31
Dec2018

YOU’VE FALLEN AND YOU CAN’T GET UP: WHO’S RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR INJURIES?

By: Cara M. Kuzmiski – Law Clerk

We’ve all done it, slipped or tripped and ended up on the ground. Hopefully nothing more than our ego is bruised, but what happens when you actually get hurt? What happens if you are out of work as a result of your injuries? How will you afford your medical expenses?

There are an infinite number of ways that we could slip and fall, we could slip on a wet floor, trip over a poorly placed floor mat, and with winter approaching there is always the risk of slipping on ice and snow. How do you know if someone else is responsible for causing your injuries, and how would you be compensated for those injuries?

The only way to be sure is to contact an attorney. An attorney will be able to review your case and evaluate your particular circumstance based on a theory of negligence. Was the owner of the property or business where you fell negligent? Negligence is a legal theory that requires four elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages.

The first question that needs to be answered is did the owner of the business or property where you were injured have a duty to warn you about any potential dangers on the property?  The duty owed to you is different depending on what type of property you were on – was it a business or private property; and what was your status while on the property – an invitee, a guest, or a trespasser.

If you were a customer invited onto the property to do business, you would be classified under Massachusetts law as an invitee. Invitees are owed the highest duty of care and property/business owners must regularly inspect the property to ensure that there are no dangers or hazards. Any dangers or hazards must be corrected or visitors must be warned about them.

If you were a guest on private property, the property owner would owe you a duty of reasonable and ordinary care to keep the premises safe and to protect you from injury caused by an unreasonable risk that you may not discover on your own. In other words, the property owner is required to act in a way that would reduce the risk of hurting others.

Typically property owners are not liable for the injuries to a trespasser. This is because the property owner is usually unaware that a trespasser is on their property and therefore they are unable to warn the trespasser of any dangers. However, like most rules, there are exceptions. If a property owner is aware of a trespasser with some regularity, then the property owner may be required to warn the discovered trespasser of any dangerous conditions. In this case, trespassers are afforded a lesser duty in that the property owner must refrain from reckless, willful or wanton misconduct.

Once it has been established that the property/business owner owed you a duty of care, then it must be determined that they breached that duty. Did you slip on water in a store and there was no caution sign out? Were you at a neighbor’s house and tripped on a broken stair they had been meaning to get fixed?   Were you cutting through a path and fell in a ditch? In Massachusetts, a breach of the duty occurs when the defendant property/business owner failed to act as a reasonable person under the circumstances.

If it can be determined that you were owed a duty by a property or business owner, they breached that duty, and as a result of their breach you were injured, then chances are you would be able to make a claim against the property owner or business’s insurance policy for your damages.

Any medical expenses and lost wages would be considered your damages as a result of the slip and fall. In addition, you may also be entitled to pain and suffering and disability damages. In order to have an accurate total of your expenses, a claim for damages will usually not be made until after you have completed all treatment for your injuries. Depending on the type of injury, it could be a few months to a couple of years until you’ve completed your medical treatments.

In Massachusetts there is a three year statute of limitations for slip and fall claims. That means you only have three years from the date of the accident to file a claim otherwise you waive your right to any compensation.

In order to successfully prosecute a personal injury case, it takes experience and a thorough understanding of how to deal with the insurance companies. As one of the largest law firms in southeastern Massachusetts over the last forty years, we have the resources and experience to successfully negotiate and litigate a personal injury case for you. We understand that any injury can be stressful on the client and their family. Let us help you navigate the insurance process. We’ll handle all the paperwork, so that you can focus on your recovery.

If you or a loved one believes you have been the victim of someone else’s negligence, please call Wynn & Wynn, P.C. today 1-800-852-5211 or request a free consultation.