After taking a spill on someone else’s property, your first impulse may be to ignore the bumps and bruises and move on with your life. Sometimes this is the least complicated decision you can make, but if you are seriously injured and the property owner is at fault, they should be held accountable. It can sometimes be hard to determine liability in these cases, but there are many scenarios where the owner may be responsible for your injuries, medical bills, lost time from work, and other damages. I’ll tell you more below, as well as when a New York slip and fall lawyer at Buttafuoco & Associates may be able to help.
When is the Owner Liable?
A slip on a neighbor’s icy sidewalk may or may not be grounds for a personal injury lawsuit, but how do you know whether the owner is responsible? Just because you tripped on a loose step at a friend’s home or in your apartment building, it doesn’t necessarily mean the property owner is responsible for your injuries. But there are four criteria that, if met, are a good indication that they are liable.
1.There were Unsafe Conditions on the Property
For the property owner to be considered responsible for your injuries, there must have been unsafe conditions on the property that caused you to slip and fall. Some common unsafe conditions include:
- Snow and ice accumulation
- Wet floors
- Sidewalks with serious cracks
- Items or other debris
Because it’s hard to prove in court whether or not an unsafe condition is the property owner’s fault, if you slip or fall in hazardous conditions, make every attempt to take photos of the scene, especially of what caused your slip. Likewise, talk to any witnesses and get their contact information and statements about what happened. If you aren’t well enough to take photos or speak to witnesses, seek medical attention right away and ask someone you know to return to the scene and gather evidence for you.
If it turns out that you do have a case, your lawyer can use the photos and statements as evidence. If you’re unsure whether or not your evidence is sufficient, contact a slip and fall attorney in New York.
2. The Property Owner Caused the Unsafe Condition
It’s important to remember that the presence of an unsafe condition isn’t enough to hold the property owner responsible for your injuries: they must have either caused the condition or failed to remedy it in a timely manner. No property is perfectly safe, nor does an owner have to make it completely safe. However, owners ARE required to ensure that the property remains reasonably safe.
For example, let’s say a big ice storm arrives. While the property owner is required to make the sidewalk reasonably safe, they do not have to completely clear all ice from the sidewalk, nor do they have to do this immediately during the storm. Typically, if you slip or fall in a snowstorm, it is unlikely that the owner will be held responsible for your injuries unless their failure to clean up was egregious. If, on the other hand, days have passed, the owner has done nothing to remedy the thick sheet of ice covering their sidewalk, and you slip, they may be considered negligent.
3. The Property Owner Was Aware of the Condition
In order to be held responsible for your injuries, the property owner must also have been aware of the dangerous condition. However, since it can take some time to discover such things, property owners have a reasonable amount of time to do so. If someone immediately slips and falls in a restaurant after a spill, then the restaurant owner isn’t liable because they didn’t have sufficient time to clean it up. If, on the other hand, the spill wasn’t cleaned up for hours and you slipped, they may very well be considered negligent.
Another complicating factor is that if the owner warns people of the danger, such as with a sign or caution cone, they cannot be held responsible for your injuries. If, however, they fail to do so in a timely manner, they could be considered negligent.
Negligence can be difficult to prove, but surveillance footage and witnesses are often powerful parts of these cases. An experienced New York slip and fall attorney will also know how to use this type of evidence in your case.
4. The Fall Was Not Your Fault
If you slipped and fell into a large and visible hole on a sidewalk or clumsily tripped on an obvious object, you will probably be considered at least somewhat responsible for your own injuries. Legally, the expectation is that people must act with reasonable care and protect themselves from obvious injuries.
But in some cases, the responsibility for the slip or trip is shared by the property owner and yourself. For example, let’s say you were talking on your cell phone and were distracted at the moment you slipped on a broken step, but your landlord had also failed to repair the step in a timely manner. In this case, you could receive partial payment for any damages: your total damages would simply be reduced by the percentage to which the court considers you at fault.
Should I Contact a Slip and Fall Attorney?
If your injury is serious and you are relatively certain that it was the property owner’s fault, there is certainly no harm in contacting a New York slip and fall attorney at Buttafuoco & Associates. We will listen to the details of your case and tell you more about your rights, as well as the damages you may be entitled to.
Consultations are always free.
Get in touch with us at 1-800-NOW-HURT.