Slip and falls are a common occurrence with thousands of claims made each year in North Carolina. The injuries sustained from a fall can be as serious, or life-altering as any car accident. Unlike a car accident which is investigated by an independent police force a slip and fall usually occurs on private property. The first investigation is the done by the property owner (or business owner) and their insurance company. Many times the injured party is not in a possession to take photographs or gather witness information.
This article was written to help people understand what they should do to protect themselves following a sip and fall. NC law is very complex and takes into account the aws of negligence, contributory negligence and damages. In many cases the plaintiff must prove what the defendant knew or should have known prior to the fall. We always recommend to consult a Charlotte slip and fall lawyer to determine whether you are owed damages for the negligence of a property or business owner.
Our slip and fall personal injury attorneys can help you understand the law. We will explain all of the factors in your cases including but not limited to previous complaints about an existing hazard, determining negligence of a business or property owner, and determining negligence, if any, of the individual injured. These are only a few of the factors that a personal injury firm will analyze when investigating your case.
In NC a property owner has a legal obligation to keep their property in a safe condition for those invited onto the property. Many times property owners can let their property fall into disrepair. If it can be proven that a property owner was negligent and knew or should have known about the dangerous or defective condition that caused a slip and fall, you may be compensated for your injuries.
In NC there are several types of slip and fall accident including liquids on the surface, unlit stairwells, uneven sidewalks, holes, and unobstructed objects to name a few.
Every slip and fall accident is unique so, it is to your benefit to hire an experienced slip and fall lawyer.
Owners are given a reasonable amount of time to clean up any liquids on the ground. The question of reasonableness also depends on the situation. Many falls occur in a grocery store where there are numerous people coming and going. In that type of situation the property owner should be more vigilant about making sure the aisles are safe as compared to a less visted establishment.
If it can be proven that that liquid on the ground accumenlated over a long period of time the property owner may be liable for your slip and fall accident. For example:
If ice is used to keep a product cold but falls on the ground and melts it becomes a hazard; or
If there is a restaurant inside the store liquids can accumulate near the garbage can thereby becoming a hazard.
This is the legal and factual question of every slip and fall case. You can start examining this by asking did the property owner use their common sense? Was there something the property owner knew or should have known was dangerous? Did the property owner use reasonable care to keep the property safe?
If the property owner can show that they have been careful in their efforts to keep the property safe and clean, they most likely have shown reasonable care. When we meet with our clients for the first time we ask some initial questions to help determine if a property or business owner may be liable for your injuries:
- What did you trip over or slip on? Did you observe the hazard prior to the fall. If so, was the dangerous condition in place long enough so the owner “should have known” about it? Did anyone tell that that an accident happened there before?
- Are you aware of a schedule for regular maintenance and cleaning or repairing of the premises? Who told you this and what proof does the owner have of this regular maintenance?
- If you tripped over or slipped on an object someone placed or left on the ground do you have any evidence regarding how long it was there for or how it got there? Do you know if the object was in plalce long enough for the owner to discover its existence?Could the object have been removed or covered or otherwise made safe?
- Was there any type of a barrier or warning of a potential danger?
- Did poor or broken lighting contribute to the accident?
If after reading through these questions you answered yes to one or more of these questions you may have a claim for compensation. However, if it can be shown that your actions contributed to your accident you may be unable to receive any compensation.
After a fall you and your loved ones have a lot on their mind. If possible however, we recommend the following:
- Take photographs of the scene where the fall took place. This may be the only to to capture the location before it “made safe” by the owner. Also take photos of your clothing, shoes and any bruising, cuts, scrapes. Documentation of your injury is always important to getting you full compensation.
- If someone approaches you after a fall and claims to have witnessed the incident get their name, address and telephone number.
- If you fall in a retail establishment it is very important to create an incident report. Tpyically the manager will have a procudre he or she must follow to record information after an injury. Request a copy of the report for your records. Also take down the names of all employees you dealt with after the fall.
- Video Survalience is common in many retail establishments now. Request that if there is any video of the fall that it be preserved and if possible a copy given to you.
If you are unable to procure the above items one of our attorneys will do so. The sooner we are able to begin investigating the sooner we can gather evidence before it is lost. Many times employees are willing to be honest if asked direct questions. However, as time moves forward memories fade and could be lost. Photos of your injuries are also very helpful. Although your medical records will document your injuries, photographs and statements will prove valuable before a jury.
A Rosensteel Fleishman we have handled many cases where people have fallen down stairs.
Property owners have the responsibility to make sure all steps have the same rise and depth, with visible edges. Also, stairs must be kept free of debris or other obstacles, which could cause an accident.
A common accident occurs when the stairwell is dimly lit and there is debris on the stairwell.
For hold a property owner legally liable (or responsible) for your injuries, one of the following must be true:
- The owner of the premises or an employee must have caused a spill or other dangerous condition and failed to make it safe.
- The owner of the premises or an employee must have known of the dangerous condition and failed to make it safe.
- The owner of the premises or an employee “should have known” a dangerous condition was present and failed to make it safe.
Since trying to prove what someone knew or should have know is very difficult many cases are proven via circumstantial evidence. This is why it is crucial to begin investigating your case before any evidence is lost.