The source of slip and fall compensation depends on where the injury happened. Learn which type of insurance might cover your claim.
Slip and fall injuries often lead to tens of thousands of dollars in medical costs and other damages. In one year alone, the estimated medical costs for fatal and nonfatal falls in just older Americans was approximately $50.0 billion.¹
Most slip and fall victims don’t have the financial resources to pay out of pocket for the medical care and injury treatment they need.
Who pays for these expenses in cases where the slip and fall was caused by someone’s negligence? The answer depends on where the slip and fall took place and the types of insurance coverage available.
If the fall occurred on commercial property, the owner’s liability insurance should cover the damages. If the victim fell at a private residence, the victim should be able to file a claim with the property owner’s homeowner’s insurance.
If there’s no insurance policy to fall back on, the injured person might need to file a lawsuit to get compensation from the person or business that caused the accident.
Let’s unpack the types of insurance that could cover your slip and fall damages.
Negligence is Essential for Compensation
Not everyone who sustains an injury from a slip and fall accident will receive compensation.
Only injured victims who can prove that another party was negligent in causing the slip and fall have a right to financial recovery. This is true no matter what type of insurance policy may apply to the slip and fall case.
To prove negligence, you must show:
- A hazard existed on the property where the accident took place
- The property owner was aware or reasonably should’ve been aware of the hazard
- The victim was legally allowed to be on the property
- The hazard caused the victim’s injuries
- The victim suffered damages due to the property owner’s negligence
“Damages” include things like:
- The cost of medical care
- Out-of-pocket expenses associated with an injury
- Lost wages
- Pain and Suffering
No insurance company will accept liability for their insured if the elements of negligence aren’t present. However, you can still use your own personal health insurance coverage to pay for your medical bills.
Slip and Falls at a Private Residence
If you slipped and fell at a private residence, you might be able to file a claim on the owner’s homeowner’s insurance coverage. Most homeowners have this type of insurance policy.
Homeowners who have a mortgage must have homeowner’s insurance under the terms of their loan. If they own their property free and clear, the homeowner is not obligated to carry insurance.
If you’ve fallen on a private residence, ask the property owner if they’re insured and get the insurance company’s contact information.
Don’t be surprised if the homeowner is reluctant to admit they have insurance or who their insurance company is. Homeowners often face an increase in premiums or even policy cancellation if someone files an injury claim against them.
There is no national registry or public database to determine if someone has an active homeowner’s insurance policy. So, if the property owner refuses to answer you, you might need to use legal action to get their insurance information.
After Filing the Claim
Slip and fall claims against insured homeowners are much like claims against insured drivers. Once you report the claim to the insurer, they’ll assign an insurance adjuster to your claim.
The adjuster will contact the homeowner to hear their comments about what happened. Then they’ll reach out to you, the claimant, to get your story.
It’s common for insurance adjusters to ask you to give a recorded statement regarding what happened. If you don’t have an attorney, you should think twice before giving a recorded statement. Adjusters are trained to get you to say something they can use against you.
No matter what the adjuster might say to convince you to give the statement, don’t let them fool you. Nothing good ever happens to personal injury claimants who naively agree to provide recorded statements to insurance adjusters. When in doubt, consult an experienced injury attorney.
To help process your claim, adjusters will need your medical records and bills. They’ll also need proof of your lost wages and any other injury-related expenses. When your medical treatment is complete, the adjuster will attempt to settle your claim.
Protect your interests by consulting a personal injury attorney if your slip and fall injuries are severe or proving fault is complicated.
Slip and Falls on Rental Property
Tenants or renters have a right to live in a rental property that is reasonably safe from permanent or temporary hazards. The same applies to the renter’s invited guests.
Liability and insurance coverage for a slip and fall at an owned home is typically straightforward. However, if your slip and fall occurred on a rental property, the situation can become complicated.
Generally, the landlord’s liability insurance or a tenant’s renter’s insurance policy would cover your damages.
Landlords or property managers are liable for keeping a rented property safe for both tenants and visitors. They must handle safety issues promptly.
