In many parts of the country, winter means snow, ice, and freezing rain – and often, plenty of it. Those living in these areas understandably have an increased risk of slip and fall accidents during this season. Often, those who unfortunately find themselves involved in these types of accidents find themselves suddenly facing accumulating medical bills, time away from work or other obligations, and an inability to enjoy activities they otherwise like to participate in, to name only a few of the many unexpected consequences.
Understandably, we are often asked whether personal injury claims can be filed for these types of slip and fall accidents. While not all slip and fall incidents will serve as grounds for legal action, many do. While the information provided here is intended to be helpful, if you have been involved in a slip and fall accident, it is always important and necessary to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney regarding your particular circumstances and what options might be available to you.
The Duty of Reasonable Care
All property owners have a duty to exercise what is known as “reasonable care” in maintaining the areas where the public, including customers, can reasonably be anticipated to be present. This duty to keep those areas safe includes inspecting the property periodically and removing any snow and ice diligently and within a reasonable time after it is discovered. This includes taking measures to prevent the accumulation of snow and ice in anticipation of the weather – for example, pre-salting the sidewalks and other heavily trafficked areas when accumulation is anticipated. A property owner’s failure to do this – failure to properly warn others of potential dangers, and failure to remediate dangers that exist – may constitute negligence. Establishing negligence, and that the negligence was the cause of the injuries sustained in the accident, is a key and essential part of recovery in any slip-and-fall case.
The other side of this coin in slip-and-fall incidents is that property owners are not alone in the duty to exercise reasonable care. Members of the public also have a responsibility to use reasonable care when they are walking in an area that they either know, or should reasonably expect, might be icy and slippery. If, for example, you can clearly see the ice and snow, and there is a sign near the area warning, “Area May be Slippery – Proceed with Caution,” and you nevertheless proceed to walk quickly and without caution into the area, you may not have valid grounds for a claim.
Often, the ability to recover in these instances will depend on the state in which you live. In Iowa, for example, courts follow a “comparative negligence” rule. This means that if both the property owner and the customer bear some amount of responsibility of the accident, the court will apportion any award based upon a percentage of fault involved. This essentially means that, if a plaintiff is partially at fault in an accident, that person can still recover, provided that their share of liability is not more than 50 percent. If the plaintiff is found to be more than 50 percent at fault, recovery is not possible. Talking to your attorney about your particular case and whether or not you may bear some responsibility for the accident is always an important conversation to have as you decide whether or not to move forward with a lawsuit.
What Can I Recover?
Understandably, in addition to wondering whether or not valid grounds for a claim exist, many people often ask what types of damages can be recovered following a slip and fall accident. Ultimately, any recovery will, of course, be dependent upon your particular circumstances, although generally, the types of damages that may be claimed in slip and fall accidents include:
- Medical Expenses: Often, those who experience slip-and-fall accidents can accumulate significant medical expenses fairly quickly. As part of your claim, you can seek recovery of those expenses – those already incurred and those reasonably anticipated in the future in connection with the accident.
- Lost Wages: In some cases, depending upon the nature of the accident and the injuries involved, time away from work may be required. In those cases, lost wages may be requested and recovered as part of a claim.
- Attorney Fees: Certainly, it would seem counterproductive to file a claim for recovery only to have to turn around and spend a significant portion of that recovery on legal fees. For that reason, attorney fees can sometimes be requested and awarded as part of a claim.
- Other damages: Depending upon the circumstances involved, other damages, such as damages for pain and suffering, loss of consortium (the loss that your loved ones sustain as a result of your injury) and the like may also be requested as part of a slip-and-fall injury claim. Speaking with knowledgeable and experienced legal counsel regarding the facts in your particular case is always recommended.
At 303 Legal, We’re Here for You
At 303 Legal, we understand that, after being involved in a slip and fall accident, you may feel overwhelmed, worried, and anxious. Those feelings are normal – but the good news is, you do not need to feel that way alone. We’re here to help. Our legal team has extensive experience successfully litigating slip-and-fall claims for clients just like you, and we would love to help you seek the compensation you’re rightfully entitled to.
It is also important to keep in mind that, in Iowa, a two year statute of limitations typically applies to slip-and-fall cases. This means that potential plaintiffs typically have two years from the date of their accident to file a claim. Not doing so often means that you will be unable to file a lawsuit at all, so it is important to act quickly if you believe that you may have a valid claim. If you have been involved in a slip-and-fall accident, there is no time like now to begin moving forward toward the recovery you deserve. Call us today – we look forward to learning your story and to helping you soon.