Premises liability accidents cover a lot of ground. They basically encompass all accidents occurring on the property of another. This includes businesses, retailers, construction sites, customers, private residences and more. They include all varieties of accidents from falling boxes, to equipment and machinery related accidents, to accidents involving vehicles, to the basic slip and fall to name just a few.
Premises liability accidents, particularly slip and fall accidents are among the most common types of personal injuries. They are often mocked and trivialized to suggest that people hurt in these accidents are manipulating the legal system for personal gain. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, these accidents can cause extremely serious injuries and on occasion even death.
If you or a loved one has suffered serious injury or wrongful death as a result of the negligence of business or property owner in maintaining their premises, you may have many questions. The following pages are intended to address some of the most commonly asked questions that come up with these types of cases.
The pages that follow are not intended as legal advice but simply to provide information on how to proceed with a premises liability claim. It is rarely if ever a good idea to try to pursue one of these claims without the assistance of an attorney experienced in premises liability, and slip and fall type claims.
There are many issues that will come up. There are also some pretty basis steps that you should take immediately to protect your rights. To read more on these necessary steps, go here:
Regarding the issues you will face, the first is extremely important. Immediately following the accident, you may be faced with a request by the business to sing a full release of claims in return for some small financial payout or even the payment of medical bills. Signing a release means your case is over. With serious injuries this means it is over before it even starts.
Related to this question, if you are not fortunate enough to have health insurance, you will be faced with the challenged of obtaining medical care for your injuries. This too can be a challenge that an attorney can often help to resolve.
You must also begin to document your claims. Documentation begins at the time of the accident and will not end until the case has been resolved through settlement or trial. Slip and fall accidents can be more difficult to document than other personal injury cases. For instance, in an auto accident, there is almost always a police report and there are often witnesses including the other driver. In slip and fall accidents, you must rely on the business to document the accident and far too often they prepare a one-sided report or fail to file a report at all.
There are many other issues that will come up that are common to all personal injury claims. For these, we have created a separate FAQ section which you can review here:
In any event, if you or a loved one has suffered serious injury or wrongful death on the property of another, whether it is a business, retailer or even a private home, you should seek the attention of an attorney. Every case is different and requires individual attention from an attorney. Your case is no different and you should not go it alone.
Should I Sign a Release of Claims With a Store or Business Where I Was Injured to Get My Medical Bills Paid?
This is a not just a question that we frequently get in slip and fall accident cases, it is a situation that comes up with great regularity. The situation is particularly common with larger retailers.
Often, the retailer or other business will attempt to get a release of claims signed at the time of the accident. Their haste in attempting to resolve the matter before you leave the premise should tell you something.
To begin you may first want to understand a release of claims. To learn what a release of claims is, go here: What is a Release of Claims?
Once you have understand the consequences of a release of claims, you may want to contact an experienced personal injury attorney. Albuquerque Attorneys, Collins & Collins, P.C. can help. Contact us online or feel free to give us a call, (505) 242-5958 .
To Sign or Not to Sign a Release of Claims in a Slip and Fall Accident
The answer will depend on in part on how bad you are hurt and whether you will fully recover or suffer other damages beyond medical expenses. If you have suffered only minor injuries or none at all, then perhaps the release will not come back to haunt you. However, it is not always possible at the time of the accident to know how bad your injuries are. It is not uncommon for injuries to worsen over time.
This happens frequently with back, knee, shoulder and wrist injuries which are among the most common injuries from a slip and fall. More worrisome still are traumatic brain injuries caused by concussions. The residual effects of a concussion are very hard to gauge. They certainly cannot be measured at the time of the accident. Moreover, someone who has just suffered a concussion is hardly in a state of mind to sign a release of claims.
In short, the answer to this question is generally an emphatic: “No, you should not sign a release of claims at the time of your accident if you have suffered serious injuries.”
Question Motives of Entity Seeking the Release of Claims
After all, you should ask yourself why it is that the business or retailer is so eager to sign a release. Rest assured it is neither generosity nor concern for your health that is dictating the policy.
So why would they want you to sign release in this situation? The answer is simple. They are trying to cut off liability for greater damages such medical bills beyond the coverage, lost income, permanent damages, and so on. Getting an immediate release is a safety measure to protect against these greater damages.
The same reasoning goes for those businesses that do not have no-fault premises liability coverage. Typically, if they offer anything at all, these businesses will offer some small cash settlement for a full release of claims. In the alternative, they may offer to pay for your immediate medical treatment such as emergency room or urgent care costs. Again, the same concerns apply. You may be getting an immediate but superficial financial recovery while waiving your rights to recover for your true injuries and damages.
Releases of Claims Impact Your Future Claims – Contact an Attorney for Help Before you Sign
If you have suffered serious personal injuries as a result of a slip and fall accident, you should contact an attorney. It is rarely if ever a good idea to sign a release of claims without fully knowing all of your injuries and damages. And this takes time and most certainly cannot be determined at the time of the accident.
A personal injury attorney experienced with slip and fall claims will be able to walk you through the process toward fair compensation. It can be a rather lengthy process. Taking shortcuts will typically not be to your advantage.
