Slip and fall accidents cover injuries suffered on someone else’s property. It can be from slipping on a defective step or carpet, suffering an injury at a residential pool or being bitten by the family dog. In most instances, the homeowner will have homeowner’s insurance, especially if there is still a mortgage on the residence.
Responsibility of the Homeowner
A homeowner has certain legal obligations to persons or guests invited onto the property. These guests are referred to as licensees but also include meter readers, law enforcement officers or firefighters who are on your property for professional or safety reasons.
Homeowners have a duty to use reasonable care in keeping their homes and property free from hazards or unreasonably dangerous conditions. While they do not have to conduct periodic inspections of their property, they do have to repair or eliminate unreasonably dangerous conditions or to warn licensees of the danger if it is not obvious or easily observable by an ordinary person.
Common examples of slip and falls on residential property include:
- Dog attacks or a dog knocks down an elderly person or child and severely injures them
- Slip and falls from poorly placed carpets or carpets that are torn or frayed on the ends
- Lack of handrails on stairs or broken rails
- Cracks or holes in steps
- Height of the steps vary or are not of sufficient height per building code
- Foreign objects on stairs
- Slippery surfaces
- Contaminated swimming pool water
- Ice or snow that was not cleared or made less slippery
- Poor lighting that led to a slip
You do have to prove negligence on the part of the homeowner. The condition that caused the fall or incident must have been one that was unreasonably dangerous and not so obvious to an ordinary person. Dog attacks, however, are based on strict liability so that all you need prove is that the dog was owned by the homeowner, that it attacked you and you suffered damages.
Most homeowners have liability policies covering them for claims regarding accidents that occur on their property. If you are injured, you need to find the name of the insurer from the homeowner. If he or she refuses, your premises liability lawyer can ask for it. The homeowner should reveal the name since the defense costs are covered under the policy and any compensation paid is from the insurer. If not, a lawsuit will have to be filed to force disclosure.
If you sustained a slip and fall accident, take photos of the hazardous area where it occurred or video from your phone if available. It may be difficult to prove negligence unless you have concurrent photographic evidence of the defective stair or carpet, foreign object, icy pathway or other dangerous condition. Eyewitness testimony from neutral witnesses is also valuable such as from other guests who were present at the time. For example, was the hazard obvious or had it existed for a long time without being repaired or eliminated by the homeowner?
- Medical Payments
Most homeowner’s policies have medical pay coverage of $5000 or up to $10,000 and is recoverable regardless of fault. Payment does not signify acceptance of liability by the insurer.
- Comparative negligence
Often, an insurer in a slip and fall case will allege that your own negligence caused the fall or that it was a contributing factor. For instance, was the hazard so open and obvious that a reasonably cautious person would have seen it or were you so intoxicated at the time and slipped and fell because you were impaired?
Massachusetts is a modified comparative liability state so that your own alleged negligence must not be more than 50% or you will not recover any compensation. Your own degree of causal responsibility, if any, is also subtracted from the total award. For instance, if you were found 40% at fault, then an award of $100,000 would be reduced to $60,000. You can be 50% at fault under this system and recover half of the award.
- Value of the claim
The value of any personal injury claim is based on the nature and extent of the damages and whether liability has been proved. It may take an expert to confirm that a hazardous condition existed or that it violated local or state building codes or other local or state standards. Medical records and testimony is also needed to show the extent of your injuries, what activities you are temporarily or permanently restricted from engaging in or if you are permanently injured or future care is needed.
Your damages in a premises liability case include:
- Past and future medical care costs
- Past and future wage losses
- Loss of quality of life
- Emotional trauma
- Pain and suffering
- Spousal claim for loss of consortium
Retain Premises Liability Attorney Paul Tetzel
Slip and fall cases on residential property are often difficult cases to prove. If you bring a claim, the homeowner’s insurer will want a statement from you that you should politely decline to give before you have legal representation. In many instances, unwary injury victims have seriously jeopardized their claims by making statements that have undermined their injuries or cast doubt on the homeowner’s liability.
Immediately contact premises liability lawyer Paul Tetzel of Boston. His fees are contingent on your receiving a settlement or verdict. Call his office today for an in-depth and free consultation regarding your injury claim.