Slip and falls can be very hard to prove. The Washington Slip and Fall Guide was created by Edmonds Personal Injury Lawyer Pellegrino Certa to help residents avoid pitfalls and earn their maximum injury settlement.
Were you seriously hurt in a slip and fall accident? For many, it is very tempting to simply try to get back up and dust yourself off after a fall. You may brush it off as a pure accident and put the blame entirely on yourself. However, that blame may be misplaced.
When you trip or slip because of someone else’s carelessness, you may have a legal claim to help you deal with your losses from the fall, including medical expenses and lost time away from work. In fact, falls are one of the leading causes of accidental injuries in the United States. You need to speak with an Edmonds slip and fall lawyer like the ones at Certa Law Group to fully explore your rights after this type of accident.
Proving Your Slip and Fall Claim in Washington
Property owners are required to maintain their property in a way that is safe for both visitors and guests. When maintenance is inadequate or when there is a condition that is dangerous, the property owner or manager could be legally responsible for your slip and fall injuries. Some common examples include:
- Debris or wet floors in shopping centers
- Poor sidewalk maintenance
- Tears in carpeting or uneven flooring
- Unmarked dangerous conditions
- Failure to adequately clear property from ice and snow
However, just because a hazardous condition exists, does not automatically mean that the property owner will have to pay for your damage. Instead, you have to prove several things to have a successful slip and fall case in Washington.
- The owner owed you a duty of care. The property owner has a legal obligation to keep his or her property safe for customers and visitors. However, the owner doesn’t necessarily have to ensure that trespassers are safe on the property.
- That duty was violated. You must show that the property owner did not care for the premises as they should have. Failure to maintain or clean the property can breach the duty of care. If the property owner knows of a dangerous condition and does nothing about it (such as fix it or warn you about it), then that can also violate the duty of care.
- The violation caused the trip or slip and fall. There must be a direct connection between the property owner’s failure to keep up or maintain their property and the reason you fell. For example, if you fall because you tripped over your own feet, it will not matter that the property owner had not fixed a tear in the carpet that was a tripping hazard.
- Your fall caused damages. The last requirement of every slip and fall case is that you must have suffered some kind of damage as a result of the fall. This could be something as serious as a traumatic brain injury or as simple as some scrapes and bruises.
Gathering information and evidence is vital to prove these facts in your case. A Washington slip and fall lawyer can help you with this process.
Comparative Fault for Slip and Fall Claims in Washington
You may assume that, because you were not watching where you were going at the time of the fall, you do not have a legal claim. This may not necessarily be true. Instead, your fall may be partly your fault and partly the property owner’s error. When this happens, you still have an option to start a legal claim, but your damages may be reduced by your percentage of the blame.
Some of the most common defenses to a slip and fall claim cast blame on you. These might include things like:
- Failure to watch where you were going
- Ignoring warning signs or barriers
- Failing to see an otherwise obvious condition
- Wearing shoes that were not appropriate for the conditions
All of these arguments could decrease your damages, but they may not completely stomp out your claim. That is because Washington uses a system called “comparative fault.” That means that each person should bear their portion of the blame in a slip and fall case.
Consider an example. Imagine that you were walking along a sidewalk while texting a friend. You trip over an uneven surface where the sidewalk had broken. There are two general causes to this incident:
- You were not watching where you were going; and
- The property owner did not repair a cracked sidewalk when he knew it was broken and dangerous.
A jury will assign fault based on percentage. In this example, they might assign you 30% of the responsibility and the property owner 70% of the blame. For instance, if your damages are worth $10,000, then the most you can receive is $7,000, which would be 70% of the $10,000 total.
In this situation, an insurance company may try to convince you that your claim is worthless because you are partially to blame for the fall. Don’t let an insurance company trick you. You still have a legal claim even when you may have been partly at fault. Instead, use a personal injury attorney to evaluate your potential share of the blame to determine how much your claim is really worth.
