Each year, tens of millions of Americans are injured in unintentional accidents – like slip and falls. Many of these falls are just a matter of bad luck. But in some cases, a person is hurt in a fall because of someone else’s carelessness.
In this situation, you may be able to file a personal injury claim against the property owner. Through a premises liability lawsuit, you can recover financial compensation for your medical bills, future medical treatment, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses. A skilled Virginia Beach slip and fall attorney can help.
The Jeff Brooke Team is dedicated to helping injury victims get the money that they deserve for their injuries. We offer free initial consultations, and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. To learn more, give our law office a call today.
Learn more about slip and fall accident lawsuits
- Are slip-and-fall lawsuits hard to win?
- Statute of Limitations in a slip-and-fall case
- When should you consult an attorney?
- Legal responsibility for slip-and-fall injuries
- Negligence in a slip-and-fall case?
- Will my slip-and-fall case go to trial?
- Do you need a slip-and-fall lawyer for your case?
- Are slip-and-fall lawyers affordable?
Have you been injured in a slip-and-fall incident?
The first step after experiencing a slip and fall accident is to seek medical help for the injuries sustained as a result of the fall. Getting medical treatment – even if you don’t think that you were badly injured – is vital to ensuring that you get the proper diagnosis and treatment. It also establishes a link between your fall and any injuries that you suffered.
Once you are able to do so, the next step should be to reach out to a slip and fall lawyer in Virginia Beach. You may have already been approached by an insurance adjuster or been asked to give a statement about what happened. Until you’ve had the chance to seek legal advice, you should not say anything to the insurance company or sign any paperwork.
Insurance companies are in the business of making money. They do that by paying out as little as possible on accident claims – or denying them entirely. In short, the insurance company doesn’t have your best interests at heart.
A skilled slip and fall lawyer will fight for your rights. They’ll take over all communications with the insurer for you, and will negotiate a fair settlement for your injuries. If necessary, they will take your case to trial to make sure that you get maximum compensation for your losses.
The Jeff Brooke Team is experienced in identifying the conditions of the environment and determining if the incident was due to negligence of the property owner. It is necessary to contact a personal injury attorney to help determine if you are entitled to compensation for injuries sustained in a slip and fall incident.
Are Slip and Fall Lawsuits Hard to Win in Virginia?
Personal injury law includes many different types of cases. While auto accidents are the most common, premises liability cases — including situations involving injuries from an accident at business premises — also happen fairly often. Slip-and-fall injuries, sometimes called trip-and-fall injuries, are a prevalent type of premises liability case. In Virginia, cases involving a slip and fall are hard to win, because of the specific legal rules that apply to proving a case.
Legal Elements of a Slip-and-Fall Case
Slip and fall lawsuits are a type of personal injury claim. They are often referred to as premises liability cases. Generally, you will need to prove that the property owner – or person occupying the property – was negligent in some way.
A person is negligent if they fail to use the level of care that a reasonable person would use in a similar situation. For property owners/occupiers, negligence is proven by submitting proof that:
- A dangerous condition existed on the property;
- The owner/occupier knew or should have known of the condition; and
- The owner/occupier failed to fix the dangerous condition or warn others about it.
The specific level of proof required will depend on why the person was on the property.
Virginia law categorizes injury victims (plaintiffs) in premises liability cases in three ways: trespassers, licensees, and invitees.
Trespassers are people who unlawfully enter a person’s property. Generally, property owners have no duty to trespassers. There are some limited exceptions for situations where a child trespasses and is injured by what is known as an “attractive nuisance,” which is something that is both dangerous and attractive to a child – such as a pool.
Licensees are people who enter a property with the knowledge and consent of the owner. For example, if you invite someone to your home for a social visit, they will typically be considered a licensee. Property owners owe licensees a duty to warn them of any dangerous conditions that they either know about or should know of on their property.
Finally, invitees are people who come onto someone’s property to do business. Customers in a grocery store are an example of invitees. Property owners owe invitees a duty to repair or fix any known dangerous conditions (or conditions that they should know about).
In addition, to succeed with a claim in a slip-and-fall lawsuit, whether by getting a settlement or court verdict, the injured victim, through his or her legal counsel, must demonstrate a number of essential components, including:
- The business owner or operator was negligent in allowing the condition that caused the accident to exist;
- The condition on the premises actually caused the injury;
- The injured victim did not contribute to the accident in any way;
- The lawsuit was filed within the time limitation imposed by law.
