It has happened to the best of us: you’re walking along, minding your business when boom – you slip and fall. In many situations, tripping and falling is just a matter of bad luck. But when you fall and get hurt because of someone else’s carelessness, you may be able to file a premises liability lawsuit against them.
Property owners in West Virginia have a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. If they fail to do so and someone is injured as a result, then they could be held liable for any injuries that result. A skilled personal injury lawyer can help you determine if you have a case and work with you to get maximum compensation for your losses.
At Johnstone & Gabhart, we represent accident victims throughout West Virginia. We are fierce advocates for our clients, helping them get maximum compensation for their injuries. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our Huntington injury lawyers, reach out to our law office today.
When Can You File a Slip and Fall Lawsuit?
Slip and fall accidents fall into the broad category of personal injury claims. Specifically, they are brought under a theory of premises liability. When a person is hurt by a defect or unsafe condition on someone else’s property, they can file a legal action to seek financial compensation for their losses.
Many different types of accidents are considered premises liability claims, from slip and falls to dog bites to swimming pool accidents to inadequate security. A property owner (or someone who occupies the property) can be held liable for any type of injury that arose from their negligence or carelessness.
Generally, property owners in West Virginia have a duty to regularly inspect their property to identify dangerous conditions and either repair them or post warnings. Importantly, the property owner must actually know (or should reasonably have known) about the dangerous condition in order to be held liable for it. If the property owner didn’t know about it and/or didn’t have time to correct it, then they probably won’t be held responsible for any injuries that result.
For example, consider a situation where a customer drops a jar of spaghetti sauce on the floor of a grocery store. They notify an employee, who goes to get cleaning equipment and signs to warn others of the slippery floor. Before they get back, however, another customer slips and falls on the sauce. In this situation, because the store didn’t have time to correct or warn about the dangerous condition before the individual fell, they probably won’t be held liable for any injuries.
However, if the store was informed of the spill and chose to not put up warning signs or clean it up for an extended period of time, then they could be held responsible for any injuries that result. The key is that the property owner (1) knows or reasonably should have known about the issue; and (2) failed to repair or warn about the condition.
In West Virginia, property owners do not owe a duty of care to people who are not legally on their property – trespassers. In most cases, if you get hurt on someone’s property when you don’t have permission to be there, then you cannot sue them for your injuries. Similarly, if the dangerous condition was “open and obvious,” then you can’t pursue legal action against the property owner.
Premises liability law is complex, and liability is based on the specific facts of a case. The best way to find out if you have a potential claim against a property owner is to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. During a free consultation, they will listen to your story and advise you of your legal rights and options.
Who Can Be Held Liable for a Slip and Fall Accident?
If a property owner’s negligence led to your slip and fall, you could file a lawsuit against them to recover financial compensation for your injuries. However, premises liability claims are not limited to individual property owners.
Depending on the situation, you may also file a claim against a renter – such as a business that rents the commercial property where you fell. You could even file a claim against a property management company that is responsible for maintaining the premises.
If you fall on a publicly-owned property, it may be possible to file a claim against the government entity that owns or is responsible for maintaining the property. However, government claims are different from typical personal injury lawsuits. A seasoned Huntington, WV slip and fall lawyer can help you determine who may be liable for your injuries and how to file a claim.
Many people are reluctant to file a slip and fall accident lawsuit when they were hurt on a loved one’s property. Bear in mind that you aren’t actually suing your friend or family member. Instead, you are filing a claim against their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. The insurance company will ultimately be responsible for paying any settlement or verdict at trial.
West Virginia Slip and Fall Accident Settlements
In a slip and fall case, you may be able to recover financial compensation for your full range of losses. This compensation is referred to as damages. Depending on the facts of your claim, you may be entitled to economic damages, non-economic damages, and/or punitive damages.
Economic damages are meant to compensate an injury victim for their direct financial losses. They may include things like medical bills, property damage, future medical treatment, lost wages and reduced earning capacity. These types of damages are typically proven through things like medical records and invoices and pay stubs.
Non-economic damages compensate accident victims for their intangible losses. Examples of non-economic damages include emotional distress, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, scarring, and disfigurement. It can be harder to prove non-economic damages, but an experienced slip and fall attorney will use their experience with similar cases and consult with expert witnesses to help you put together a claim for these losses.
Finally, punitive damages are available in cases where a property owner acted intentionally or with gross recklessness. They are meant to punish a wrongdoer and discourage other people from engaging in similar conduct. In West Virginia, there is a cap on punitive damages.
The majority of personal injury cases – including slip and fall accidents – are resolved by settlement. The timeline for a slip and fall settlement can vary considerably, from a few months to more than a year. Factors that may influence the time to settle a case include whether the insurance company contests liability, the severity of your injuries, and the policy limits of the at-fault party’s insurance coverage.
How a Slip & Fall Lawyer Can Help
After a slip and fall accident, you may be approached by an adjuster for the insurance company. They may tell you that they take full responsibility, ask you to sign some paperwork, or even offer you a settlement. Although you may want to just put this incident behind you, you should not talk to the adjuster or sign anything until after you have had a chance to talk to a personal injury attorney.
Insurance companies are in business to make money. They do this by limiting how much they pay out on claims. In almost every case, that initial offer is a lowball offer that won’t come close to covering all of your losses. Anything that you say to the insurance company will be used against you to limit your ultimate recovery.
When you hire a slip and fall attorney, they will take over all communications with the insurance company for you. This not only protects your rights but frees you up to focus on what is truly important: getting better.
Throughout the process, your attorney will aggressively negotiate for a top-dollar settlement. If the insurance company won’t offer fair compensation for your injuries, they’ll file a lawsuit and take the case to trial to ask a jury to find it in your favor.
Studies show that people who are represented by counsel recover an average of 40% more than people who represent themselves. Because personal injury cases are handled on a contingency fee basis – which means you pay no money upfront – you aren’t taking any risk when you hire a lawyer. Instead, you increase the odds of getting maximum compensation and protecting your rights.
Reach Out Today to Talk to a Huntington, WV Slip and Fall Lawyer
After a slip and fall accident, you may not know if you have a case or where to turn for help. Our law firm can help you get the money that you deserve for your injuries. We’ll fight for your right to full compensation.
The legal team at Johnstone & Gabhart has more than 50 years of combined experience representing accident victims in West Virginia. We offer free initial consultations, and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. To learn more or to talk to one of our Huntington car accident attorneys, give us a call at 304-343-7100 or fill out our online contact form.
How Long Do I Have to File a Slip & Fall Lawsuit?
In West Virginia, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases – including slip and falls, wrongful death, and car accidents – is 2 years. This means that in most situations, you have 2 years from the date of your accident to file a claim. If you don’t file a lawsuit within that time period, then you won’t be able to do so.
The best way to protect your interests is to reach out to a Huntington, WV slip and fall attorney as soon as possible. Call Johnstone & Gabhart today for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.
What If I Am Partially at Fault for My Slip and Fall?
West Virginia follows the principle of comparative negligence. If you were 50% or less responsible for your fall, then you can still recover – but your total recovery will be reduced by the percentage that you were at fault. This may happen in a number of situations, such as if you tripped over a loose carpet while looking at your phone.
However, if you could have avoided an open and obvious danger, then you won’t be able to recover anything for your injuries. Contact Johnstone & Gabhart today to learn more about how a Huntington, WV slip and fall lawyer can help you get maximum compensation for your injuries.