The Answers You Need for the Questions You’re Forced to Ask
One of the worst aspects of pursuing a case—whether you’re fighting for injury compensation or trying to settle a divorce—is not knowing what to expect. Before you get yourself knee deep in the details of your case allow us to answer some of your questions first. We’ll help you be more fully prepared and more confident as you move forward.
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What is an open and obvious risk in a slip and fall claim?
Slip and fall cases will usually involve some degree of negligence on the part of the property owner. If the owner knew or should have known about a defect on the property or did not warn visitors of the defect, the owner can be held responsible for the injuries the defect causes. However, there is an exception to this rule: the “open and obvious” doctrine.
Owners May Not Be Responsible for an Open and Obvious Risk
Rhode Island courts have held that property owners are not responsible for warning visitors of any open and obvious hazard on the premises that could cause injury. The theory is that the risk is so obvious, a reasonable and prudent person would have taken steps to avoid it, making the victim the negligent party. In an “open and obvious” defense, the property owner may accept that the open condition caused injury, and even that he failed to warn about the condition—but may not agree as to fault.
In most cases, recovery for an open and obvious risk case will depend on:
- Negligence. All premises liability cases are decided based on which party was negligent. Failure to warn of a dangerous condition or failure to fix the condition are types of negligence that can be attributed to the property owner. On the other hand, a jury may find a victim to be negligent if he should have seen the hazard and realized it was dangerous but did not try to avoid it.
- The nature of the condition. In order for the open and obvious doctrine to apply, the defect must be large, plainly visible, unobstructed, or otherwise easily identified. Types of open defects might include construction on the property, rolls of new carpeting, or piles of snow.
- Evidence of the risk. The burden is on the victim to provide evidence of the dangerous condition. However, if the victim does not take photographs at the scene, the property owner may make repairs while the victim is recovering, making the case more complicated.
- Degree of fault. Even if the condition is ruled open and obvious, Rhode Island injury laws allow victims to recover damages even if they are mostly at fault—but the amount of damages will be limited by the victim’s percentage of fault.
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, the attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum offer free initial consultations for injury victims and do not charge for our services until your case is resolved. Contact us today via our online form to schedule your initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer.
What does premises liability mean?
Premises liability is an area of law that determines who is responsible for injuries on public or private property. Just as car accident laws regulate driver behaviors and responsibilities, premises liability laws outline a property owner’s responsibilities for preventing injuries to visitors and guests. If a property owner is found negligent, he can be held liable for the costs of a victim’s medical bills, lost income, and other damages.
Cause of Action in a Premises Liability Case
Accidents such as slip and falls or even assault can all give rise to premises liability claims. However, the law requires the victim to prove a number of factors in order to hold landowners responsible for injuries on their properties. For example, a victim may have a cause of action (right to file a lawsuit) against the owner if the victim:
- Had a right to be on the property. Customers generally have a right to be on a business’s property, while visitors and tenants are protected when on residential property (although some trespassers may be able to sue after a slip and fall).
- Was hurt by a defect the landowner knew about. Both homeowners and businesses have a duty to make their properties safe for invited guests (such as clearing away snow and ice from steps and sidewalks). The victim may have grounds to sue if the owner knew about a hazard on the property but failed to correct it and failed to warn visitors about the dangers.
- Was injured because of the landowner’s negligence. Negligence can exist in many forms—from an owner’s inability to recognize a hazard (such as failing to install lights in stairwells and alleys) to allowing a defect to exist that is in violation of the local building code.
- Suffered significant losses as a result of the accident. A victim may be owed compensation for the costs of medical treatment, lost wages, rehabilitation costs, out-of-pocket expenses, and permanent disability related to the incident.
If you were injured on someone else’s property, our attorneys can explain your legal options at no cost to you. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online form to schedule your initial consultation with a premises liability lawyer.
What actions should I take after a slip and fall accident?
If you’ve suffered an injury due to a slip and fall, there are many things you may do that result in underpayment for your injuries and even outright denial of accident compensation. It’s important to know how to avoid missteps in your injury claim.
Protect Your Case After a Slip and Fall
If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall, you should seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Not only does seeing a doctor help to identify severe injuries, it allows juries and insurers to see that you were acting responsibly and took your injury seriously. It also creates a medical record immediately after the incident, establishing that your injuries were a direct result of the fall.
Even if you went to the emergency room and follow your doctor’s orders, your injury claim could still be at significant risk if you:
- Fail to report the accident. It is vital that you report the accident to the property owner as soon as possible after the accident. The owner (or an employee) will likely ask you to complete an incident report with the date, time, and location of the fall. While you are advised to report the fall, you should never discuss details of the accident with anyone or speculate on what might have caused your fall.
- Post on social media. It may seem easier to tell your friends and family about the accident by posting on Twitter or Facebook. However, anything you post can be used as evidence against you. Even a simple assurance such as “I’m fine” can cause an insurer to undervalue your claim, since it implies that you were not seriously injured.
- Give a recorded statement. You must notify your insurance company of the accident if you are planning on making a claim for your injury. But insurance company representatives for the responsible party often call victims to “clarify” details of an accident in a recorded statement. Anything you say in these conversations can be used against you, so it is best to decline giving a statement.
- Accept a settlement. Victims are often eager to move on after an accident, and insurance companies know this. They may pressure a victim into accepting a low settlement quickly, making it impossible for the victim to recover additional damages later. If you have been offered a settlement, you should always consult with an attorney before you accept.
Contact an Injury Attorney to Learn What To Do After a Slip and Fall Accident
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, we can gather surveillance video, witness statements, and other vital evidence to maximize your compensation. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online form to schedule an initial consultation at no cost to you.
Can children get compensation after being injured on someone else’s property?
Most premises liability laws absolve property owners of any responsibility for injuries suffered by trespassers. Generally, it wouldn’t be fair to allow compensation for an injury that occurred while the victim was breaking the law. However, many states make an exception to this rule when children are the victims, since children do not have the same concept of danger and understanding of property boundaries that adults do. In Rhode Island, property owners can be liable for injuries to trespassing children if the child was on the premises as a result of an “attractive nuisance."
What Is Considered an Attractive Nuisance in Rhode Island?
In premises liability cases, an attractive nuisance is any dangerous item that could attract the attention of children and entice them onto the property. The exact definition varies, but most courts agree that attractive nuisances include man-made objects that are solely owned and maintained by the property owner. Here are some common examples of attractive nuisances:
- Water features (including swimming pools, fountains, or wells)
- Holes or tunnels
- Ladders, stairs, or scaffolding
- Paths, gardens, or rock piles
- Dangerous machinery (such as snowblowers or lawn mowers)
- Dogs, cats, or some type of dangerous animal
When Can Parents Sue for a Child’s Injury on Someone Else’s Property?
Parents may be able to get compensation for an injured child if they can prove the property owner knew of the injury risk but allowed the dangerous condition to exist on the property without taking proper precautions. For instance, a child who trespasses into a neighbor’s yard and is injured on a trampoline could be owed compensation if the gate to the yard was not locked or if the neighbor was aware that children routinely jump the fence. While neighbors may attempt to deny liability by posting “no trespassing” signs, some courts do not consider signs as an effective method for deterring children.
If your child was injured on someone else’s property, our attorneys can determine who may be held liable. Contact our offices today to schedule your no-obligation consultation with our legal advisors.