Fall down steps at homeowner/employer residence...

by Susan
(Broomfield, CO)

In April 2014, while performing duties as a personal assistant for a private party in their residence, I slipped at the top step of a wooden staircase and came down about half of the stairs on my back.

No one else was in the home at the time of my fall, and I laid on the stairs for approximately 15-20 minutes before attempting to move. I was able to get up and realized that nothing was broken and that I was not seriously hurt.

At the time of the fall, I was carrying items that I was moving from the owner's office to a different location, one of their dogs was laying on one of the stairs (which was common for them), and I was not allowed to wear any shoes in the home. After I got down to the bottom of the staircase, I took a photo of the stairs, now littered with the items that I was carrying.

When the homeowner returned I told her of the accident and asked for some ibuprofen. In the days following, she asked how I was feeling. I told her I felt fine, with the exception of my right shoulder and some bruises on my back and elbows.

In May 2014, I was terminated suddenly. Over the past several months, my shoulder has become increasingly painful. I am not able to lift my arm above shoulder height, nor reach forward with my arm. I am limited in my normal activities, forcing me to give up sports, to use my left arm to carry objects, etc.

I have not seen a doctor, but feel that I need to, which I expect will certainly lead to an x-ray and/or MRI, and possible surgery or extended physical therapy.

My health insurance benefits are very limited. I have not contacted the homeowner/employer as of yet about this, because I feel certain that they will do all they can to argue against any claim for medical expenses. I am only seeking medical expense coverage from them so that I can have treatment done on my shoulder.

I am not sure if I have a claim or how to proceed. What can I do? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Fall down steps at homeowner/employer residence...":

Susan (Broomfield, CO):

From the facts you present, the homeowner was not negligent. If negligence could have been imputed to the homeowner, you would likely have had the basis of a viable personal injury liability claim.

Instead, your facts seem to indicate that shortly after the injury, you were in pain and unable to lift your arm above shoulder height. As a result, you may not have been able to perform the requisite duties of your job as a personal assistant. This was likely the reason your employment was terminated.

Barring a written employment agreement, the termination of your employment was entirely legal.

It's quite likely your former employer carried homeowners insurance. Fortunately, under homeowners insurance, negligence is normally not an issue. To be covered under homeowners insurance, it is only necessary to prove you were injured while on the homeowner's property.

The injury alone is sufficient to enable you to receive compensation for your medical bills. Homeowners insurance does not cover pain and suffering or emotional distress.

There is a caveat. Homeowners insurance does not cover family members or third parties living on the premises. If you lived on the premises at the time of your injury, you would likely not be eligible to file a claim under the owner's homeowners insurance. In the alternative, if you commuted to work and back, you would likely be covered.

Contact the owner and ask for her homeowners insurance contact information. With that information in hand, contact the company and tell them you want to file an injury claim. You will be directed to a claims adjuster. She will open a file and take action to begin the process of compensating you for your damages.

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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