If you have been injured on the property of another, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and damages. It may surprise you that we used the word “may” in describing entitlement to compensation. Most people believe that if you are hurt on the property of another, the owner is automatically responsible for all of the injuries and damages that the victim suffers. That is not necessarily true! Let us explain.
Whether a person is injured on the property of another due to a slip and fall, trip and fall, was struck in the head by an object that fell from a shelf or in any other manner, the claim is known as a “premises liability” case. While the owner or operator of a property owes the public a duty to use reasonable care in maintaining their property, they do not insure against everything that happens there. It is only when the property owner or operator creates a dangerous condition, has knowledge of the condition, or the condition has been present for a sufficient length of time that they should be aware of its existence, that the owner can be held accountable.
We wants to make sure you know there are three ways in which the owner or operator of property may be held accountable for injuries to a visitor. First, if the victim can prove the owner or one of his agents or employees created the dangerous condition that caused the injury, the owner may be held liable for all of the victim’s damages.
A second way of establishing liability is to show that the owner or operator of the property, or their employees or agents, knew of the existence of the condition that caused the injury before the accident occurred but simply failed to take appropriate action. This is known as “direct notice” and can impose responsibility on the owner or operator of the property.
The third way of proving liability is to show that the condition that caused the accident was there for a sufficient length of time such that under the circumstances, the owner or operator should have known of its existence and taken corrective measures. This is known as “constructive notice.” Without the ability to prove that the owner pr operator of the property created, had direct notice or constructive notice of the dangerous condition, the law will not hold them accountable for the damages suffered by a person injured on the premises.
In the typical premises liability accident, the injured person was minding their own business when something completely unforeseen, such as a slip and fall, occurred resulting in an injury. The most common immediate reactions of the victim are embarrassment and pain. Unfortunately, they are unlikely to fully examine the scene where the accident occurred or obtain useful information such as the names and addresses of witnesses. To put it simply, such a victim is at a severe disadvantage to the owner or operator of the property who is often trained how to handle just such an event. Simply put, proving liability in a premises liability case can be very difficult.
As a Volusia County accident attorney we want to emphasize the most important issue in this and all other personal injury cases is for the victim to receive prompt and appropriate medical care. It also is important the victim advise the owner or operator of the premises where they were injured that the accident occurred. Writing down the details of the event soon after it occurred, including the names and addresses of any witnesses, and statements made by representatives of the owner, can make the difference between success and failure in proving your case. As in other cases, detailed statements, recorded or otherwise, should not be provided to an insurance adjuster until and unless you have discussed your rights with an attorney. In dealing with a professional insurance adjuster, you are at a disadvantage.
As you can see, in a premises liability case, the issue of liability or fault is the single most important issue that must be addressed. If the owner or operator of the premises is determined to be at fault, in all probability the premises is either covered by bodily injury liability insurance or “self-insured.” In either event, the adequacy of coverage for your injuries and damages should not be the big issue.
Even where fault is uncertain, you may be entitled to payment of your medical bills if the store has insurance known as Medical Payments Coverage or Med-Pay. Med-Pay is designed to cover relatively minor injuries. Med-Pay pays for medical bills incurred as a result of care necessitated by injuries suffered on the property. Fault is not an issue with regard to entitlement to Med-Pay coverage. If you were injured on the property, and the property is covered by Med-Pay coverage, you are entitled to have your bills paid under Med-Pay up to the limit of coverage. The limit of coverage for Med-Pay is frequently $1,000 to $10,000. You should be aware that there may be a time limit on when Med-Pay is available as frequently, Med-Pay only pays medical bills incurred within one year of the injury. Each policy is different however, and the terms of the policy will dictate what coverage is available.
Premises liability cases are governed by a four year Statute of Limitations. If liability can be imposed on the owner/operator of the premises, it is best to wait until the injured party has received the benefit of all the medical care they require to make as good a recovery as possible before attempting to resolve such a case. When the injured person arrives at maximum medical improvement, the treating physicians can project their long range prognosis that will help determine the value of such a case.
Where fault of the owner/operator can be established, the injured party is entitled to be fully compensated for all of their damages incurred as a result of the accident. These damages include medical bills, lost wages, the cost of future medical care, loss of future earning capacity and damages for pain and suffering.
Premises liability cases can be very difficult. It is very important that you quickly consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable in handling these complicated cases to afford yourself the best opportunity at recovering full compensation.
We would be honored to help you. Please call us at (386) 253-9790.