Slip and fall accidents are amongst the most common causes of personal injury claims in Minnesota, and can leave victims with physical pain, emotional trauma, skyrocketing medical bills and lost wages.
Slip and falls and trip and falls occur when someone loses their footing due to an unexpected hazard on the ground such as water, ice, snow, oil spills, broken stairs or curbside obstacles. They can lead to a variety of injuries, from slight abrasions or bruises to more serious traumas such as broken bones or TBIs (traumatic brain injuries). It is also possible for victims of slip and falls to suffer psychological trauma after experiencing a fall due to the fall itself, and due to the severe injuries sustained.
Being aware of what your rights are and how to handle the aftermath of a slip and fall is important to the success of your claim. Hiring an attorney to represent you and negotiate on your behalf with the insurance companies can help ensure you get the compensation that you deserve after your slip and fall accident.
How to Determine Liability in a Slip and Fall Accident
When determining liability in a slip and fall accident, there are several factors to consider.
Property Ownership and Duty to Keep the Property In a Reasonably Safe Condition
Property owners have a duty of care to maintain their premises in reasonably safe condition for those who visit the property. If a property owner fails to do so, they may be liable for any resulting injuries.
Property owners should routinely inspect their premises to ensure it is safe for entrants. If any dangerous or hazardous conditions exist, the property owner should take steps to remedy the hazard or provide a warning of the hazard. These actions include, but are not limited to:
- Removing or cleaning hazards such as spills that cause slippery floors or icy patches;
- Repairing structural defects like loose railings, uneven steps, or broken stairs;
- Ensuring proper lighting exists throughout the area where people routinely walk.
If a property breaches their duties by failing to take these reasonable steps, and an individual is injured due to an unsafe condition on the property, they can be held liable under Minnesota law.
Open and Obvious Defense
Slip and falls and trip and fall claims can be very difficult to be successful on in Minnesota due to a defense that is afforded to the property owner. This defense is called the “open and obvious” defense. This defense is a complete and full defense to slip and fall or trip and fall claims. It provides that if a hazard or dangerous condition was “open and obvious” to an ordinary or reasonable person in the injured person’s shoes, then the property owner had no duty to remedy or warn of that dangerous condition.
An experienced personal injury attorney will try to overcome this defense by showing that conditions existed at the time of the fall that concealed or hid the dangerous or hazardous condition, making it so it was not “open and obvious.” For example, if it was dark out or there was no lighting in the area of the fall, then it can be argued that the hazard was not “open and obvious.” For icy patches, if they are covered by a dusting of snow, then it again be argued that the hazard was not “open and obvious.” Whether or not the “open and obvious” defense will apply will depend on the specific facts of the case.
How to File a Claim After a Slip and Fall Accident
Filing a claim after a slip and fall accident is an important step in seeking compensation for any injuries sustained. In order to do so, your lawyer must put the property owner and the insurance company on notice of your intent to pursue a claim resulting from the injury. The insurance company will then investigate the claim and make a determination as to fault or liability. As you are going through the claims process, there are a few key steps that should be followed to give your claim the best chance of success:
- Step 1: Gather Evidence. After experiencing a slip and fall accident, it’s important to collect evidence from the scene of the accident as soon as possible. This includes taking pictures or videos of the area where you fell, including any hazards that may have caused your injury such as broken stairs or slippery surfaces. Collect information, such as name and contact information, from bystanders or witnesses who were present at the time of your accident. They may prove to be valuable as potential witnesses at a later date, if necessary.
- Step 2: Seek Medical Treatment. If you are injured as a result of your fall, you should make sure to seek appropriate medical care and follow all of your doctor’s recommendations.
- Step 3: Document the Incident. Keeping track of all medical records related to your injury is also important when filing a claim after a slip and fall accident. This includes doctor’s notes, hospital bills, and physical therapy costs. Be sure to also keep copies of documents related to these expenses for use during negotiations with insurance companies or other entities involved in settling your case.
