Tripped in dark parking lot...
(South Eastern, PA)
On September 30, 2013 I parked in a popular local restaurant's parking lot and exited my car. I noticed the parking lot was very dark but full of vehicles. As I was walking from the lot into the restaurant I tripped on something by the handicapped parking sign, falling and scraping both hands, both elbows, tearing my left pant leg, slamming both knees into the sidewalk surface.
This all caused instant swelling and deep abrasions on my left knee and swelling and bruising the next day on my right knee. In addition I banged my head on the sidewalk, leaving a huge bump and bleeding scrape on the left side of my head.
Four witnesses, one of which came over to help me up, saw me fall. I entered the restaurant and told the hostess I had just fallen in the parking lot because the lights were out. She said, "we've been having trouble with them for about two weeks." She notified a manager who came out and apologized also saying they've been having trouble with the lights for a couple of weeks.
The manager completed an incident report, inspected my injuries from head to knees and I was contacted the next day by their insurance adjuster. He stated in his opening comments that he was aware the parking lot lighting was malfunctioning for a while and also apologized. We were in contact for two weeks with the adjuster asking questions about my progress towards recovery.
When I asked about replacing my pants and shirt he asked how old they were, did I have receipts, and said he would have to see them. I agreed to send him photos or the actual items. We agreed to have contact the following Friday. Since that time he has not contacted me nor has he returned my two calls during the past two weeks.
I have had three previous surgeries on this knee but with a full recovery after the last one many years ago, (more than 10 years ago).
Since the injury date I have had three physicians' appointments, a week of physical therapy, and an MRI. My PCP referred me to an Orthopedic Surgeon. An x-ray showed both knees had deep bone bruising and perhaps a hairline fracture of the left knee cap. I have been told the MRI showed the medial meniscus of both knees are partially torn, the left knee almost completely.
Both knees will require surgery to repair the injuries. Since the injuries I have had pain in both knees requiring 1600mg of Motrin daily to reduce the discomfort, a dull headache that occasionally flares to a sharp pain, and discomfort in my left elbow when turning my arm or lifting more than a few pounds.
My question is, should I pursue a negligence action against the restaurant? If the adjuster isn't contacting me do I have to file a lawsuit to get a response? What else can I do to get some progress on my settlement? Thank you for your opinion.
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ANSWER for "Tripped in dark parking lot...":
Pat (South Eastern, PA):
Of course you should pursue a negligence claim against the restaurant. It's safe to say because your last injury healed almost ten years ago this injury had nothing to do with a preexisting injury. Moreover, it's quite likely you wouldn't have been hobbling around in pain for the last ten years.
This is a new injury and there is no doubt it was the direct and proximate result of the restaurant's negligence in failing to properly light the parking lot. Additionally, you already have the restaurant manager and the insurance adjuster admitting fault by apologizing for the lights not working.
If there was ever a clear cut case for negligence, yours is the one. Your interests would be best served by discontinuing your communications with the restaurant and their insurance company's adjuster until such time as you've had an opportunity to consult with one or more personal injury attorneys in your area. Most will not charge for an initial office consultation.
Some personal injury cases can be handled without an attorney. Those are usually "soft tissue" injuries like minor cuts and bruises, strains and sprains and the like. More serious cases, like broken bones, knee injuries, head trauma, etc., should always be handled by experienced attorneys. There's just too much at stake.
You're already experiencing frustration with the non-cooperation shown by the adjuster. Unfortunately, at this point you have no leverage. You can't force the adjuster to call you. You can't force the adjuster to settle. You are basically legally helpless. Attorneys have the greatest leverage of all. They demand cooperation from insurance companies and if they don't get it, they can file a lawsuit. Insurance companies and their clients don't like to be sued.
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,
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