Starting Your Slip and Claim in Washington
Similar to virtually every legal claim, slip and fall incidents have a time limit that you must follow to start your lawsuit. The statute of limitations for this type of claim is three years. However, if your case is against a public entity, your timeline might be much shorter.
If you try to start your case after this deadline, it will likely be dismissed. There are some exceptions to this general rule, but they are rare for this type of situation. It is best to speak with a slip and fall attorney as soon as you can after the incident. That way, your memory about what happened is fresh in your mind, and it is easier to gather evidence and witness statements.
Certa Law Group can help you evaluate your situation to determine what you should do next. If you are not sure whether you have a case, meeting with our experienced team is a great way to find out. Call today to schedule an appointment or to get more information.
Frequently Asked Questions | Washington Slip and Fall Guide
How Do I Pick the Right Attorney?
There are four things that you should keep in mind. First of all, you want to hire an attorney who only does personal injury. Avoid attorneys who do general practice.
The second thing you want to do is hire an attorney who’s handled these types of cases in the past. Experience is very important in slip and fall cases. In fact, many personal injury attorneys do not even take slip and fall cases. Our firm takes slip and fall cases. We find them challenging, and we have a very high success rate in these types of cases.
The third thing, if you can, hire an attorney who has insurance defense background, who’s defended these cases for the insurance companies in the past. At our firm, I am that attorney. I’ve handled insurance defense cases for the insurance companies in the past. I know how they think. I know how they prepare a case for trial, so I can turn the tables and use that experience against them.
The fourth thing you want to do is make sure you hire an attorney who’s going to prepare the case for trial. Some attorneys think that case will settle and won’t be prepared for trial, if and when that time comes. You want to avoid those attorneys as well. We prepare all our cases as if they will be going to trial and not settle.
Do I Have a Claim If I’m Hurt on Faulty Steps?
If you have fallen down a stairway due to faulty steps in Washington state, you probably have a case. There are a lot of questions that need to be resolved and investigated before that answer can be determined though. Were there handrails in place? Were the handrails and steps up to code? Did the steps deviate in height? We investigate these cases. We hire an expert such as an architect or an engineer to investigate whether there were code violations and whether or not you have a case.
Do I Have a Claim If There Was a Warning Sign?
If you’ve been involved in a slip and fall accident in Washington state and there were warning signs or warning cones about the condition that caused you to slip and fall or trip and fall, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot be compensated for your injuries. Where were these warning signs placed? Where were the cones placed? Were they visible to the patron in the store? It’s all fact-dependent, so don’t think that you don’t have a case just because there were warning signs or cones placed.
What Mistakes Can I Avoid?
If you’ve been involved in a slip and fall incident in Washington, there are certain mistakes we want you to avoid. First of all, do not walk away from the scene without documenting it. Take pictures if possible. Nowadays, many people have cell phones, so that’s easy to do.
The second thing to do is get medical attention right away. In fact, we had a potential client call us the other day, and she was involved in a slip and fall accident in a supermarket. She slipped and she did not fall down all the way. What happened was she grabbed onto the grocery cart, but she still twisted her knee. Although she thought it was a slight sprain, she didn’t seek medical attention. Several days later, her knee gave out on her.
Her doctor attributes the knee giving out to the original incident at the super market, but now we’re having problems with the insurance company because it was not documented at the supermarket, and she did not seek medical attention right away. It’s very important to see a doctor right away, no matter how minor you think the injury is. The third thing to avoid is speaking with the insurance company that will ultimately call you and try to get a statement from you that paints a bad picture for you.
What Steps Should I Take After a Slip and Fall?
Some of the things you may be wondering is what you should do. First of all, if you have an injury, you should seek medical attention right away. Second, you must document at the scene, if possible. Nowadays, most everyone has a cell phone, so it’s easy for you to take a picture of what you slipped on and what the scene looked like at the time of the accident. If you can’t do that, see if someone who’s with you can take a picture for you. Pictures are worth a thousand words.
