Corporate lawyers stereotype slip and fall accidents as minor incidents that result in frivolous legal claims. Those who have experienced a slip and fall, or have treated or assisted someone as they recover from injuries resulting from the fall, or have even lost a loved one because of this type of accident know the truth. Slip and fall accidents can produce extremely serious, life-altering, or even life-threatening consequences, and they can happen anywhere.
What happens, however, if you were injured in a slip and fall accident? Who is to blame, and how are you going to pay for your expenses? Read on for more information about slips and falls, how they occur, the injuries that often result, and the general legal process of pursuing compensation for the expenses and impacts of the injury.
Whether your accident occurred at a restaurant along the River Walk, the farmers market at the Pearl, or a private San Antonio residence, to talk to an attorney about your specific case, contact Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers for a free case evaluation. Our San Antonio slip and fall attorneys have experience with slip and fall cases, the often extraordinary impacts of the injuries that are incurred in these accidents, and the tactics that insurance companies may use to avoid paying for their insured’s negligence.
What Is a Slip and Fall Accident?
Property owners have a legal obligation to keep their property free of clear hazards that can cause injury to guests, and warn guests of known hazards that they have yet to repair. These responsibilities can apply to a private residence, a commercial business, or even a local, state, or federal government property. Failure to do so can result in a plaintiff holding the owner or possessor of the property liable for the injuries that a guest incurred because of the hazardous property feature. This kind of case is known as premises liability.
The most common type of premises liability claim is a slip and fall. A slip and fall accident occurs when an individual trips or slips over a property feature and falls either from the same elevation or from an elevated level.
How Slip and Falls Occur in San Antonio
Slip and fall accidents account for more than one-million emergency department visits in the U.S. each year. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CSPC), many people become injured because of floors and flooring materials each year, due to hazards such as wet or slippery substances on the floor, loose tile, torn or worn carpet, recently waxed or polished floors, uneven flooring, and items embedded in the carpet that a person can trip or get their shoes caught on.
Other common hazards that can result in this type of injury include:
- Poor lighting, particularly in stairwells.
- Defective or damaged staircases, or missing or broken handrails.
- Potholes in parking lots and cracked walkways.
- Clutter or debris in walkways.
- Cords or open drawers extending into walkways.
- Unsecured ladders or using a chair or other furnishing as a ladder.
Common Injuries Resulting from Slip and Fall Accidents
Falls are particularly dangerous for the elderly, whose bones are more fragile and whose vision, strength, and balance have declined due to age and health conditions. One of the most common injuries in a slip and fall accident is a bone fracture. Nearly any bone in your body can break because of a fall, but the most serious bone fracture associated with slip and fall injury is a broken hip.
The hip forms at the junction of the femur (thigh bone) and the pelvic bone. What is commonly referred to as a “broken hip” is usually a fracture to the uppermost part of the femur, though a broken hip can also involve damage to the ball and socket mechanism formed by the femoral neck and the bowl of the pelvic bone. A broken hip can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention, which almost always results in surgery. Falls account for 87 percent of all fractures in adults over 65 years old, and are the second-leading cause of injury and death. Half of all elderly individuals who suffer a hip fracture in a fall never return home or live independently after the injury.
Individuals of any age can suffer a broken hip or other fracture, as well as other injuries, including:
- Traumatic brain injuries: This injury involves damage to the brain because of a sudden blow or jolt to the head or body. The brain is responsible for all the body’s functions and voluntary responses. However, despite its importance, the brain has only a limited ability to heal itself after injury. What this means is that the deficits suffered due to a brain injury are often permanent. Common deficits experienced by individuals with brain injuries include loss of the ability to control one’s emotions or impulses; the inability to speak or understand spoken language; loss of memory; difficulty with balanced and coordinated movement; and consciousness disorders such as a coma or persistent vegetative state.
- Spinal cord injuries: The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that extends from the base of the skull to the waist; the spinal columns and discs wrap and protect it. Along with the brain, the spinal cord makes up the central nervous system. The brain uses the spinal cord to send and receive messages from other parts of the body. Like the brain, the spinal cord cannot recover well after injury. This generally results in a loss of sensation and function, or paralysis, below the injury site.
