Houston Slip and Fall Accident FAQs
Slip and fall accidents may seem minor and commonplace, but the truth is they can result in serious injuries. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about slip and falls in Houston.
What is a slip and fall accident?
Slip and fall accidents (also known as trip and falls, or slip, trip, and falls) are exactly what they sound like. They occur when someone slips (or trips) and takes a tumble. Because they can often be prevented when proper safety precautions are in place, slip and fall accidents are a category within premises liability law.
There are multiple examples of slip and fall accidents. Victims of slip and fall accidents may slip on an office lobby’s polished floor because people with umbrellas have tracked in rain. Victims may slip and fall in a convenience store because a child has spilled juice. They may trip over improperly laid carpet tacks in a hotel’s new carpet. Tenants and guests may trip and fall down poorly maintained or unlit stairs in a hotel or apartment building, or grab a faulty handrail that breaks. Shoppers may stumble and fall on cracked or uneven pavement in a store’s parking lot.
The common denominator in all these accidents is the same: dangerous conditions exist in which someone could slip and fall—and someone does.
What causes a slip and fall accident?
In a word: negligence.
Business owners and proprietors, such as landlords, all owe what the law terms a “duty of care” to the public. This means they must make sure that conditions are safe at all times, and hazards are quickly noticed and eliminated. If conditions are not safe, the business owner or proprietor has let you down and can be said to have breached the duty of care.
Now, we all know that conditions can become unsafe in the course of daily life. If a child spills juice in a store, that isn’t the store owner’s fault. If carpet is improperly tacked down and you stumble over it, it’s the fault of the installation company. If rain makes a highly polished floor wet and slippery, multiple umbrellas can be to blame. Roots from a growing tree can cause cracks in pavement.
However, the law doesn’t let the owner entirely off the hook in these cases. Owners are responsible for noticing and correcting the dangerous condition as soon as they become aware of it. In other words, they must mop up the juice, tack down the carpet, dry the floor, and repair the sidewalk. They must ensure their buildings receive routine maintenance and inspection, and are well-lit, stable, and secure. That’s part of the duty of care.
In addition to noticing and eliminating dangers in a timely manner, owners, renters, or occupiers must also warn the public appropriately. In many cases, that means putting signage, safety cones, rope, or warning tape around a dangerous area, or otherwise clearly warning the public that the area is dangerous and to avoid it.
Who is responsible if I slip and fall?
If you slip and fall in public, the person who breached the duty of care can be found responsible for your accident. (Remember, negligence is a breach of the duty of care to maintain safe premises.) A negligent party can be held liable for your accident and the resulting injuries. This sounds straightforward enough, but all too often, business owners and proprietors will try to blame the victims.
If you try to bring an insurance claim or a personal injury claim against a store owner for your slip and fall, for instance, the store owner may state that the accident was your fault. They may argue that you ignored warnings or were predisposed to falling. Unhelpful insurance companies might also claim your injuries were pre-existing, or try to downplay their severity.
Because of these well-worn arguments, it’s a good idea to consult an attorney if you are in a slip and fall accident. An experienced slip and fall attorney will be familiar with countering these victim-blaming arguments, and can compile and present evidence that shows the true extent of your suffering.
How common are slip and fall accidents?
Falls of all types are a surprisingly common source of injury and even death. According to a report conducted by the National Safety Council, approximately 9.2 million people were treated in emergency rooms for falls in just one year. Falls are one of the leading causes of death on construction sites, for instance, and they are also a leading cause of death for the elderly.
How may I be injured in a slip and fall accident?
Slip and fall injuries can range from mild and quick-to-heal – such as cuts or sprains -t, to catastrophic injuries, which render victims unable to speak or move. For example, people can suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) or spinal cord injuries if they fall in a certain way or from a certain height. (The definition of a catastrophic injury is one where the person becomes unable to perform daily activities, and their life is irreversibly changed.)
Potential injuries resulting from a slip and fall accident include:
- Broken bones
- Soft tissue injuries
- Internal organ damage
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Spinal cord injuries
- Back injuries
- Neck injuries
- Scars or disfigurement
- Missing or chipped teeth
What is my case worth?