How to Negotiate with Insurance Companies After a Slip and Fall Accident
Negotiating with insurance companies after a slip and fall accident can be an intimidating process. It’s important to understand the basics of how the process works, so you are able to collect the compensation you rightfully deserve. The “knee-jerk” reaction of most insurance companies is to deny fault or liability on slip and fall and trip and fall claims based on the “open and obvious” defense discussed above. In cases where they have denied liability, your only option to try to obtain compensation is by starting a lawsuit if your personal injury lawyer believes there to be a sufficient factual and legal basis to do so. In some situations, however, the insurance company may be willing to negotiate with you prior to having to start a lawsuit.
During negotiations, doing the following will give you the best chance of successful negotiations:
- Be clear in your factual and legal basis for why the property owner was at fault for causing the accident;
- Provide evidence such as photos or videos from the scene of the accident;
- Provide comprehensive medical documentation regarding the nature and extent of your injuries;
- If you have lost wages, provide detailed records of the amounts you have lost;
- Provide a summary to the insurance company of how the accident and the injuries have affected your life.
How to Hire the Right Attorney to Handle Your Slip and Fall Case
If the negotiation process feels difficult or complex, you may want to consider hiring an experienced personal injury attorney who is experienced in handling slip and fall cases. An attorney can help protect your rights during settlement talks and ensure that any agreement reached is fair for both parties involved. An attorney can also provide you with options for how to proceed, whether through negotiations, or having to start a lawsuit against those responsible for your injury.
When seeking out a personal injury lawyer, it’s important to work with someone who handles personal injury claims and has experience with slip and fall cases. You can do this by:
- Looking into their background and credentials; and
- Check out online reviews from past clients to get an idea of how satisfied people were with their services.
You can also talk to the attorney to try to get a feel for their experience and how they operate During this process, it can be smart to inquire about:
- Their experience handling slip and fall cases like yours;
- What strategies they would use when negotiating with insurance companies on your behalf;
- How they communicate with clients and keep them updated about the process.
You should also ask about how it works with their fees. Personal injury attorneys typically work on a “contingency fee.” This means that you do not pay them by the hour or a flat amount, but rather they only have fees if they get a recovery for you. Their fee will then be a percentage, usually 33 1/3%, of any amount recovered on your behalf.
Common FAQs Related to Slip and Fall Accidents
How many accidents are caused by slips, trips, and falls?
Slips, trips and falls are one of the leading causes of accidents in Minnesota. The CDC reported that in 2017, slips, trips and falls were responsible for more than 800,000 emergency room visits nationwide. In Minnesota, over 15% of non-fatal traumas were due to slips, trips and falls.
What causes the majority of slip-and-fall accidents?
Slip and fall accidents are most commonly caused by hazardous conditions on a property, such as wet or icy surfaces, uneven walkways, objects left in pathways, inadequate lighting, or poor maintenance. Poorly maintained stairs can also be a cause of slip and fall accidents. Property owners must keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition for those who are entered upon it. Failure to do so can result in liability for any injuries that occur.
What is the statute of limitations for slip and fall accidents in Minnesota?
In Minnesota, the statute of limitations for claims based on negligence is six years. This means that a person must file their claim within this time frame or risk losing their right to seek compensation. What exact statute of limitation will apply in your case will depend on the specific facts of the case, and the exact theory of liability. Because of this, it is important that you speak with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after the accident so that your rights are protected.
What types of damages are available in slip and fall cases?
There are generally 3 types of damages that can be recovered in slip and fall cases:
- Past and future medical expenses;
- Past and future wage loss and loss of earning capacity; and
- Past and future pain, suffering, and emotional distress.
Contact Nelson Personal Injury Law Firm to Discuss the Circumstances Surrounding Your Slip and Fall Accident
Slip and fall accidents can have serious – and long-lasting – consequences, which is why it’s so important to seek legal advice if you are injured in such an accident. A qualified and experienced personal injury lawyer can help you obtain the compensation you are entitled to for the injuries you sustained. What’s more, an attorney can investigate the incident, negotiate with insurers on your behalf, and represent you in court if needed. Just keep in mind that time is often of the essence, as gathering evidence and investigating the case in a timely manner can be the difference between having a potential claim to pursue or not having a claim.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a slip and fall accident, contact the professionals at Nelson Personal Injury. Our experienced attorneys are dedicated to providing the best legal representation possible to residents across the state of Minnesota.