A slip and fall accident is a general term which is often used to describe a variety of personal injury claims. Such claims occur when a person slips and/or falls on another person’s property because of some sort of dangerous condition that is present. There are numerous examples of what could constitute dangerous conditions.However, the most common examples include poor lighting and broken handrails to a staircase.
Slip and fall lawsuits are generally civil suits filed against a property owner for their neglect. This would fall under premises liability, which is a legal concept requiring that property owners be responsible for maintaining a relatively safe environment. An example of this would be an apartment complex owner ensuring that the unit balconies are properly maintained to avoid collapse. Negligence refers to the failure to take proper care in doing something.
The purpose of most slip and fall lawsuits is for the victim to recover damages for the injuries they experienced as a result of the defendant’s negligence, and/or premises liability. These lawsuits are similar in nature to other personal injury lawsuits.
What Serious Injuries can be Involved in a Slip and Fall Case?
Slip and fall cases involve a variety of injuries, some simple while others are more serious in nature. Some of the most common examples of serious injuries involved in a slip and fall case include, but may not be limited to:
- Broken bones;
- Join damage, especially knee damage;
- Twisted or sprained wrists and/or ankles;
- Joint dislocations, especially shoulder dislocation;
- Various muscle strains and sprains;
- Spine damage;
- Nerve damage;
- Traumatic brain injuries;
- Concussions; and/or
- Bruises and abrasions.
Some injuries related to a slip and fall accident will need to be addressed by medical professionals, while others will not. In any case, slip and fall cases can cause a great deal of stress and physical pain for plaintiffs.
What Types of Damages are Available in a Slip and Fall Case?
When a person is injured in a slip and fall accident, they may choose to bring a lawsuit against the property owner in order to potentially recover damages. As previously stated, such damages will likely be similar to the damages awarded in most personal injury cases. Some examples of potential damages available in a slip and fall case could include:
- Economic or Special Damages: These are monetary damage awards. Such awards could include being compensated for medical bills, lost wages, and/or replacement of broken property. Economic or special damages is one of the most common damages awards in personal injury cases, as well as slip and fall cases;
- Noneconomic or General Damages: Non-economic or general damages are intended to cover costs for items such as the injury itself; pain and suffering as a result of the incident; disability and/or disfigurement; and, loss of “enjoyment of life.” Such damages are typically only awarded in more severe cases, as courts generally award for quantifiable and tangible damages; and/or
- Punitive Damages: Punitive damages are damages intended to punish the property owner. These damages are reserved for very severe and offensive violations, and when the jury determines that compensatory damages alone do not fully compensate the plaintiff for the harm they have experienced.
What Types of Defenses Can be Raised in a Slip and Fall Case?
Defenses that may be raised in a slip and fall case will vary according to the specific circumstances of each situation. Some examples of available defenses might include:
- Comparative Negligence or Contributory Negligence: This defense would be used if the plaintiff somehow contributed to their injury;
- Assumption of Risk: An example of this would be skydiving. The plaintiff knows of the risks involved with their actions, and proceeds;
- Failure to Prove: There are specific elements to a negligence case that must be proven. The plaintiff needs to prove their status as a visitor and that the property owner owed them a duty of care that the owner breached. If they cannot, that could serve as a defense;
- Statute of Limitation Violations: These rules will vary by state. Generally speaking, a statute of limitations refers to the amount of time in which a plaintiff may file their complaint. Once this time is up, they may not take any legal action;
- Reasonable Care: The owner took reasonable care to prevent an injury. This could include posting warning signs, or cleaning up spills; and/or
- Lack of Fault: an example of this defense would be how a reasonable person would have been able to recognize the danger. As such, they would have chosen a safer route. Or, the dangerous condition that caused the injury was open and obvious to any reasonable person.
Are There any Special Slip and Fall Laws in the D.C. Area? What is the Statute of Limitations for a Claim?
Laws regarding slip and fall accidents, as well as statute of limitations for slip and fall claims, vary by state. In the D.C. area, most slip and fall accidents occur when a person has fallen at a business, such as a restaurant or grocery store. However, there are some specific slip and fall laws in D.C. that you should keep in mind before filing a claim.
D.C. is considered to have a “plaintiff unfriendly” contributory negligence rule. According to D.C.’s rule, you could lose your right to recover any damages if you have any amount of responsibility for your injury. Under comparative negligence, any damages award that the plaintiff may receive could be reduced according to the percentage of their own fault. D.C. adheres to contributory negligence, which states that if the plaintiff is found to be at all responsible for their injuries, they cannot recover any damages at all.
Additionally, D.C. maintains a statute of limitations that applies to slip and fall cases, that is the same as their statute of limitations regarding personal injury claims. D.C. Code section 12-301 states that lawsuits for personal injury or damage to property are to be filed within three years of the incident.
How Do You File a Slip and Fall Case in D.C.?
If you were involved in a slip and fall injury in D.C., you should begin the claim process by gathering all available documentation. This could include a copy of the incident report created by the potentially liable party, as well as doctor’s notes, medical records, and photographic evidence. Witness statements should also be collected when possible; this will aid in dispelling any contributory negligence claims.
Once these steps have been taken, you should contact a personal injury attorney. The attorney will be aware of what steps should be taken, and how the claim filing process works. You should protect yourself by not making any statements until you have spoken with an attorney and understand your rights, as well as your obligations.
Of course, all of these steps should come after obtaining medical care. Whether you think your injuries warrant professional care, the documentation could help your claim and reduce your contributory negligence.
Should I Hire a D.C. Lawyer if I Need Assistance?
If you are in D.C., you should speak with a D.C. lawyer immediately after obtaining medical care for a slip and fall accident. An experienced personal injury attorney in the D.C. area can help you protect your rights, as well as represent you in court. Additionally, a D.C. lawyer will ensure that the process is completed before the statute of limitations has run out.