In a slip and fall case, you may be entitled to compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Future medical bills, if expected
- Loss of wages from work
- Future loss of wages from work, if expected
- Lost earning power if your injury rendered you unable to work at a former job, forced you to take a lower-paying position, or left you unable to work at all
- Physical pain and suffering directly caused by the injury
- Emotional pain and suffering from trauma related to the slip and fall or the injury
- Permanent effects of an injury, such as disfigurement, impairment, or disability
Damages for all insurance and legal claims are computed in several ways. The total damages depend greatly on the nature and extent of your injuries and the impact they had on your life. In other words, the monetary compensation of someone who sprained an ankle will be different than someone who suffered a traumatic brain injury, because the TBI is a much more serious injury that may last a lifetime.
Arriving at your desired dollar amount of compensation means tracking specific details of your injury and treatment. A skilled lawyer can assist you with this.
First off, it’s fairly easy to provide documentation for medical bills you’ve already incurred, but predictions for future bills may require testimony from your healthcare providers or expert testimony from acknowledged leaders in the field.
Second, compensation for lost wages from work is easily calculated by multiplying your wages by the time you had to miss from work. Future lost wages and lost earnings power may require expert medical testimony or testimony from your employer, as it can be hard to predict how long you’ll be incapacitated.
Last but not least, non-monetary damages like your pain and suffering are much more subjective. Typically, a multiplier for pain and suffering is applied to your economic damages.If you have an injury that is expected to heal fairly easily and quickly, your multiplier may be on the lower end of the scale. However, if your injury is catastrophic, you will likely be assigned a multiplier for pain and suffering on the high end of the scale. Our experienced Houston slip and fall lawyers know how to properly evaluate your claim so that you get the compensation you deserve under the law.
What if the store owner isn’t around?
Property owners, renters, or occupants are generally responsible for making sure that their public premises are reasonably safe. However, owners, renters, and occupants are not always available. Sometimes, a store employee may be the only individual present when your slip and fall accident occurs. Furthermore, managers and other employees are often the people who first notice a condition that could potentially cause someone to slip and be injured.
Property owners, renters, and occupants, however, are responsible for training their employees to understand the safety standards, scheduled upkeep and maintenance procedures, and protocol for warning patrons of unsafe conditions. An absent store owner is no excuse for a violation of the duty of care.
Do I need to file a claim within a certain time period?
Yes. In Texas, there is a time period within which injured parties must file any suit(s) against defendants who caused the victim’s injuries. Generally, that time limit is two years from the date of the injury. This time frame is referred to as a statute of limitations. Time is of the essence – after the statute of limitations passes, it is highly unlikely that a court will hear your case at all.
What should I do if I am hurt in a slip and fall accident?
It may not be completely clear what you should do if you’re injured in a slip and fall. In general, though, there are some guidelines to follow.
1. Prioritize your own health and safety.
If you are hurt or harmed in a slip and fall accident, you have every right to take care of your own health and safety first.Don’t be afraid to call an ambulance or ask someone else to call one for you.
If you are hurt but not so seriously that you need an ambulance, you should still see a doctor as soon as possible. A doctor can give you a thorough diagnosis and treat your injuries. Be sure to keep all records of your appointments and other medical visits, including those for hospitals, emergency rooms, urgent care clinics, and pharmacies.
2. Notify the manager.
If you do not need an ambulance, be sure to notify the manager on duty of your fall. The manager needs to know of any dangerous conditions on the premises so they can rectify them. Also, should you later decide to bring forth a claim and you failed to notify the manager at the time of the accident, the defense may use this fact to make it seem as if you weren’t that injured or concerned at the time of the incident.
3. Take pictures.
If you have a smartphone or camera, take multiple photos of the area where your slip and fall happened. Take photos of spills, broken lights or equipment, or other hazards that may have contributed to your injury. Take wide shots of the scene to note a lack of warning signs or markers. Additionally, take photos of your injuries. (If there are bruises or swelling, they may not appear right away and you should take photos of the developments at home over the next few days.) All of this is vital evidence to ensure the most successful outcome for your case.
If you have additional questions on a slip and fall case or premises liability law, we’re here for you. Reach out and contact our experienced Houston lawyers today.
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- Our attorneys and staff will always be there for you!
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