Compensation for ankle injury from falling in a pot hole?

by Cindy
(Kingsville, MD)

I would like information on filing a personal injury claim. I have never filed any kind of claim and do not know if I should do this on my own or if a lawyer is needed.

On May 26, I visited a local (Maryland) Pizza Hut to pick up a carry-out order of 2 large pizzas. While walking back to my car, I fell violently after catching my foot in a very deep pothole in the parking lot. The hole was large, but I could not see it at all as I was carrying those two large pizzas and the boxes blocked me from seeing anything right in front of me.

I went down HARD, and was in so much pain initially that I was unable to stand at all and support my weight. I was only a few feet from my car, but I could not get up. A fellow customer (who saw me fall) rushed over and helped to support me so I could get inside my vehicle.

I was in a lot of pain and sobbing, but after I calmed down, I called the pizza hut (I could not walk to go back in) and after waiting for 20 minutes or so, someone finally came out and gave me a 1-800 number to call if I had any later problems.

She said they were out of the "incident reports" she needed to make a report herself, but she wrote down her name (she was assistant manager) and store number and date and the number to call.

I drove home to put ice on my ankle, but it was so injured I could not walk on it, so my husband drove me right away to Patient First clinic for x-rays. The doctor there told me I had a severe tear to a ligament and gave me crutches and one of those inflatable shoes to support it. He told me it might take as long as 4 months to heal.

It is now about a month later and I can walk on the foot, even without the crutches and shoe, but every night, the top of the foot aches and aches and I have a hard time falling asleep because of the constant dull aching. I have been told by others who suffered severe ankle sprains and severely torn ligaments that it might never be the same and the aching might be chronic.

I need to see a specialist to see if anything more can be done, besides taking Advil constantly, to alleviate the aching. I feel Pizza Hut should cover this. I already had to pay to go to Patient First that night for the x-rays, crutches, and shoe (my co-pay was $40, but there might be more that insurance won't cover later).

I do not feel I should have to pay for a specialist too. I think Pizza Hut should cover that, and also should pay a bit for pain and suffering, because there was (and is) quite of bit of that. I had to hobble around on crutches wearing that uncomfortable inflatable shoe for weeks.

Now, I am out of the shoe and off the crutches, but I still have pain when I walk on it, still cannot walk far without aching pain, and feel aching all night as I lie in bed.

I feel Pizza Hut is at fault for allowing a pot hole of that size to lay open in their parking lot, knowing that their customers are often carrying giant pizza boxes out of their place and unable to see past the boxes.

This happened late May and most pot holes develop in winter, so I suspect that hole was there for a long time before I fell into it. It was a deep, large hole that should have been fixed and was not.

I have pics of the hole, pics of my severely purple and swollen foot, the Patient First receipt showing my diagnosis of a sprained/torn ligament, the name and number of the young man who had to help me stand and get into my car, and the handwritten name of the assistant manager who gave me the 1-800 number to call.

I did not call that number yet, because I wanted to see if the ankle would heal quickly and be something minor or if it would be something worse. I believe it is not terribly minor at this point, as one month later I am still suffering from pain and unable to walk for long on it. So I would like to file a personal injury claim.

Any tips? What should be my first step? How do I pick a lawyer? I feel overwhelmed trying to choose one when I have no information on how much I should expect them to charge or what their fee should be, or how good they are. Should I call Pizza Hut myself and try to pursue this without a lawyer? Is a lawyer necessary for a small claim like this?

Any information or help is appreciated, even if it is just to suggest the smartest way to go about finding a reputable and competent lawyer. Thank you!

Visitor Question:
Disclaimer: Information provided in our response is NOT formal legal advice. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Under no circumstances should the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Our response does NOT create an attorney-client relationship. Always get a formal case review from a licensed attorney in your area.

ANSWER for "Compensation for ankle injury from falling in a pot hole?":

Cindy (Kingsville, MD):

There are personal injury claims which can be negotiated by the victim without the need for legal representation. These types of injuries are referred to as "soft tissue," and can include sprains and strains to muscles, tendons and ligaments, whiplash, minor burns and abrasions, and the like.

Your injury was more serious. You have more than a sprained or strained ligament. Yours has been "severely torn." These more serious injury cases should seldom be handled without an attorney. Your medical bills, albeit somewhat covered my insurance, do not preclude you from pursuing a legitimate personal injury claim against Pizza Hut.

Most injuries sustained on commercial property are documented on company Incident Reports of some kind. While the employee stated she didn't have an incident report at the time you were injured, she was there and documented your fall.

From the facts you present, it appears Pizza Hut knew, or should have known there was a pothole which might cause a customer or other person legally on the property to trip and fall.

Without an attorney, you will likely get the "run around" from the Pizza Hut franchise owner or from the Pizza Hut corporation. They will likely make every step of your legitimate injury claim difficult to pursue.

An experienced personal injury attorney won't put up with attempts to block his or her vigorous representation of your best interests. Most injury attorneys do not charge for initial office consultations.

Gather your medical bills and records to date, receipts for out of pocket expenses, and a written verification from your employer confirming the days you were unable to work because of your injury and treatment. Visit with several personal injury attorneys and bring your documentation. They will review your evidence and give you a better idea of the viability of your claim and the probability of success.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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