The third thing you need to make sure of is not to speak with the insurance company. It’s inevitable that the insurance company who insures the premises will contact you and try to take a statement. Do not speak with them; insurance companies are not your friend. The purpose of the statement is to obtain facts and evidence from you that will assist with their defense.
The final thing you should do is contact an attorney who’s handled slip and fall cases in the past. We’ve handled numerous slip and fall cases with success. Contact us and we can answer any question you may have.
How Much is My Slip and Fall Case Worth?
If you’ve been involved in a slip and fall in Washington state, you may be wondering what your claim is worth. It’s impossible to tell what the claim is worth initially at the beginning. It depends on what the medical bills come out to be, whether you’ve missed time from work, have a good recovery or a difficult recovery, have complications from the injury later on, or have permanent injury that will require medical attention in the future. There’s no easy answer for that question; it’s fact-dependent.
Do I Have a Claim If I Fell on City Property?
In Washington state, if you’ve been injured in a trip and fall or slip and fall accident and a municipality is involved, you can have a claim against them. Claims against municipalities are different from claims against individual homeowners or premises owners. You have to file what’s called a notice of claim and typically, you have to give them 90 days’ notice before you can file a lawsuit. Also, you should contact an attorney who can send them a freedom of information act letter to see if there were any incidents like this in the past, and whether there was any work done on the premises before your trip and fall or slip and fall. It’s important that you contact an attorney in these cases, and they can develop the evidence and obtain the facts necessary for you to get a recovery.
Do I Have a Claim if I Fell on Residential Property?
If you’re involved in a slip and fall accident and are injured on somebody’s property in Washington state, the first thing you should do is see if you can get insurance information from them. Many of these properties have insurance, and they have coverage which is called MedPay, which covers medical expenses. It’s like no-fault for a car accident. It covers medical expenses if you’ve been injured on somebody’s property, regardless of fault.
The second thing you should do is get medical attention right away. The third thing you should do is contact a lawyer who’s experienced in slip and falls on premises liability cases, so they can document whatever they need to document, to help you resolve your case later on with the insurance company.
Should I Take a First Settlement Offer?
If you’ve been involved in a slip and fall accident in Washington state, you may be contacted by the insurance company soon thereafter offering you money, a low ball offer, to resolve the matter. Do not take this offer. It’s not going to be anything close to what your entitled to recover. Instead, you should contact an attorney, tell them the facts of the case, what your injuries are, and let them advise you appropriately.
How Long Will My Case Take?
If you’re involved in a slip and fall incident in Washington, you may be wondering how long it’s going to take to resolve the claim. There is no easy answer or right-line answer for that question; it all depends on how quickly you recover, whether you recover fully and when you start the lawsuit. For instance, you may be involved in a slip and fall incident and it may take you a year to recover.
Settlement negotiations may take four months; they may eventually stall and you will have to file a lawsuit, so that brings us to fourteen to sixteen months. It might be a year and four months after the accident. When you file a lawsuit, it typically takes twelve to eighteen months to get a trial date. It all depends; it’s fact-dependent on how long it takes you to recover.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim?
The other day we received a phone call from a potential client asking us how long they had to file a claim for a slip and fall case. These are some of the things you need to be aware of in Washington. Although you have three years to file a claim, you do not want to wait that long. You need to contact a lawyer as soon as possible so that they can interview witnesses. If you wait the three years, you may have problems down the road. The lawyer may contact witnesses later on and the witnesses may have forgotten a lot of the things that have happened.
Also, the potential defendants who may be responsible for your slip and fall accident might not be able to be located and the lawsuit cannot be started within that three-year period. That would leave you without recovery. If you have any questions about the time limits involved and what you should do right away, you should contact us and we can better advise you.
Contact Us for a Free Consultation
If you have a serious injury from a slip and fall accident, our Edmonds slip and fall lawyers are here to help you. Please call our office today to set up a free consultation to have your pressing questions answered.