Every day in the U.S. hundreds of people slip, trip, and/or fall in commercial, business and public establishments. According to the National Floor Safety Institute, falls account for nearly eight million emergency room visits every year.
Serious slip and fall injuries involve permanent or temporary incapacitation, head trauma, broken bones and fractures, spinal cord injury, and other long-term medical complications. In cases of serious injury or death, it is important to seek the guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney. Collins & Collins, P.C. can be reached at (505) 242-5958.
Slip and Fall Accident Claims Require a Showing of NegligenceNegligence is required and damages may be offset by comparative negligence.
Slip and fall claims, also known as premises liability claims, usually involve a claim of negligence against a landlord or business. For a successful slip and fall case, the injured party must prove that the landowner or business was legally responsible for causing the plaintiff’s injuries.
To be legally responsible the plaintiff must show that the business or landlord breached their duty to keep the property safe for users, guests, and visitors. In other words, there must be a showing of negligence. Keep in mind also that New Mexico is a comparative fault state meaning that the injured person may be partly responsible for the accident and the damages offset accordingly.
Duty of Commercial Establishments to Protect Against Slip and Fall Accidents
Depending on the type of hazard, the commercial establishment may be held liable. However, the duty to prevent accidents is not absolute.The owner of the premises is legally responsible when the owner or employee causes a dangerous or hazardous condition or, knows, or should have known of a hazardous condition, but fails to remedy it in a timely manner. Most dangerous conditions associated with slip and fall injuries involve slippery or wet floors. Since these are temporary hazards, the amount of time elapsed between the time the hazard was created and the accident is important.
If a commercial establishment or its employees create a hazardous situation like spilling a crate of juice while stocking a supermarket aisle, they have the duty to post warnings and clean up in a timely manner. If another customer or third-party causes the dangerous condition and the store employees know or should have known about it, the business will be liable if it did not take steps to discover dangerous conditions and remedy them as soon as they are discovered.
Other slip and fall cases involve dangerous conditions on the property like uneven stairs, holes, or broken concrete or flooring. In these cases, owners and employees are presumed to have knowledge of the hazard and have the duty to remedy it. If the hazard cannot be remedied, the establishment has the duty to adequately warn all users, visitors and guests.
Comparative Fault for Slip and Fall Accidents in Commercial EstablishmentsThere is a duty of care on the part of the guest or patron as well.In other cases, the store may not be entirely at fault because the injured person also has a duty of due care. This means that when the hazard is obvious or when a store posts a conspicuous warning and the injured person was distracted and not exercising due care, there will be issues of comparative fault.
Depending on the facts, some or all of the fault may be attributed to the injured person under comparative negligence doctrines. This means that any damages associated with the slip and fall accident claim will be offset according to the respective fault of the parties.
Commercial Establishments Medical Payments for Slip and Fall Accidents
Some businesses will have no-fault medpay insurance meaning that the insurance will pay the customer’s medical bills regardless of fault. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, many businesses will refuse medical payments despite the clear coverage.
In some cases stores and other commercial establishments have no-fault Medical Payment (MedPay) insurance. MedPay is a type of no-fault insurance that covers medical bills for a person injured on the premises regardless of fault. Not all commercial establishments carry MedPay insurance, however, so it is important to make this determination as early as possible. Keep in mind that you need not waiver any rights to recovery based upon acceptance of MedPay benefits.
Unfortunately however, in many slip and fall cases the establishment will attempt to obtain the injured person’s signature on a waiver of all future claims for the injury. In some situations businesses will promise to pay a nominal amount or promise to pay medical expenses in connection with the injury.
Seek Help for Your Slip and Fall Accident – Contact an Attorney Now
While this may be tempting, injured persons should consider that the payment offered should cover not only medical expenses, but any loss of wages, loss of employment, and other damages that may arise from the injury. Some of these damages are difficult, if not impossible, to predict at the time of the injury or the offer from the business.
For this reason, it is important to consult an experienced personal injury attorney before signing anything in connection with a slip and fall injury in a commercial establishment.