What Insurance Coverage Covers Premises Liability Claims (Slip and Fall Accident)?
Slip and fall accidents fall under premises liability claims. Slip and fall accidents are often maligned and ridiculed. However, these types of accidents can cause very serious personal injury or even wrongful death.
As suggested, premises liability type claims are often referred to as slip and fall accidents. However, the name is a little misleading as the claims actually cover a broad spectrum of accidents on private, business and government property.
These claims cover a variety of accidents including slips, falls, falling objects, negligent use of equipment or machinery, and the negligence of employees, contractors, sub-contractors and guests to name just a few. In addition, the claims may be made against the owner, the renter, the occupant, the management company or any combination thereof depending on the circumstances.
Depending upon the nature of the accident and the parties involved, a number of different insurance policies might come into play. As can be seen, these accidents can get fairly complicated and confusing in identifying the responsible parties and the pertinent insurance. An experienced personal injury attorney can help. Collins & Collins, P.C. can be reached at (505) 242-5958 .
Injuries in Private Residences
These types of cases are typically the most clear-cut. However, even these can get more complicated depending upon the circumstances and the identity of the negligent party.
Generally, these would fall simply under the owner’s Homeowners Policy. In the case of a renter, it could fall under Renters Insurance and/or the owner’s Homeowner’s Policy. In case of a rental where a management company is involved, it might fall under their policies as well as the homeowners and renters.
Injuries at a Business
Like homeowners coverage, most businesses will carry some commercial property insurance which acts much like homeowners but generally with much higher coverage limits. These policies will cover most accidents at a business where there was negligence involved.
In cases where customers, contractors, subcontractors or vendors caused the accident, there may be additional sources of coverage through each of these third parties. However, depending on the circumstances, the commercial property insurance will typically also provide coverage.
Injuries on Government Property
The coverage issues here are straightforward. Coverage is dictated by the New Mexico Tort Claims Act. In addition to the coverage issues, the Tort Claims Act will set forth special rules and deadlines for claims against the government.
These types of claims can be the most confusing for folks forced to deal with these issues. In case of serious injury or death, it is highly advisable to seek the guidance of an attorney right away. The deadlines on these can run in as little as 90 days. Missing a deadline will bar the claims completely.
No-Fault Medical Payment (MedPay) Coverage
In case of accidents on business premises, many commercial policies carry no-fault MedPay coverage. This means that the policy is intended to pay for the medical expenses of the injured guest no matter who was at fault. The provision is to protect guests in case of injury so that they may obtain necessary medical treatment even in the event that the business owner disputes liability and fault for the accident.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that despite the available coverage, both business owners and insurers routinely refuse to honor the coverage. This means you have a fight on your hand. It also means that you may have to seek alternative means of medical treatment.
In the absence of medical insurance, this can be a challenge. Again, an experienced personal injury attorney may, one way or another, be able to help you to obtain the medical treatment that you need.
Personal Injury Umbrella Policy
Under all but government related claims, there may be Personal Injury Umbrella Policy coverage (PLUP). A PLUP is often carried above and beyond all other coverage on folks with substantial assets to protect.
A PLUP is usually a high value policy. In cases of very serious injuries or wrongful death, a PLUP where available can go a long way toward full and fair compensation where other policies are inadequate.
Auto Insurance Coverage
In some cases, auto policies might come into play in addition to the other coverage. Most clear-cut here would be a situation where a guest is struck by a motor vehicle. This situation would invoke full auto coverage including the other parties as well as your underinsured coverage.
There might be other “auto related” accidents with less clear-cut and therefore more hotly disputed coverage. One example might include a situation where you’re dropping your car off at a garage. When stepping out of the car, you fall due to negligently maintained flooring (oil, grating, uneven pavement…).
There are a number of variations too numerous to name on this theme on both private and commercial property where arguably both the owner’s insurance as well as your own underinsured motorist coverage would apply.
Complications in Premises Liability Claims
There are countless complications that can arise with these types of claims. These include the insurance issues above. They also arise when guests, contractors/sub-contractors, vendors and so on cause the accident.
In many cases, the involvement of a third party will expand the possible coverage to that party’s insurance. In others, the property owner will dispute liability and the insurance carrier may then dispute coverage. These must be sorted out and often you will have a real fight on your hands with the insurance companies.
At the risk of redundancy, an experienced attorney can again help you sort out all of these issues to maximize insurance coverage so that you are as fully and fairly compensated for your injuries as possible.
How Do I Get Medical Treatment Following a Slip & Fall (Premises Liability) Accident?
This is a question that comes up often in slip and fall accidents. To begin, as suggested by the title, slip and fall accidents come under the more general area premises liability law.
Premises liability claims can involve a variety of accidents beyond slip and fall accidents. For instance, a common premises liability accident involves objects falling off shelves on customers.
In any event, the discussion on medical treatment applies to premises liability claims generally, not just slip and fall accidents. The answer to the question will depend upon the owner and insurance of the business where you were injured. The same issues will often dictate not just medical treatment following the accident, but eventual recovery on your personal injury claim.