Satisfying all these requirements, in any case, is difficult, but it is not impossible. Not long ago, The Jeff Brooke Team won a $750,000 settlement in a slip-and-fall accident that occurred at a Newport News restaurant.
Liability of the Business Owner / Operator
A business owner (or operator) is legally responsible for injuries from a slip-and-fall accident on the business premises only if the owner was negligent with regard to the condition that caused the accident. Generally, that means either the owner caused or was aware of the condition and did nothing about it, or — more often — the owner/operator should have known about the condition. The standard that is applied is whether a reasonable person exercising ordinary care would have been aware of the condition and fixed it or warned about it.
All business owners are required to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition and warn of hidden dangers. That does not mean that the safety of every visitor is guaranteed. Proving negligence on the part of the business owner in a slip-and-fall case requires demonstrating facts that show a lack of reasonable care in maintaining safe premises. The facts and circumstances of every case are different. A critical component of building a case usually includes gathering eyewitness and employee testimony and may also involve consulting experts and examining business records in some cases.
Proving Causation in a Slip-and-Fall Accident Case
Even if the circumstances support a finding that the business owner was negligent regarding the condition, a key element of the case is proving that the condition actually caused the injury. Establishing causation involves showing exactly how the accident happened. As with proving negligence, factual evidence is important in proving causation. Testimony from witnesses and employees, as well as business records, can be relevant to causation. Sometimes having an expert inspect and analyze the condition is also necessary.
Part of establishing causation in a slip-and-fall case is showing that the injured victim did not contribute to his or her own accident. In negligence cases, Virginia applies the legal standard of contributory negligence, which means that if a victim shares responsibility for causing the accident, no damages can be recovered. An injured victim can be responsible in a number of different ways, including:
- Wearing footwear that is inappropriate or unsafe for the circumstances;
- Ignoring an obviously dangerous condition;
- Going onto part of the premises that is not open for visitors;
- Failing to pay attention, such as texting on or using a cell phone while walking.
Whether causation and lack of contributory negligence can be proven depends entirely on the facts and circumstances in each individual case. Only an experienced personal injury attorney can evaluate a situation to determine whether these elements can be satisfied.
Statute of Limitations in a Slip-and-Fall Case
Like most states, Virginia has a statutory limit on the amount of time an injured victim has to file a lawsuit. For slip-and-fall injuries, the time is two years from the date of the accident. If a lawsuit is not filed within that time, the victim will not be able to proceed in court in an action to recover for injuries.
Even though there are two years within which a case can be filed, consulting with a knowledgeable slip-and-fall attorney at the earliest possible time is very important. Gathering necessary evidence and witness testimony can become much more difficult as time passes.
When Should You Consult a Virginia Slip-and-Fall Attorney?
Recovering damages in a slip-and-fall case in Virginia is hard for several reasons. In addition to satisfying all the legal requirements, gathering evidence in a case is difficult and time-consuming and can be costly, especially if it becomes necessary to retain experts to examine the condition and cause of the accident.
While the injured victim may not have to pay those expenses since many attorneys take premises liability cases on a contingent fee basis and may cover expenses, undertaking a slip-and-fall case is a significant decision for any personal injury attorney. The attorney will conduct a thorough preliminary assessment of the case, including reviewing all of the elements that would have to be proven if a lawsuit is filed, before recommending whether a claim or lawsuit should be pursued.
The extent of injuries will be an additional factor in determining whether filing a lawsuit is worthwhile. If the victim’s injuries are relatively minor and expenses were covered by health insurance, a lawsuit may not be warranted. If, however, the victim has serious injuries, requires long-term treatment, suffers permanent disability or limitations, or missed work or is unable to work, the extent of the injuries may justify filing a lawsuit if all the other elements of a premises liability case are present.
While winning a slip-and-fall case in Virginia is hard, it definitely is not impossible. If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries in a premises accident, talking with an experienced personal injury attorney is advisable. If you are considering filing a claim with the insurance company of the business, it’s always best to consult with a lawyer before you file the claim and before you talk with any insurance company representatives.
