Slip and Fall Accidents: Know Your Rights

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Accidents Happen

No matter when or where it happens, a slip and fall accident in public is not only embarrassing, if you’re not careful after the accident they can have a lasting impact on your health and possibly even your finances. If you’re injured in a slip and fall accident on someone else’s property in New York, you need to know your rights and what the laws are for slip and fall injuries. So continue reading to learn how to handle this unfortunate situation should you ever find yourself facing it.

New York Slip and Fall Laws

There are two fundamental New York laws regarding slip and fall accidents that you need to know about first and foremost. Whether you’re seriously injured or not, you need to know your rights and what these laws mean for any attempts at compensation, especially if it’s reasonably evident that the property owner was somehow negligent in connection with your slip and fall accident.

Just as in several other areas of law, New York has a statute of limitations law that dictates that you only have three years to file any lawsuit in a slip and fall case, and that time starts on the day of the actual incident. This deadline also applies to property damage that was caused by accident, such as a pair of glasses, a watch, or other personal property that was broken or damaged. In rare cases, an attorney may be able to get a “pause” on this timeframe to allow you additional time to get your claim underway, but as a general rule you must have your case filed within the statute timeframe or your case is highly likely to be dismissed.

Shared fault, or “pure comparative negligence rule,” in New York means that if you were somehow partially responsible or negligent in connection with the accident, any damages that you would be awarded are reduced according to the percentage of your fault. As such, if you file a lawsuit or an insurance claim in relation to the slip and fall accident, the property owner is likely to argue that you share at least some of blame for the accident. If their argument for this is successful, you can expect to see at least a portion of any court award taken away.  Even if you eventually settle out of court, any finding of a shared fault will likely reduce the value of your slip and fall claim.

Some situations that may result in shared fault:

  • The conditions that caused your slip and fall should have been obvious to you before the accident. E.G. Others were obviously avoiding the situation.
  • Reasonable steps were taken to protect you – i.e. the area or dangerous condition was marked or cordoned off by cones and/or signage.
  • You were on your phone or were otherwise distracted and not paying attention to your surroundings or where you were walking.
  • You were wearing inappropriate or unsafe footwear or clothing that may have attributed to the accident.
  • You were in an area where visitors aren’t usually allowed.

With many slip and fall accident cases in New York, you won’t deal directly with the owner of the property where the accident occurred.

In many New York slip and fall injury lawsuits, you will not necessarily be dealing with the owner of the property where the injury occurred, and you’ll only interact with the property owner’s insurance company. The insurance company will likely scrutinize you fairly heavily, probing to determine the extent of your injuries and your actions immediately leading up to the accident, as well as any warnings you may have ignored. It is probably in your best interest to hire an attorney to represent you before meeting with them.

What to Do First After a Slip and Fall Accident

No matter how good or bad you initially feel afterward, you should immediately report the accident to a manager, owner or landlord. You should also insist that an accident report is completed by the business and that you obtain a copy before you leave. While New York law doesn’t mandate this measure, it is often a business policy and can be an invaluable asset should you suffer injuries or the case has to go to court. If no accident report is made, record as much information about the incident as possible, including the conditions of the location as well as the names and contact information of any witnesses, any employees present immediately after the accident, and the name/position of whom you reported the slip and fall accident to.

Again, you should follow this recommendation whether you “feel” injured or not, your health should be your number one priority and it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible so that your injuries can be properly documented.  It’s just as important to find the right doctor. You might have a great family doctor that you know and trust to take care of most of your medical concerns, but in some cases, it’s vital to see a professional who specializes in accident-related injuries. You may be suffering from injuries that are not apparent at first glance and may require proper diagnostic testing and multi-specialty medical team to get you well.  These doctors will work with your attorney, provide medical records and reports, and expert medical testimony. Those medical records will be important evidence should you decide to seek compensation for any injuries or damages.

Above all else, remain calm. This can be difficult of course, especially if you’re injured and in pain, but you need to maintain a level head and limit your communication with the manager or store owner. Refrain from placing any blame, but also be sure not to take the blame either, and decline from making any statements to an insurance company until you’ve had a chance to speak to an attorney. You also shouldn’t post details about the slip and fall accident on social media, even on the company’s website or accounts. Keep the communications minimal and professional.

Should I Contact a Slip and Fall Accident Attorney?

If you’re considering legal action, the best person to have on your side is an experienced attorney. Many slip and fall injury cases are complex and difficult to prove, and a simple omission or oversight on your part can mean all the difference in the world when it comes to any compensation that you may be entitled to.

Two ways an experienced slip and fall attorney can help:

  • They handle all that frustrating and confusing paperwork – You can focus on what’s important, your health and recovery. While not impossible to complete and file on your own, the paperwork required for these court proceedings can be a daunting endeavor for even the best among us.
  • They worry about that deadline – With the three-year statute of limitations on slip and fall lawsuits in New York, time can quickly sneak past you. A professional attorney will ensure that your case isn’t dismissed because a deadline was missed.

Of course, it is completely up to you whether you retain an attorney for your slip and fall case in New York, but having the knowledge above along with experienced representation can help ensure that your rights are protected and that you don’t needlessly suffer due to someone else’s negligence.