For some people, slip/trip and fall accidents are merely annoying – you might feel embarrassed and uncomfortable from some cuts or black and blue marks, but otherwise you are fine. Not everyone is so lucky though. For others, especially the elderly, a slip/trip and fall can be a life-changing experience, leading to broken bones, back injuries, knee or ankle injuries, concussions or traumatic brain injuries. This could lead to lengthy stays at a hospital, nursing or rehabilitation center, surgeries and months of physical therapy. If you or a loved one suffered a severe injury from slipping and falling on a sidewalk, you may be wondering what recourse you have.
Slips/trips and falls on sidewalks can be extremely complex. These types of claims fall under the umbrella of premises liability. A landowner has a general duty to maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition. When making a claim for injuries suffered in a sidewalk-related fall, you must prove that there was a dangerous condition on the property that the owner either knew about or, in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known about and failed to correct or repair.
The first step for an attorney in handling a sidewalk fall case is to determine who is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk where the incident occurred. This can be done through conducting research on the property appraiser’s website and pulling maps and plots. In some cases, it could be the municipal government, or in other cases, an adjacent homeowner or business. A homeowner or business may be the responsible party even if the slip/trip and fall occurred on a city sidewalk. For example, if an adjacent homeowner had trees on their property and the roots were causing the sidewalk to become uneven, then the homeowner could be liable, in addition to the city. A skilled attorney who specializes in slip/trip and fall accidents needs to evaluate the specifics of your situation to determine which party to hold liable in your slip and fall.
If the municipal government is liable, your attorney will file a “notice of claim” with the appropriate government agencies. Claims against the government use a completely different process than claims against a private individual or company. The former only have a three-year statute of limitations and have restrictions on the maximum amount that an individual can collect for their injuries. While suit can be filed against a private entity or individual the day after an incident, with claims against the government, after filing the notice of claim, the government entity has six months to investigate the claim and either attempt to resolve it or deny it entirely before suit can be filed.
If an individual homeowner, business, or homeowners’ association is liable, there is a four-year statute of limitations. Your attorney will contact the responsible party and their insurance company to file a claim for the injury. You may be able to recover compensation for doctors’ bills, hospital bills, imaging/radiology bills, physical therapy, a home healthcare aide, prescriptions, and modifications to your home – such as installation of wheelchair ramps. You may also be entitled to compensation for lost wages, future lost wages, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.
After determining who is the party responsible for the sidewalk and your fall, it is important to determine how and why your fall happened. It is essential to have a qualified and competent person, an attorney or civil engineer, travel to the scene and document the condition of the sidewalk by taking numerous photographs and measurements. Pulling and reviewing the applicable codes, ordinances and statutes will also help determine if the sidewalk was negligently constructed or maintained. Your attorney should also immediately notify the landowner of the potential claim and demand that they preserve certain evidence, like maintenance records and even the sidewalk itself, for future inspection.
If you or a loved one were injured in a slip/trip and fall on a sidewalk, contact Cutler Rader as soon as you can. We will investigate the incident to see if either the municipality or an adjacent property owner is liable and, if so, we will vigorously pursue justice for you or your loved one.
Cutler Rader, P.L.
With over 75 years of combined experience, the attorneys at Cutler Rader understand the meaning of Justice. Our one and only mission is to get each client the justice he or she deserves; our team of attorneys never back down when we know our client is right.
We offer our clients the compassion and guidance they need as they work through trying times in their lives. The balance of working relentlessly for our clients combined with our caring approach has helped us achieve a fantastic record of success with our clients. We get our clients the justice they deserve.
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