Legal Responsibility for Slip-and-Fall Injuries
Many different conditions cause slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall injuries. Slippery floors from spills (especially in grocery stores) are a common reason for this type of accident. However, many other dangerous conditions on the property lead to injuries, including:
- Uneven or unrepaired flooring
- Poor lighting on stairways or in hallways
- Defective design of raised thresholds, stairs, or other walking areas
- Weather-related conditions (like snow and ice) inside or outside the premises
Slip-and-fall cases are part of an area of law referred to as premises liability. Specific legal rules apply to determining whether a property owner or lessee is legally liable when someone receives injuries on their premises.
All property owners and lessees have a carefully defined legal responsibility to make sure their property is safe for invited visitors. To recover for a slip-and-fall injury, the person who fell must demonstrate that the property owner was negligent and failed to fulfill that legal duty.
A property owner who fails to use reasonable care to keep the premises safe may be liable if someone suffers injuries because of a dangerous condition. If the owner knew or should have known about a dangerous condition and did nothing to remedy it or warn about it, the owner likely was negligent.
In addition to showing that a property owner or lessee negligently maintained the premises, an injured victim also must demonstrate that the owner’s negligence actually caused the accident and resulting injuries. This element of a slip-and-fall case constitutes the legal requirement of causation, which depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident.
An important aspect of causation in a personal injury case is whether the injured person contributed in any way to his or her own injuries. This question brings into play the legal principle of contributory negligence.
What Constitutes Contributory Negligence in a Slip-and-Fall Case?
If you receive injuries from a fall on business or private property, you may be entitled to compensation. However, in Virginia, your own contributory negligence in a slip-and-fall case can affect your right to receive reimbursement for your injuries.
Virginia has a strict contributory negligence rule that applies to all personal injury cases. If an injured individual shares any responsibility or fault for the accident, the law prevents that individual from recovering any compensation from a negligent person.
It does not matter if the negligent person who caused the injury was 99% at fault and the injured victim was only 1% at fault. If contributory negligence was a factor in the accident to any extent, the law bars any recovery by the injured individual.
When someone makes a claim for slip-and-fault injuries, the at-fault person’s insurance company attempts to avoid paying the claim by showing contributory negligence of the claimant. The company tries to use facts and circumstances to show the injured individual’s fault, such as:
- The victim wore shoes or clothing that made it difficult to walk normally or see where they were walking, such as high heels, flimsy flip-flops, or a big floppy hat.
- The victim’s attention was elsewhere due to texting or talking on the phone or another distraction, so he or she did not see an obvious danger.
- The victim ignored warning and hazard signs around the dangerous condition.
- Alcohol or drug consumption affected the victim’s coordination and judgment.
- The accident occurred on a part of the property clearly marked as not open to visitors.
- The victim trespassed on the owner’s property.
A thorough investigation and analysis of the accident is the only way to reach conclusions about contributory negligence. If a case goes to trial, a jury may decide the issue. In some situations, the judge may rule on contributory negligence as a matter of law.
In any claim, a number of facts and issues relating to the accident affect determinations about contributory negligence. All those considerations enter into settlement negotiations between the injured person and the property owner’s insurance company.
Talk With a Virginia Beach Slip-and-Fall Attorney
If you suffered serious, long-term injuries in a slip-and-fall on business or private property, you should discuss your case with an experienced premises liability lawyer. It is not prudent to make your own legal judgments about negligence or contributory negligence in your accident.
Above all, you should not talk with the insurance company or an adjuster who represents the property owner or lessee or try to settle the claim yourself. Their only goal is to minimize the compensation you receive or show contributory negligence so that you receive little or nothing. They even try to get you to make statements that will hurt your case.
A skillful attorney knows what compensation you deserve and will pursue your rights aggressively to make sure you get fair compensation. An experienced attorney knows how to negotiate with insurance adjusters and how to maximize your financial recovery.
The best time to contact an attorney is as soon as you are able to do so. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to recover evidence in the case. In addition, Virginia has a two-year time limit (called the statute of limitations) on filing personal injury cases. If two years pass from the date of your accident, you lose the legal ability to pursue your claim.
Slip and Fall Accident Lawsuits
One of the unfair criticisms of personal injury litigation is the perception that an injury victim can sue no matter what. While this may be technically correct, the better question is whether injury victims can win just because they sustained an injury.
