Slip and fall accidents can occur anywhere, and not all warrant a personal injury lawsuit. However, if you slip and fall, suffering an injury, on someone else’s property due to their negligence, you may have an opportunity to recover the losses incurred during treatment. Like all personal injury lawsuits in Utah, winning a slip and fall injury case relies on your ability to prove liability and damages. You may find it challenging without the help of a Utah slip and fall accident lawyer.
How Do Slip and Fall Accidents Occur?
Slip and fall accidents most commonly occur on business properties, either to employees or customers. However, they can happen under various circumstances. Some common slip and fall causes include:
- Wet surfaces caused by spills and leaks
- Slippery surfaces caused by inclement weather, such as snow, ice, or rain accumulation
- Broke steps or floor tiles
- Work or torn rugs or mats
The results can be anything from minor embarrassment to severe trauma, such as head injuries, broken bones, or spinal cord injuries. Simply falling on someone else’s property is not enough to file a lawsuit seeking damages. Without injury or property damage, you have no losses to recover. Therefore, you cannot file a civil lawsuit.
What Laws Govern Slip and Fall Accident Cases?
States mandate the laws that govern personal injury cases. For example, slip and fall cases fall under premises liability standards. Additionally, Utah tort law sets a statute of limitations and uses comparative negligence to govern matters of shared fault. If you file a slip and fall accident lawsuit, these laws can affect your case.
Premises liability is a concept holding home and business owners responsible for accidents occurring on their property due to their failure to keep the property safe for visitors. For example, suppose you enter a restaurant during operating hours on a rainy day and slip and fall on water tracked in at the entrance. In that case, you could potentially argue that the employees failed to keep the entryway safe or place signage warning guests that the floor was wet. Similarly, if you came to a neighbor’s house and slipped and fell on a broken stair in their home, you could argue that the homeowner had a responsibility to fix it before having over a guest. As the plaintiff, you must prove the property owner’s liability for your accident and subsequent injuries.
Statute of Limitations
In Utah, the statute of limitations for a slip and fall case is four years. This means you have four years from the date the accident occurred to file a lawsuit against the property owner for damages related to bodily injury. If you fail to meet the deadline, the defendant will likely request a case dismissal on those grounds. If any of your property was damaged during the accident, you have three years to file a case seeking compensation.
Comparative Negligence in Utah
Once your attorney sends your demands, explaining your complaint, the defense will typically respond with a request to dismiss the case or with their own claims. The most common claims in a slip and fall accident case are either denial of responsibility or an accusation of shared fault. In Utah, if you are partially responsible for the accident, that does not mean you cannot receive compensation for your losses. However, it does mean their argument could significantly lower your award.
Utah’s comparative negligence rule states that your share of fault must be less than the combined shares of responsibility belonging to the defense. Therefore, if there is only one defendant in your case, you must still be less than 50% responsible to receive compensation. The percentage of fault assigned to you is then deducted from the total award available. For example, if the total of your losses amounts to $20,000 and your share of fault equals 10%, you can only receive $18,000. However, should your percentage of fault equal 51%, you cannot claim any damages.
What Damages Can You Recover in a Slip and Fall Accident Case?
Every slip and fall accident case is different, and the damages you can recover depend on the value of your losses. However, some general damages are common in most slip and fall accident lawsuits. The court refers to these as compensatory damages.
Compensatory damages include all the things you lost due to your accident and injuries. While monetary compensation cannot repair any psychological damage or permanent disabilities, it can help you recover financially. The two types of compensatory damages are economic and non-economic.
Economic Damages and Non-Economic Damages
Economic damages have a defined monetary value with tangible evidence. They include:
- The bills you accumulated for medical treatment, including emergency care and ongoing treatment
- The wages you lost from current and future missed work
- The cost of any property damaged during the fall
- Any other expenses related to your injuries, such as at-home care or structural adjustments to accommodate medical devices
The non-economic damages refer to the psychological changes you endured due to your injuries. Examples include your pain and suffering, emotional distress, and mental anguish caused by the accident and your injuries.
Part of a slip and fall accident lawyer’s role as your legal representation is to gather the evidence needed to prove these damages. For example, they will collect medical bills, pay stubs, written statements, and witness testimonies to prove your losses.
How Do You Prove Fault in a Slip and Fall Accident Case?
Proving fault in a slip and fall case is typically the most challenging part of the process. As the plaintiff, you are responsible for supplying sufficient evidence to show:
- That the property owner had a legal responsibility to keep their property safe for you
- That the property owner violated the responsibility
- That their breach of duty, or negligence, resulted in an accident
- That the accident caused you injuries
Some of the best evidence to support your claim include photographs and video surveillance.
These laws only apply if you were a legal guest at the time of the accident. Trespassers have no protection under the concept of premises liability. Additionally, business owners are typically held to a higher standard than homeowners, primarily because of the higher volume of foot traffic on their properties.
What Can You Expect From the Discovery Phase?
The discovery phase is often the longest part of any lawsuit. During this time, attorneys from both sides use multiple techniques to learn everything they can about the case. For example, both sides submit questions the plaintiff and defendant must answer under oath. Your attorney will write interrogatories for the defendant, and the defense attorney will raise questions for you. Both sides can request documentation about the incident and the property, and the defense will want to see your medical records.
The most intimidating part of the process is the deposition. The defense attorney will likely want to question you about the accident. During a deposition, a court reporter and videographer will record the process, and your attorney will be present to protect your rights.
Questions During the Deposition
Some common questions from the defense in a slip and fall accident lawsuit include:
- What caused your fall, and did you see it before you slipped?
- What did you do in the immediate aftermath?
- What types of shoes were you wearing at the time of the fall?
- Did you take any precautions to avoid stepping into the dangerous condition?
- On what part of your body did you land first?
- Do you currently suffer from your injuries?
- What medical care did you receive after the incident?
- Do you wear prescription contacts or glasses, and were you wearing them at the time of the accident?
- Was anything distracting you when the accident occurred?
- How was the weather at the time?
This is not a comprehensive list of potential questions. How these depositions go depends on the attorney; some attorneys ask more questions than others. An experienced slip and fall accident attorney can help you prepare for the process, and they know what to expect.
Should You Contact a Utah Slip and Fall Accident Lawyer?
If you sustained an injury in a slip and fall accident on someone else’s property, you might have questions about the details of your case and your eligibility for compensation. Personal injury cases rely on the plaintiff’s ability to prove fault, often through the theory of negligence, and this can be complex in a slip and fall case. If you speak to the insurance company alone, the adjuster could use your words against you. Their job is to act in the company’s best interests, but a slip and fall accident lawyer will protect your rights and ensure you make no mistakes that could jeopardize your claim.
At Siegfried and Jensen, our team of personal injury attorneys will listen carefully to your needs and give you direct answers. We understand the nuances of personal injury and the requirements for a strong premises liability claim. If you want to know more about the legal options available, contact us today for your free consultation. You pay nothing out-of-pocket for your case review.
The Problem With Putting Things Off
If you have been in a slip and fall accident, do not speak with the insurance company that covers the property where you fell. Your truthful, straightforward statement may be turned against you.
Speak with us first. We’ll make sure you are protected.
We would welcome the opportunity to talk with you. To listen carefully when you tell us what happened, and tell you where you stand. We’d like to get to know you, and give you straight answers about what we can do to help. We’ll answer your questions, help you understand the issues, and look at your options and advise you how you can best move ahead.