No-Fault Premise Liability Insurance Coverage
Many more reputable businesses carry premises liability insurance coverage. Many of these policies have no-fault coverage. No-fault coverage means that the insurance policy will pay for your medical expenses no matter who was at fault in the accident. Naturally, there are exceptions to this which need not be discussed here because there only a few.
No-fault coverage means that if you are injured at a business with this coverage, the business should not refuse to cover your medical expenses by saying that it was not their fault. This is the essence of no-fault coverage.
Unfortunately, despite the coverage, many business owners will make the fault argument anyway. This position is likely taken in a misguided attempt to avoid claims on its policy. I say misguided, because once the business is put on notice of a personal injury claim,which they surely will in case of serious personal injuries, the business must report the claim to their insurance company anyway triggering the dreaded potential rise in their premium.
Steps to Secure No-Fault Coverage
So what should you do in case of a slip and fall accident? First, you should insure that an incident report was filed. You should try to get a copy of the incident report if you can before leaving the premises. If the business will not provide a copy, make sure you get the name and position of each and every employee involved with the reporting of the incident. Of course, none of this advice does much good if you are reading this after the fact or are so badly injured that you are unable to make a report.
At the time of the accident, or as soon after as possible, be sure to ask the business if they have no-fault insurance. If they do, then ask them to arrange for payment of your medical expenses. This will be like pulling teeth in many cases but be persistent and document everything. It may very well be that the business will not cooperate. Your persistence and documentation of your efforts and their response will be very helpful later in your personal injury claim.
It Helps to Have an Experienced Attorney on Your Side
As with many questions on personal injury matters, the answers often raise as many questions as they answer (i.e. what to do when the business will not provide a copy of the business report or refuses to pay medical expense despite holding no-fault premises liability coverage). This is because personal injury law is quite complex. There are countless issues that come up in every case. And every case will involve its own unique issues and analysis.
There is no substitute for the guidance of an experienced personal injury law attorney who can address your individual case. Feel free to contact us if you would like us for a review of your case.
What Can I Do When the Business Where I Was Injured Broke Its Promise to Pay My Medical Expense?
When someone is injured at a business, it is not uncommon that the business will usher the injured person out as quickly as possible with promises of fair compensation, including payment for medical care.
The question that comes up is whether this promise is enforceable. Unfortunately, the question comes up for too frequently as the business had no intention of honoring the promise but rather just wanted to get rid of the nuisance of an injured customer.
It is important in these situations to seek the guidance of a personal injury attorney with experience in premises liability claims. There are complex issues involved, not the least of which is obtaining medical care for your injuries.
Premises Liability/Slip & Fall Claims Cover Broad Range of Accidents
Before beginning the discussion, it should be noted that premises liability claims encompass a broad range of accidents suffered on the property of another. The most common are slip and fall type accidents.
However, people are injured all the time at businesses, and these accidents do not always involve a slip or a fall. In fact, there are countless ways that a customer or visitor can be injured on a business premise. And the following discussion would apply to all of these situations.
At least in New Mexico, the answer to the original question will not be all that satisfying for those in immediate need of medical attention. However, there may be some recourse in the end against the business for lying about covering your medical expense.
Punitive Damages for Broken Promises
First, we will address the ultimate recourse for the misrepresentation. In New Mexico, there is case-law dealing with this specific situation. Essentially, the cases hold that such a broken promise exposes the business to punitive damages.
The longstanding New Mexico Supreme Court case of Romero v. Mervyn‘s addresses the issue. In that case, the plaintiff was awarded 10 times the compensatory damages in punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to both punish the offender and to deter other similar behavior by others. In that case, the compensatory damages were pretty low and consequently so too were the punitive damages. However, it is not difficult to see how the punitive damages could be quite significant in a case involving serious personal injuries.
So the question remains what should you do in a case such as this? First and most importantly, document the promise. This means documenting everyone you spoke with and when you spoke to them. It also means documenting exactly what was said and by whom it was said. Naturally, there are those businesses that will deny ever having made the promise so the more detail you have the better.
Businesses Have Insurance for These Claims
You should then contact an attorney with experience in premises liability claims. The attorney will attempt to hold the business to its promise. Even this is not always immediately successful as businesses will often take a hard and unreasonable position that it was not their fault. Just as likely, they do not want to make a claim with their insurance for fear of a premium increase.
There are many problems with this. First, many businesses carry no-fault premises liability insurance which means the medical expense should be covered no matter whose fault it was. Second, the business would be well advised to report the incident or jeopardize coverage, particularly when they have notice from both the customer and then the attorney. Finally, even if they do not have no-fault coverage, the breach of the promise may very well be more costly (by a factor of 10 in Romero v. Mervyns’s) than the actual compensatory damages of which medical expense is only a part.
In short, there is no good reason for a business breaking its promise to pay. Yet, as mentioned, it happens all the time. When it does, it is exceedingly difficult and frustrating for an injured customer to deal directly with the business. Despite the customer’s good intentions to handle the case in an amicable manner, it often becomes necessary to hire an attorney.