We prefer the term “premises liability” to the term “slip and fall.” Premises liability is a much larger concept that deals with all of the duties owed by the owner or operator of the premises. Note the broad term “premises,” which can apply to all types of locations like homes, businesses, sidewalks, concert venues, bars, and restaurants.
The important thing to recognize is that the duty to protect comes from the nature of the victim’s visit. Broadly speaking, the law puts visitors into one of three categories: trespassers, licensees, and invitees. The duty owed increases based upon the purpose of the victim’s visit. In the case of a trespasser, practically no duty is owed. The premises’ owner may not intentionally injure the victim, but that’s about it.
Licensees are a bit different: they have not technically been invited to the premises but are allowed to be there. An example of this might be a public venue, boardwalk, or sidewalk. There, the premises owner has only an ordinary duty to remove hazards or to warn about them. Also, injury victims in this category must see and avoid “open and obvious” hazards. Licensee cases are perhaps the most numerous, but can also be quite difficult to win (being second only in degree of difficulty to trespasser cases).
The final category has to do with invitees, i.e. people who are directly or indirectly asked to come to the premises by the operator of the premises. This may include retail establishments, businesses, hotel operators, and some common carriers, such as bus or rail operators. The legal philosophy is that if the operator stands to make a tidy profit from the invitee, the invitee may expect the highest amount of care and concern. Even so, cases like this can be difficult to win for all of the above reasons and because defects that are “open and obvious” still may not be the basis for an injury claim.
Will My Slip and Fall Case Go to Trial?
The vast majority – 97% – of tort cases are resolved outside of court. In other words, there is a strong possibility that your accident claim will be settled without you ever having to go to trial or set foot in a courtroom.
That being said, there may be situations where it is necessary to take your case to a jury to ask them to return a verdict in your favor. If the insurance company disputes liability or argues that you were at least somewhat at fault for the fall, then the best option may be to go to trial. A seasoned slip and fall attorney in Virginia Beach can help you decide the best option for you based on the specific facts of your case.
Working with an experienced lawyer can help you avoid going to trial. The insurance companies know that taking a case to a jury is a gamble. When your attorney has a track record of success, they are more likely to offer you fair compensation for your injuries – so that you don’t have to go to court.
Filing a lawsuit does not mean that your case will go to trial. It is usually necessary to ensure that you meet the statute of limitations. Once the accident claim has been filed, negotiations will continue until a settlement is achieved. If negotiations fail – or the insurance company refuses to give you the money that you deserve for your injuries – then your lawyer may advise you to go to trial.
At trial, each side will have an opportunity to make arguments, present evidence, and question witnesses. At the conclusion of the case, your Virginia Beach slip and fall lawyer will ask the jury to return a verdict for you.
Do I Really Need a Slip and Fall Lawyer for My Case?
Yes. Even if your injuries were relatively minor, it still makes sense to hire a Virginia Beach slip and fall lawyer. Premises liability law is complicated, and it can be difficult to prove that the property owner is liable for your injuries. A skilled attorney can analyze your case to help you hold the at-fault party responsible.
The Jeff Brooke Team has significant experience handling all aspects of premises liability cases. Reach out today to schedule a free initial consultation.
Can I Afford a Slip and Fall Lawyer?
Most personal injury lawyers handle cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that you pay nothing upfront, and only pay a fee if your attorney recovers money for you through a settlement or verdict at trial. In this way, you can afford legal representation even if you don’t have the cash to pay out of pocket.
Contingency fee arrangements align with the interest of lawyers and clients. Both parties want to get the biggest recovery possible, as quickly as possible. Reach out to the Jeff Brooke Team today to schedule a free initial consultation.
Speak With A Slip and Fall Lawyer Today!
If you or someone you know has suffered an injury as a result of a slip and fall accident, call The Jeff Brooke Team to consult with our experienced personnel. We have an in-depth understanding of slip and fall accident cases in Virginia that will allow us to help you receive the compensation you are entitled to.
The Jeff Brooke Team has offices in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Portsmouth. Our firm is devoted to providing the highest level of personal service, and professional legal counsel to those who have been injured in an accident. We are dedicated to helping those who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries as a result of someone else’s negligent, and careless actions. Speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer today.