How Should I Handle a Slip and Fall in Burlington, Vermont?
Burlington, VT Slip and Fall Lawyers
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Burlington, VT Slip and Fall Lawyers
Slip and fall accidents are quite common, whether it occurs on the property of someone you know or at a place of business where you're running routine errands. Under some circumstances, the fault may lie with the property owner. The property owner may not be held liable for your injuries in all cases, however.
Generally, slip and fall cases fall under premises liability, a legal concept used when there is an unsafe or hazardous defect on a person's property that resulted in an injury. Negligence is the basis for premises liability. When you're the victim of a slip & fall, Burlington residents such as yourself have the option to be represented by the highly successful personal injury lawyers at Morgan & Morgan.
Whether you're looking for a settlement or are ready to file a personal injury lawsuit, we're ready to help you. Let's take a look at how we will handle a slip and fall in Burlington, Vermont.
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What Are the Elements of a Slip and Fall Case?
To win compensation for a slip and fall case, you must prove that someone else was responsible for your injuries. This is usually the property owner, but other parties may also be responsible. Liability has to be established, and typically, you'll need to prove one of the following:
- The property owner or someone acting on their behalf should have recognized a hazardous condition on the property (such as standing water or broken tiles) and corrected the potentially hazardous situation and failed in that duty. The legal question is whether the person responsible for maintaining the property would have reasonably been able to recognize the danger and had time enough to fix the condition of the property before your accident.
- The property owner or someone who was acting on their behalf created the dangerous situation that led to your accident, and it was reasonably foreseeable that someone could get injured because of the condition. For example, a property owner who has a pathway under construction yet fails to put up warning signs about the potentially hazardous surface should have reasonably foreseen an accident could occur.
How Do You Prove Negligence and Liability for a Slip and Fall Injury?
Acting in a "reasonable" manner is often at the crux of personal injury cases. Negligence can be proven when someone is responsible for causing harm to another because their actions fall outside of how a reasonable person would have acted under the same circumstances. When someone is proven negligent, they can be held liable for damages that occur because of their negligence. When evaluating your case, our lawyers will look at the following:
Did the dangerous condition exist long enough that a reasonable property owner or someone acting on their behalf should have noticed it and done something about it?
- Does the property owner or someone acting on their behalf do routine checks for hazards on the property to ensure the safety of visitors? If so, was protocol followed when the danger was discovered?
- Was there a reasonable justification for the hazard, and was the justification in play at the time of the accident?
- Could the dangerous condition have been avoided by moving the hazard, placing sufficient warning signs, or denying access to the location of the dangerous condition?
- Finally, was poor lighting or poor visibility a factor in the slip and fall?
The next element is the duty of care
In Vermont, property owners have a duty of care to make sure legally invited guests, and licensees aren't injured while on their property. This is true whether it is public or private property. However, some commercial locations, such as hotels, are held to a higher standard. By law, property owners are mandated to ensure their properties are safe for visitors, excluding trespassers.
The next element is a demonstrable breach
Once the duty of care is established, you have to demonstrate that the duty of care was breached by some action or inaction, such as:
- Failure to warn of dangerous conditions
- Failure to follow building codes and existing statutes
- Failure to repair the premises
- Failure to place warning signs about the danger
- Failure to maintain the premises
The next element is causation
The property owner's actions have to be connected to your injury. For example, if there was a broken step on a staircase and you slipped and fell yet there were no warning signs or access to the stairs was not restricted, the failure to take preventive action must be directly related to your injury.
The final element is damages
There have to be injuries to get compensation for dangerous conditions on a property. Without an injury, you cannot be awarded damages even if conditions on the property were extremely dangerous.
What Is Vermont's Comparative Negligence Law for Slip and Fall Claims?
It's a common tactic for a defendant in a slip and fall claim to suggest the accident was totally the plaintiff's fault or they had some blame for the accident. When a percentage of fault is assigned to you, any award you may get is lessened by that percentage as long as your share of responsibility is not higher than the defendants. If your percentage of fault is higher, you cannot win compensation under Vermont law. This is true whether you choose to accept a settlement out of court or if your case goes to trial.
Some common scenarios where you may be assigned partial or total fault are as follows:
- You weren't paying attention to where you were going because you were on your phone.
- You were in a restricted area where customers weren't welcome.
- The property owner took reasonable steps to prohibit you from being exposed to a dangerous condition, such as "do not cross" tape.
- The dangerous condition should have been apparent to you.
When you start to hear talk of comparative negligence from the other party's insurance company or lawyers, you will need to have a premises liability lawyer on your side to counter their arguments.
What Factors Make a Slip and Fall Accident More Likely?