For example, the landlord should:
- Repair walkways
- Shovel snow
- Remove ice
- Respond to tenants who report potentially hazardous problems
- Take care of other hazards on the property
Suppose a slip and fall injury arises from an accident in a common area of an apartment or townhouse complex, such as the pool, elevator, stairs, or playground. Here, the landlord or property manager would likely be responsible for the injury.
The injured person can file a claim for damages on the landlord’s property insurance policy.
Landlords are generally responsible for keeping their property up to code. If a code violation leads to a slip and fall, the landlord will be liable.
Depending on local laws, code violations can include:
- Uneven curbs and walkways
- Unmarked slippery lobbies and floors
- Unsafe stairs and handrails
- Unlit pathways or stairwells
- Crumbling steps, or warped, rotting wooden stairs
- Downspouts that pool water and create ice patches
Injuries to renters and their guests that occur within the tenant’s apartment are challenging to blame on the landlord. The tenant is sometimes at least partially to blame.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a landlord and renter to attempt to shift responsibility to each other. The resolution of the finger-pointing might come down to where the slip and fall occurred or what the landlord requires of the renter in the lease.
For example, a lease might clearly state that the renter is responsible for clearing walkways of snow and ice. The renter can be liable if they don’t comply and someone suffers a slip and fall injury.
Under some circumstances, both the renter and landlord could share in the cause, and expense, of a slip and fall injury.
Renters are responsible for notifying the landlord or property manager about any existing hazards. If they fail to do so, they could be partially liable for injuries that occur in their apartment.
Renter’s insurance applies to the cost of clothing, furniture, and other personal items if they are lost or destroyed in a fire or other covered event. It won’t cover injuries to the tenant or members of their household. However, it does cover injuries to guests in an apartment when the insured tenant is at-fault for causing the injuries.
If the renter is liable for your injuries but doesn’t have renter’s insurance, you need to decide if it’s worth it to take the person to court.
Example of Renter Liability for a Slip and Fall
One evening, Susan noticed a slow drip coming from the pipe underneath her kitchen sink. She was tired, so she placed a bucket underneath it and decided to report it to the property manager in the morning.
The next morning, she noticed the drip was not only still there, but it had also become more severe. She was running late for work and made a mental note to call the property manager on her lunch break.
A few hours later, her friend arrived as planned to walk her dog. As he entered the kitchen to fill her dog’s water dish, he slipped on a large puddle of water near the sink. He suffered a broken elbow and tailbone.
While Susan isn’t responsible for causing or fixing the leaky pipe, she must promptly report such problems to the property manager. By not doing so, she could be at least partially liable for the injuries her friend sustained.
Slip and Falls on Business Property
Most businesses have commercial property insurance. It’s not much different from a homeowner’s policy, but it generally has much higher coverage limits.
Commercial property insurance policies cover nearly all business accidents caused by negligence, including slip and fall accidents.
Negligence can cause a slip and fall accident on business property if:
- Employees didn’t clean spills and drips promptly
- Snow and ice weren’t appropriately cleared off walkways and parking lots
- Walkways weren’t kept in good repair
- Parking lot surfaces weren’t maintained to avoid cracks and potholes
- There were physical obstacles present such as loose cords
- Obstacles prevented easy customer access, especially customers with assistive devices
- Other hazards existed, such as sharp edges on shelves and racks
Once you file a claim, the process is nearly the same as if you’d filed a claim on a homeowner’s insurance policy.
You’ll need evidence to support your slip and fall claim, including copies of medical records and proof of expenses. You’ll also need to show the insurance company why you were on the property and how the business owner caused your damages.
Insurance companies don’t routinely issue a check every time there’s an injury on a business’ property. Even if a company has premises liability or general liability insurance, the insurer could still deny your claim.
If other customers, vendors, contractors, or subcontractors caused your slip and fall accident, you can also pursue compensation through each third party.
Liability for Injuries on Public Property
If your slip and fall injury occurred on government property or involved a government employee, you’ll need to file a claim against the government agency responsible for that property.
