immunity to the responsible government entity or agency. Contact us as soon as possible to speak with a slip and fall lawyer if you have had an accident on government property so that you can learn more about your situation and understand how we can help you move forward with this confusing situation.
Seeking Compensation for a Slip-and-Fall Injury
There is a range of factors that will determine the path forward for seeking compensation after your personal injury, but often we will file a claim with some sort of property insurance, either homeowners’ insurance or a commercial property insurance policy. Insurance companies have decades of experience handling claims of all sorts, including slip and fall accidents, and focus almost entirely on limiting settlement amounts to save as much money as possible. Essentially, an insurance company’s business model is paying as little as possible for any given claim, and yours will be no different.
The Claims Investigation Process
The first step will be to initiate a claim with the insurance company, at which point they will assign an adjuster to your case to investigate the situation. Ostensibly, this step in the case is to determine how much you deserve for a settlement, but the reality is that the adjuster is looking for every possible way to limit the amount you ultimately receive. Fortunately, your attorney for slips and falls will be performing their own investigation at this time in order to discover the true extent of your damages.
During this process, it is likely that you will need to go through an independent medical exam with a physician contracted by the insurance company to examine your injuries, in addition to many more steps that your attorney can take on for you. During this time, an insurance company will typically request many documents and statements from the victim which will then be picked over to identify any technicality that could lead to a reduction in a settlement amount, but since you have an experienced attorney representing your case you can use this time to focus on your recovery without the added stress.
Initial Settlement Offer
Once the insurance adjuster concludes their investigation, you will receive an initial settlement offer from the insurance company that consists of a one-time payment. To receive this payment, you will need to sign a waiver that resolves your case and blocks you from any future legal action against the insurance company or their client for anything related to this accident.
The reality of this offer is that it is far less than what you deserve, and insurance companies rely on the stress and financial panic that a victim is likely enduring at this point to convince them that it is the best they can do, and that they need to take the cash to alleviate their anxiety. However, when you have an attorney from Balkin & Mausner Injury Lawyers LLP representing your case this is simply the first step in a long series of negotiations intended to get you the money that you actually deserve.
Negotiations and the Statute of Limitations
Once negotiations begin, you and your attorney will need to discuss your options for a variety of things including the amount that you are comfortable settling with, and when you may want to move forward filing a lawsuit in the Illinois courts. There is a two-year statute of limitations for slip and fall accidents in Chicago, meaning that you will have 24 months from the date of the accident to either settle your case or file a lawsuit. This does not mean that your attorney will necessarily spend the entire two years negotiating, though.
If it seems like negotiations may not end successfully, or if your attorney believes that you have a chance of being awarded additional punitive damages from a judge or jury, there may be more motivation to go directly to the courts. However, an out-of-court settlement is often favorable for both the victim and the responsible party, since it saves time, money, and the details of the accident (such as the hazard and the settlement amount) does not need to be publicly disclosed.
Damages and Compensation
At the center of your case is the question of compensation: how much are you entitled to, and how much is a reasonable amount to accept as a settlement? The insurance company will go to great lengths to diminish the severity of your slip and fall injuries, attempt to place fault on you in order to reduce the amount through the comparative negligence rule, stall negotiations in order to increase the financial stress on you so that you feel more pressure to settle at a lower amount, among other tried-and-true tactics. The attorney representing your case will see through these tactics, and will be able to fight on your behalf for a fair amount.
Personal injury damages are known as compensatory damages in a slip and fall case, and are broken into two distinct areas: economic damages, and non-economic damages. While both are equally important, they seek compensation for two very different types of actual damages that you suffer following an accident and injury.
Economic damages are the most obvious damages of your slip and fall case, because they seek compensation for anything with a measurable dollar value associated with it. This includes things like all of your medical care, such as hospital bills, doctor’s office copayments, medications, surgeries, ambulances, and more.
In addition to your medical-related damages, economic damages also seek compensation for all of your income- and job-related losses, including time missed at work. You will be able to seek compensation for any paid time off or vacation days used to compensate for time away, as well as any reductions to your earning capacity and even long-term disability if your injuries have a long-term impact on your life.
Non-economic damages are more complicated, but are just as important in your slip and fall case. They seek compensation for more abstract things, such as the pain and suffering that you endure from an injury, as well as the emotional impact that your accident has had. Depression, anxiety, and fear are all valid and important non-economic damages that your attorney will quantify for you and seek from the insurance company after your slip and fall.
There are many different ways that an attorney will quantify the value of non-economic damages in your case, but your slip and fall lawyer will choose the appropriate method for your accident in order to seek the maximum amount of compensation. Any injury that you suffer, whether physical, emotional, or psychological, deserves to be represented and compensated following a slip and fall accident.
Frequently Asked Questions About Slip and Fall Accidents
The following are just a few of the most common questions that our team is happy to answer during our initial consultation, and work to expand upon throughout the case. Keep in mind that these questions and answers are meant to provide you with a general idea about your own situation, and are not meant to be taken as legal advice.
Are property owners always liable for a slip and fall on their property?
In many cases property owners are the ones that assume liability for injuries on their property, but there are instances when a business such as a retail store assumes responsibility for the conditions of the building and their store. We will help you identify the responsible party for your slip and fall accident, and will then pursue compensation from them or their insurance company on your behalf.
How long do slip and fall accidents take to resolve?
There is no set length of time that it takes to settle slip and fall accidents, but one thing to keep in mind is that there is a two year statute of limitations in Illinois for these types of claims. Once the statute has expired two years after the accident you will have no legal recourse, so it is important that you act quickly. The sooner you hire an attorney, the more time that will have to negotiate a settlement as quickly as possible.
How much is my slip and fall case worth?
To determine how much you are entitled to after a slip and fall, we will need to look closely at the impacts to your earnings, the cost of your medical care, and the severity of your non-economic damages such as your pain and suffering and more. Working with an attorney early is one of the best ways to get a clear understanding of what you are entitled to.
Will my slip and fall claim need to go to trial?
There is no guarantee that your slip and fall case will avoid trial, but in some estimates as few as 5% of all personal injury claims go to trial, and roughly 50% of all personal injuries are settled before a lawsuit is ever filed.