Slip and fall accidents can happen for all sorts of reasons. Not all would warrant an insurance claim or lawsuit if the property owner exercised reasonable care. Some of the more common causes of a slip and fall accident are as follows:
Broken or uneven walkways where someone may catch their foot and fall
- Wet floors that make it easy to slip and slide
- Poorly lit areas that make it difficult to walk
- Snowy or icy walkways
- Debris or objects left in walkways
- Loose rugs or carpets
- Newly waxed floors
- Cluttered areas
- Lack of grab bars in restrooms
- Lack of non-slip treads or bathmat in tubs and showers
- Poor outdoor lighting
- Loose or broken handrails
- Parking lot potholes
- Poorly maintained elevators and escalators
In Vermont, of course, we have to contend with snow, rain, and ice every winter, which makes a slip and fall more likely. However, just because you slip and fall in the Hannaford grocery store parking lot (for example) doesn't necessarily mean you get to sue. The conditions at the property have to be unreasonably dangerous. If you arrive just when it starts to snow hard and slip and fall in the parking lot, it's probably nobody's fault. However, if Hannaford's has someone who regularly plows or sands the parking lot but doesn't show up for days, and you slip and fall, you may have a claim.
What Is the Vermont Statute of Limitations for a Slip and Fall Claim?
Slip and falls fall under premises liability law which generally allows you to file a lawsuit within three years of the date of your injury. Only under very narrow circumstances can the deadline be extended. If you fail to file within the statute of limitations, the court will almost certainly dismiss your claim. Statutes of limitations are in place for both civil and criminal litigation to preserve the integrity of evidence and witness testimony.
Filing an insurance claim long after the injury can be very problematic because the longer you delay, the harder it is to link your slip and fall injury to the property owner. Most insurance companies require claims to be filed promptly to be considered. If much time has passed, you will likely need the help of one of our lawyers to develop a persuasive argument for the delay.
Furthermore, medical evidence is crucial to any successful claim for a slip and fall. We recommend all of our clients visit a doctor quickly after an accident. Doctors provide compelling evidence of injury through examinations, tests, and medical record documentation.
What Are Common Injuries Sustained From a Slip and Fall Accident?
According to the National Floor Safety Institute, falls account for more than 8 million hospital emergency room visits every year, with slip and falls accounting for 1 million visits or 12% of all falls. Slip and falls are particularly harmful to older adults as they are a leading cause of death. Most adults over 65 that fracture a hip are not able to return to their homes. Here are some common injuries that can result from a slip and fall accident:
Broken bones - Hips, wrists, and ankle fractures are typical of a slip and fall. Bones fracture or break when the pressure on the bone from the force of the fall is more than it can withstand.
Soft tissue injuries - These kinds of injuries aren't always outwardly apparent and may take days or weeks to manifest but can cause significant pain. A soft tissue injury can be relatively minor such as a sprain or strain. Still, more severe injuries are tears to ligaments and tendons, which may require surgery to repair.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) - A TBI can occur when a person hits their head on an object, surface, or the ground. The results can vary from a mild concussion to bleeding and swelling of the brain. The result of a TBI ranges from headaches to lifelong difficulties with speech, reasoning skills, and motor skills.
Cuts and abrasions - Generally, these kinds of injuries are minor and will heal with time. Still, some people may suffer from permanent scarring.
Back and spinal cord injuries - Landing on a hard surface can cause vertebrae to fracture or cause herniated or slipped disc injuries that can be extremely painful, and last a long time. Spinal cord injuries can even cause permanent paralysis or death.
Shoulder and neck injuries - Trying to catch yourself as you fall may lead to shoulder and neck injuries like broken collar bones, dislocated shoulders, torn nerves, and muscle sprains. Some may require surgery to treat.
Knee damage - Falling on your knee or twisting your knee as you fall can cause ligament tears and dislocation of bones resulting in long-lasting painful injuries. Sometimes knee reconstruction will be required.
What Kind of Damages Can I Get for a Slip and Fall in Burlington?
Damages for a slip and fall injury in Burlington can include the following:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Lost property expenses (if you broke a watch, cell phone, laptop, etc., in the fall)
- Wrongful death (in the case of a fatality)
Working With Morgan & Morgan Slip and Fall Lawyers
We understand how unexpected accidents can impact your ability to enjoy life and work. It's a stressful time, but you aren't alone when you're the victim of a slip & fall. Burlington is just one of the many areas where we practice law. When you work with Morgan & Morgan, you have the power of one of the largest law firms in the nation on your side. We know we can help you get the compensation you deserve with our strength and resources. Contact us today for a free case evaluation. Our fee is free unless we win.