Every state has laws about premise liability claims against the government. These laws address how long the injured victim has to bring their claim and what they must prove to have a legitimate claim. In some cases, specific laws can hold the government harmless for injuries.
For example, The California Tort Claims Act (CTCA) allows injured persons to bring a premises liability claim against a California agency or government entity.
The CTCA says the injured victim must prove either:
- The government agency had notice or should’ve reasonably known of a dangerous condition on the premises
- A government employee caused an accident through negligence
It’s critical to note that most laws regarding falls on public property have a shorter statute of limitations than laws pertaining to slip and falls on a private residence or a business property.
Sometimes, the deadlines for filing a government claim or giving notice of the intent to file a claim can be as little as 90 days.
In California, injured persons usually only have six months to file a proper notice of claim. Depending on the state, some victims might have up to a year after the accident to give notice.
If an accident victim does not give notice by the applicable deadline, the injured person will lose the ability to bring a claim.
What is a government “Notice of Claim”?
A notice of claim is required before filing a civil lawsuit against a government agency. If you aren’t sure which branch of government should be held liable, err on the side of caution, and send each agency a notice of claim.
Your notice makes the government agency aware that you suffered an injury, and it gives it a chance to respond before you file a lawsuit.
A notice of claim must include details about your slip and fall:
- The date and approximate time
- The location of your slip and fall
- A brief description of what happened
- Your contact information
- A request to forward the letter to their insurance company
A government agency can accept or deny your claim. If it denies it, you can file a lawsuit to hold the government liable in civil court.
Filing a Lawsuit
If you can’t discover any active insurance policies to help reimburse you for your accident losses, you still have another option to receive compensation.
You can file a personal injury lawsuit against the person, business, or entity that caused your slip and fall. Generally, this person or entity is the owner or occupier of the property on which you fell.
You can sue the at-fault party in small claims court, or file a lawsuit in your county’s municipal court.
Filing a lawsuit carries many risks. For example, to succeed in court, you’ll need to prove the elements of negligence. If you can’t prove them, you won’t receive compensation for your losses.
Further, a judge or jury may reach a decision that favors the person or business you believe caused your accident. If this is the case, then again, you wouldn’t receive any money for your losses.
There are also times where the court finds that a person or business did, in fact, cause an accident, but the responsible party doesn’t have the money to pay for your injuries and losses. Even if they do, you might have to take extra-legal measures to get money from them.
To get your money, you may have to get a court order to either:
- Place a lien on their property
- Garnish their paycheck
Upfront Legal Expenses
Keep in mind that there are upfront legal expenses associated with filing a lawsuit. If you file a lawsuit on your own, you’ll need to pay them. If you hire a slip and fall lawyer, they’ll cover those costs, and you will typically pay them back once you receive compensation.
These costs can include:
- Court filing fees
- The cost to have a sheriff or process server serve a legal complaint
- Court reporter expenses to pay for transcripts and depositions
- Expert medical testimony at depositions and trial
- Copying costs for essential documentation
Before filing a lawsuit on your own, discuss the value of your slip and fall claim with a personal injury attorney. You might even want to hire an injury lawyer to represent you in the litigation process.
Consult an attorney for slip and fall claims against a government agency. Government injury claims are time-sensitive, you have to use a special government form, and if the forms are not filled out exactly right, your claim can be denied.
An attorney can boost your compensation and bear the burden of pursuing litigation so that you can focus on healing.
Most personal injury lawyers offer free consultations to help you determine your next steps. If you decide to hire them, most will agree to work on a contingency fees basis.
The attorney is paid contingent on their ability to settle your claim or win your court case. If they don’t collect any compensation, you’ll owe them nothing. If they negotiate a settlement or get a court award on your behalf, they’ll receive a pre-determined percentage of your compensation.
Whether you’re seeking compensation from an insurance company or the at-fault party directly, you’ve got nothing to lose by meeting with a seasoned slip and fall attorney.
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