- Soft tissue injuries: The term “soft tissue injury” refers to damage to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons located throughout the body. These injuries commonly occur in elbows, knees, necks, and wrists. Wrist and elbow injuries are common in slip and fall accidents due to the body’s instinctive reflex to catch itself by extending the arms. Soft tissue injuries are the most common type of injury to suffer in a fall, and unfortunately, they often go undiagnosed for days or even weeks after the accident as the individual dismisses the symptoms of the injury as soreness that will go away with time.
- Cuts and abrasions: Slip and fall accidents can result in significant damage to the skin, leaving an individual at increased risk of suffering an infection or scarring. This damage can occur due to skin contact with rough surfaces, colliding with objects while falling, or even because of an object penetrating through the skin or a fractured bone protruding from the skin.
Seeking Compensation After a Slip and Fall in San Antonio
As explained above, slip and fall accidents are a type of premises liability. If you were injured in a slip and fall accident while lawfully on a private, commercial, or public property, you may recover damages (compensation) for the expenses and impacts of your injury through a San Antonio slip and fall lawsuit.
In most cases, you must file your claim in court within two years of the date on which the slip and fall accident occurred. In some cases, however, the statute of limitations may increase or decrease.
- Claims against a governmental agency for a slip and fall accident on public property. Filing a claim against the government involves a slightly different process and shorter deadlines. If you were injured on public property, speak with an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your filing deadline and other particulars of the process.
- Other rare and specific situations such as the delayed discovery of the injury or national crises—the pandemic, for example, and the resultant shut-downs that curtailed the ability for civil courts to hear cases—can result in a tolling or delaying of the statute of limitations. Your attorney can advise you if the statute of limitations is different in your case.
Liability in Slip and Fall Cases
Premises liability cases, including slip and falls, are a bit different from other cases such as car accidents—not only in how to prove liability, but also in what type of visitor to the property you were when your accident occurred. The visitor’s status at the time of the injury determines the duty of care the property owner owed. A duty of care refers to the way a reasonable person would act in similar circumstances.
Here is a look at the visitor types and the duty of care a property owner owes to each:
- Invitee: An invitee is an individual who is on the property for a business or commercial purpose. Examples of invitees include restaurant or retail store patrons, or cable installers who come to a private property for a scheduled cable installation. This guest is owed the highest duty of care, requiring the owner or possessor of the property to regularly inspect the premises for hazards that could injure guests; to promptly mitigate any dangers discovered through routine inspection; and to warn guests of known hazards, such as with prominent “wet floor” signs.
- Licensee: This type of guest is on the property for reasons other than business or commercial. A common example of a licensee would be a social guest at a dinner party at a private residence. The duty of care the property owner or possessor owes to licensees is to warn them of any known hazards that could result in injuries, such as a broken handrail or a pothole in the driveway.
- Trespasser: A trespasser is an individual who has entered a private, commercial, or public property without invitation or the property owner or possessor’s permission, or during hours or in areas in which the public may not go. Because a property owner cannot warn this individual of known hazards, he or she is generally not liable for slip and fall injuries incurred by the trespasser. An exception to this standard: When the property owner deliberately lured trespassers onto the property to injure them, or had reason to know that trespassers would come on the property and failed to warn them of hazards through prominently placed signs.
To prove that the property owner/possessor is liable for your injuries, in addition to showing that you were legally on the property as an invitee or a licensee, you must prove:
- The property owner/possessor knew or had reason to know that a hazard existed. To prove that the owner had reason to know that a hazard existed, you generally must show that the hazard was there long enough that a reasonable owner would have discovered it.
- The owner/possessor failed to promptly mitigate the hazard or to warn guests.
- The hazard caused an injury to the guest, who incurred expenses and impacts on his or her quality of life.
