With winter quickly approaching, ice and snow are about to start accumulating. These conditions are responsible for a significant portion of slip-and-fall injuries, which can be quite serious in nature. In fact, slip-and-fall accidents are the most common cause of nonfatal injuries in adults over age 24.
Hopefully, you stay steady on your feet and never experience the pain and hardship that slipping on ice can bring. However, in case you do slip and fall on someone else’s property this winter, it’s important to know your legal rights in relation to any injuries you experience as a result.
Can You Sue the Property Owner if You Fall in Their Parking Lot?
Just because a parking lot was icy does not automatically mean you can sue the property owner. In order to successfully file any personal injury case, including a slip-and-fall case, you must first prove that the person you are suing was negligent and that their negligence led to your injury.
There are four key elements to proving negligence. You must show that:
- The defendant had a duty to you, the plaintiff.
- The defendant did not satisfy that duty.
- The defendant’s failure to satisfy their duty led to your injuries.
- Your injuries caused monetary damage.
In the case of a slip-and-fall accident, proving negligence might look something like this:
- The property owner had a duty to keep their parking lot free of ice during hours that their store was open for business.
- The property owner never applied salt to the parking lot, so black ice was present.
- You slipping on the black ice because you were unable to see it, resulting in an injury to your hip.
- Your hip injury caused you to incur $4,000 in medical expenses, and you also missed out on $6,000 in wages because you had to take time off from work.
The example above is pretty straightforward, but in real life, it can sometimes be tough to prove negligence in a slip-and-fall case. For instance, if half of the parking lot was clear, but you ignored the “do not park” sign on the half of the parking lot that was not clear, then it could be argued that the defendant did indeed satisfy their duty to you in providing a safe place to park.
Most slip-and-fall cases are quite nuanced, so the best way to know if you have a good case is to consult with a personal injury lawyer. A lawyer will listen to the details surrounding your injury and tell you whether or not you have a good chance of winning a lawsuit against the property owner.
What Are Some Conditions Under Which a Property Owner May Be Liable for Slip-and-Fall Injuries?
To make a strong case against the defendant, your lawyer will need strong evidence to show that the defendant did not satisfy their duty to protect you from the hazard of ice. Here are a few examples of conditions that put the defendant at-fault.
Poor Parking Lot Lighting
It is generally assumed that the property owner is responsible for lighting a parking lot to ensure customers can see any snow and ice that may present a hazard. If a parking lot is poorly lit or the lights are out, your lawyer can argue that this constitutes negligence on the part of the property owner.
Inadequate Ice Removal
If the owner of the parking lot does remove ice from the parking lot, they are expected to do so thoroughly. If they skip certain areas and do not make an effort to let customers know those areas are not safe (such as putting up a sign), they could be at fault for your injuries.
Poor Parking Lot Maintenance
If the parking lot has not been maintained and has potholes that make ice removal difficult or impossible, it could be argued that the lack of parking lot maintenance constitutes negligence.
What Damages Can You Sue For?
If your lawyer agrees that the property owner is at fault for your injuries, then you will have to decide on the amount of money you wish to demand from the defendant. As in all personal injury cases, there are several types of damages you can collect:
- Medical Expenses: This includes insurance co-pays, bills for hospital stays, charges for physical therapy, and even the cost of medications such as pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Lost Wages: If you missed work due to your injuries, you can sue for the wages you missed out on. You can also sue for future lost wages if your injury will impact your earning potential in the future.
- Emotional Distress: This does not often come into play in slip-and-fall accidents, but if your injury caused you psychological distress such as PTSD, you may be able to sue for compensation. Records from a psychiatrist must validate your distress.
- Pain and Suffering: You may ask for an additional sum of money to compensate you for pain and suffering related to your injuries. This is often only awarded if your recovery process is long and arduous.
If you slip and fall in someone else’s parking lot, contact an attorney like those at Otorowski Morrow and Golden, PLLC. We’ll listen to your story and let you know whether or not you have a strong case.