A simple fall can lead to complicated injuries. Sometimes, these injuries are not apparent until days, weeks, or even months later. When a victim is injured in a slip, trip, or fall accident, she can find herself facing substantial expenses such as high medical bills and the expenses associated with a reduced capacity to perform everyday tasks during recovery. These bills can be quite expensive, and the stress of paying the bills is made worse by the victim’s absence from work due to the injury.
When a slip or fall could have been prevented had the owner of the property taken care to remove all hazardous conditions, the victim may seek compensation for his damages through a personal injury claim. Slip and fall claims involve premises liability—the responsibility of property owners to maintain safe conditions for authorized guests and business visitors.
What Causes Slip and Fall Accidents?
There are various hazards that can cause a victim to fall and become injured. These include:
- Uneven pavement or flooring
- Unsecured carpets
- Slippery floors
- Wet leaves
- Snow and ice accumulation
- Unsecured wires
- Broken stairs or sidewalks
- Unsecured handrails
- Concealed hazards, such as holes in the ground
When a property owner cannot remove a hazard as soon as she becomes aware of its existence, she has the responsibility to warn potential injury victims about the hazard. This can be done with clear signage, yellow caution tape, or orange cones surrounding the area.
How Can I Be Injured in a Slip or Fall?
A slip and fall victim can suffer numerous types of injury. The victim’s overall fitness level, the height from which he falls, and the area of his body that collides with the ground or another object are all determining factors in the type and severity of the injury. A few examples of injuries that can result from a fall include:
- Head trauma
- Broken bones
- Tissue damage
These injuries can lead to complications that cause the victim to suffer greater damages. For example, head trauma can result in a traumatic brain injury, which can cause the victim to suffer confusion, personality changes, fatigue, and difficulty forming new memories. A cut can result in excessive bleeding that puts the victim at risk of hypovolemic shock. In some cases, injuries can lead to permanent disability.
Premises Liability in Slip and Fall Accidents
Premises liability involves the concept of a property owner’s “duty of care” to others on her property. It refers to the property owner’s responsibility to take reasonable care to remove hazards from the property that can potentially harm authorized visitors.
Individuals on a property are classified as invitees, licensees, or trespassers. A visitor’s category determines the duty of care that the property owner must exercise towards that visitor.
Invitees are individuals who are explicitly invited to the premises, often for a business purpose or the benefit of the property owner and the visitor. For example, shoppers who enter a store during business hours are invitees. A property owner must take care to warn invitees of any hidden dangers on the premises and take reasonable care to maintain safe conditions on the property to prevent injury to invitees.
Licensees are guests who enter a property with the property owner’s consent, but not for a specific business purpose. Generally, licensees are social guests. In most cases, the property owner is only liable for a licensee’s damages if the licensee is injured by her active negligence or willful misconduct. This means that the property owner has the duty to remove existing hazards from his property or warn licensees about these hazards when they cannot easily be removed.
Trespassers are individuals who are not authorized to enter a property. In most cases, property owners owe no duty of care to trespassers beyond refraining from acting in a wanton or intentionally harmful manner towards them. In most cases, trespassers cannot recover compensation for the damages they suffer in injuries from hazardous conditions on the properties they enter. However, when trespassers frequently enter a property where a known hazard poses a realistic threat to their safety, the property owner may be liable for any damages that occur involving that hazard. This includes circumstances where a feature on the property contains a concealed or hidden danger that can injure trespassers who are not familiar with the feature or its hazards.
Seeking Compensation for your Damages After a Slip or Fall
If you are injured in a slip or fall accident, you can seek compensation for the following damages:
- Your medical bills
- Your lost wages
- Any other expenses related to the injury, such as your need for in-home domestic aid as you recover
In Virginia, the statute of limitations for slip and fall accidents is two years from the date of the accident. Your lawyer can ensure that your claim is filed within this time frame. After your accident, seek medical attention for your injury as soon as possible. Worry about seeking compensation after you have received necessary treatment—your health and safety should always be the top priority.