Questions Our San Antonio Slip and Fall Attorneys Frequently Answer
Slip and fall accidents can be complex. Often, victims are either reluctant to pursue compensation because they are afraid the property owner will blame them for their own injuries or they think hiring an attorney will cost too much.
Here are answers to some of the questions our San Antonio slip and fall attorneys are most frequently asked, including an explanation of some of the important services an attorney can provide to assist you in a positive outcome for your case. For more information about your specific situation and legal options, contact Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers today.
What can I receive compensation for after a San Antonio slip and fall accident?
In the legal arena, the term used for receiving compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury is “recovering damages.” You may recover economic damages (which is compensation for the expenses of your injury) as well as non-economic damages (which often refer to the psychological impacts the injury has caused).
Examples of the expenses and impacts often appearing in damage claims from slip and fall accident cases include:
- Medical expenses, including emergency treatment at the scene or in the emergency department, transportation to the hospital via ambulance or air ambulance, diagnostic testing, hospitalization, surgical and physician services, physical therapy and rehabilitation, and the provision of assistive devices such as crutches or a wheelchair.
- Lost wages if you are too injured to work.
- Loss of future earning capacity if your injury results in a permanent disability and you can no longer work or earn as much as before the accident.
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of the enjoyment of life if you can no longer participate in activities that you enjoyed before the accident.
How does the San Antonio slip and fall legal process work?
After you and your attorney make the mutual decision to work together on your case, your attorney will typically begin preparing a demand package for the at-fault party’s insurance provider. This package describes the situation that occurred, lists the expenses and impacts that you incurred, and demands payment for the damages listed.
At this point, the at-fault party’s insurance provider has three choices:
- Accept the claim and pay the damages.
- Reject the claim.
- Make a settlement offer.
On larger claims, the insurance company will rarely ever pay the full value of the case outright. Often, an initial settlement offer is far less than the value of the case, indicating willingness to entertain a counteroffer. The negotiation process will continue until an agreement is reached between both parties or until you and your attorney decide to file a San Antonio slip and fall lawsuit.
Once you file the lawsuit, the discovery phase of your case begins. In this phase, your attorney will have access to evidence from the at-fault party and can also obtain witness testimony through the deposition process. While your lawyer prepares your court case, and even after the trial has begun but before the jury reaches a decision, settlement negotiations can still take place.
If a settlement does not occur, your lawyer may litigate your case by delivering opening and closing arguments, presenting evidence, and examining witnesses. After a settlement or judgment, your attorney will collect your compensation.
My injury occurred at my friend’s house and I feel bad about suing them. What should I do?
Many people who are injured due to a friend’s negligence are reluctant to file a San Antonio slip and fall claim. Your claim, however, is not against your friend, but against their homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policy. Situations such as these are precisely why people carry liability insurance on their homes. Additionally, understanding that you don’t seek compensation to punish them but to pay for the expenses you incurred because of the injury can help you feel better about filing a legal claim.
I was injured in a slip and fall at work. Should I sue my employer?
In most cases involving workplace injuries, the process for obtaining compensation is through a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance policy that most employers in Texas are required to purchase on behalf of their employees. This insurance policy provides coverage of medical expenses and a portion of the lost wages while you cannot work.
In a few limited circumstances, an individual can file a lawsuit for a work-related slip and fall accident. These circumstances include instances when an individual’s employer did not provide workers’ compensation insurance despite being required by law to do so, and when a third party (someone who is not your employer or coworker) caused the injury.
Examples of the workplace accidents that can give rise to a San Antonio slip and fall claim due to third party liability include transportation accidents that happen during the normal scope of employment that another user of the roadway caused; or a work-related injury at a construction site that resulted from a hazard created by a different company working at the site.
What is the average slip and fall settlement in San Antonio?
San Antonio slip and fall settlements are based not only on the unique expenses and impacts suffered by the claimant, but also how willing the claimant is to accept a lower offer. Because of this, there really is no average settlement. Many factors could affect your claim’s value.
