While most slip-and-fall incidents occur at a place of business (grocery stores, gas stations, city parks, etc.), slip-and-fall accidents can occur anywhere. If you slip and fall at a private residence, you may have a claim against the homeowner for damages. Most slip-and-fall injuries in New York fall under premises liability laws.
A property owner or occupier is generally liable for accident's caused by negligence. If the owner or renter did not meet their duty to provide a safe environment for you, they may be liable for damages. A slip-and-fall personal injury lawsuit will allow you to recover damages, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
For example, if you going to a co-worker's house for dinner and as you are walking across the porch, you step on a rotten board, fall through the broken wood, and suffer an injury, you may have a claim against the co-worker if he or she knew the board was rotten and was a danger.
Even if you think the property owner does not have enough assets to cover your damages, homeowner's insurance generally provides coverage for slip-and-fall accidents on the homeowner's property. If you have fallen and injured yourself in someone else's home, you should take measures immediately to document your damages, seek medical treatment, and contact a slip-and-fall attorney to make sure you protect your claim.
Document Damages and Seek Medical Treatment
Even if you do not know yet whether the homeowner is responsible for your injury, you should take steps to document your slip-and-fall injury and seek medical treatment. This may include notifying the property owner of your injuries. If it is possible to take or obtain photos of the area where you fell, showing the condition that caused you to fall, that could be very helpful for your case. However, the conditions that caused the accident, such as a spill or broken board, is often cleaned up or remedied immediately after the fall.
Take Photos of Your Injuries
The first step is to seek medical attention if you are injured. When possible, you should take photos and document your injuries, to both your body and personal property if any property was damaged. Schedule and make your appointments and keep records and receipts of expenses you incur (co-pays, prescriptions, medical supplies, etc.) while treating your injuries.
If you have a claim against the homeowner, which will likely be handled by his or her homeowner's insurance company, you will want detailed evidence of your damages so you can recover everything you are entitled to from the insurance company.
Is the Homeowner Responsible For Your Injury?
Determining whether the property owner is responsible for your injury will depend on several factors surrounding the situation that caused you to fall. Generally, liability is based on whether the homeowner was aware or should have been aware of the dangerous conditions.
If there was a condition on the property that the homeowner was aware of, such as the rotten board in the example above, the homeowner has a responsibility to fix the hazard or warn others about the danger. When the property owner first becomes aware of the danger, he or she should take measures to warn against the danger, such as blocking block off the area or otherwise protect people from injury. The homeowner should then take measures to fix the danger, such as replacing the rotten wood.
When the Homeowner May Be Considered Responsible
Generally, whether the homeowner will be responsible for your injury will depend on the following factors:
- Whether the homeowner caused the spill or otherwise dangerous condition;
- Whether the homeowner knew of the dangerous condition but did nothing about it; or
- Whether the homeowner should have known of the dangerous condition because a reasonable person taking care of the property would have discovered, repaired, cleaned, or otherwise remedied it.
When You May Also Be Considered Partially Responsible
New York is known as a comparative negligence state. This means that if the injury victim is partially to blame for the accident, your damages may be reduced based on your level of fault. The homeowner may try to put some of the blame on you—arguing, for example, that you walked into an area where visitors typically would not go, or that you were not paying attention, or you weren't wearing appropriate footwear, etc. If the homeowner is successful in this argument, your recovery could be reduced.
For instance, if a jury finds you were 30% responsible for your injury, the amount you are entitled to recover would be reduced by 30%. Talk to your New York personal injury attorney about how to fight against these claims to make sure you recover the full amount you are entitled to.
Filing a Claim With the Homeowner's Insurance Company
If the homeowner responsible for your injuries is insured, you may have to file a claim with his or her homeowner's insurance company. Some people hesitate to file a claim against a friend, family member, or co-worker because you “feel like you are suing your neighbor.” However, this is the reason for carrying liability insurance to compensate you for injuries that were caused by someone else. It will generally be the insurance company, not your neighbor, who will pay for your damages if the claim is successful.
Contact an Experienced Slip-and-Fall Attorney
The best thing you can do to make sure you protect your slip-and-fall claim and recover everything you are entitled to from the insurance company is to contact a personal injury attorney experienced with slip-and-fall cases. The insurance company may try and get you to say something that will hurt your case. Talk to an attorney and let your attorney talk to the insurance company.
The insurance company will begin gathering evidence immediately and may try to get information from you or others that will allow them to deny or underpay your claim. It is in your best interest to bring in an experienced injury attorney to protect your rights to a full recovery. What you do not know about slip-and-fall claims and the actions you take in handling the claim on your own could work against you. A perfect example of this is the applicable New York statute of limitations on slip-and-fall cases.
Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is basically a deadline to file your slip-and-fall claim. If you miss the deadline, you lose your right to pursue your claim. In New York, the deadline for slip and fall cases is three years, and it begins to run from the date of the incident (the day you fell and injured yourself). While three years may seem like a long time, often most accident victims are consumed initially with treating the injury that has turned their lives upside down.
You are dealing with medical bills and appointments, trying to get back to work and get your life back to normal. It may be months before the thought of filing a slip-and-fall claim crosses your mind and, when you do, the homeowner's insurance company will also spend a good bit of time handling, and perhaps trying to delay, your claim. While time is passing you may not know that your right to sue for your injuries is ticking away.
If you have been injured in a slip-and-fall accident, contact the attorneys at the Law Office of Frederic R. Abramson as soon as possible to ensure this does not happen to you and that your rights are protected.