Those factors include:
- How much insurance the at-fault party has. Insurance pays most San Antonio slip and fall claims. While you may sue an uninsured property owner/possessor for the expenses and impacts of your slip and fall injury and even obtain a judgment in your favor at court, collecting that judgment may prove difficult because most people cannot afford to pay these expenses out-of-pocket.
- The clarity of liability. In Texas, if you are partially responsible for the slip and fall accident that caused your injury, you can still seek compensation from other at-fault parties, as long as you were not more than 50 percent responsible.
- The severity of your injury. More severe injuries generally result in more medical expenses, more time away from work, a higher risk of permanent disabilities that can affect future earning capacity, and more severe impacts on your quality of life. This will generally result in a corresponding increased value to the case.
- Your patience. It often takes very little time to receive an initial settlement offer. However, negotiating an offer that fairly represents the expenses and impacts you have suffered often takes a lot longer. The best settlement offer usually comes right before the trial begins, meaning that the patient claimant often receives a higher settlement than the one that wants a quick resolution.
My spouse died from a broken hip after a slip and fall. Is there compensation available for me?
Here, you would file a wrongful death lawsuit. Like a San Antonio slip and fall claim, you must file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the accident. Only certain family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas, including the deceased’s spouse, children, or parents. One family member or multiple family members seeking compensation as a group
may file a claim.
You can recover:
- Lost earning capacity.
- Lost care, maintenance, services, support, advice, and counsel that the deceased provided to his or her family members.
- Mental and emotional pain and suffering.
- Lost love, companionship, comfort, and society experienced by the deceased’s spouse.
- Lost inheritance, including what the deceased would have likely earned throughout his or her career, had he or she survived.
What are common defenses in a San Antonio slip and fall case?
Insurance companies will almost always come up with a reason why their insured is not liable for an accident or why the case is not worth as much as the claim.
Some of the common defenses in slip and fall cases include:
- The hazard was out in the open and so obvious that a reasonable person would have known to use caution, even without a warning.
- The claimant was not watching where he or she went, or wore the wrong shoes for the surface.
- The property owner/possessor did not know that the hazard existed. The damage had not existed long enough for the owner/possessor to have noticed it during routine inspections of the property.
I cannot afford an San Antonio slip and fall attorney. Do I really need one?
Having an attorney can dramatically increase the maximum amount of damages you recover. An attorney brings experience not only of the legal process, but the tactics commonly used by insurance companies to avoid payouts for slip and fall claims, and the extraordinary expenses and impacts your accident can produce.
Because anyone who needs the services of an attorney has access to one, Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers offer:
- A free, no-obligation case evaluation, which will provide you with one-on-one time to speak with an attorney about your case, obtain answers to your legal questions, and learn more about pursuing compensation.
- A contingent fee payment plan. This means that you do not owe your attorney’s fees unless they obtain a successful outcome in your case. This enables us to begin the process right away, without an upfront investment from you.
What are the services a San Antonio slip and fall attorney can provide?
A San Antonio slip and fall attorney from Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers can assist you in pursuing compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury.
Some of our services include:
- Guidance about your legal options.
- A valuation of your case based on the expenses you have incurred because of your injury and the negative impacts of your injury.
- A determination of all at-fault parties and associated insurance policies that can compensate you.
- Negotiation to obtain a fair settlement on your behalf.
- Guidance as to the pros and cons of accepting or rejecting an offered settlement. Our firm prides itself on responsiveness to client questions and concerns. Whether you need to talk about whether or not accepting a settlement is in your best interests or you simply want an update on the progress of your case, you can count on us to be there for you.
Working to timely file your court-required paperwork within the statutory deadline and in the proper jurisdiction.
- Collecting and organizing evidence and witness testimony to prove your case. In some cases, our firm will turn to our network of medical experts and other types of expert witnesses.
- In lieu of a settlement, litigation of your case in court.
- Collecting your settlement or award.
Let our San Antonio slip and fall lawyers answer your questions and help you make sense of the process of pursuing compensation for your injuries. For your free case evaluation, contact us online or by calling 833-552-7274.