Earlier this year, on the East Coast Ingrid Case, a contributing writer for Money, learned a lesson when she went up against an insurance company for her slip and fall case. While Southern California does not see a mix of wintery weather like our friends on the East Coast, accidents related to weather are still a widespread issue.
During a cold evening in Minneapolis, Case slipped and fell on an icy sidewalk in front of someone’s house while she was walking her dog. The fall broke the bones in her lower arm, in what she referred to as a “shattering” experience. Immediately after the accident she received emergency treatment; a titanium plate and screws were required to put the bone back together.
“What I didn’t anticipate was the weeks of wrangling with an insurance company for what was ultimately a modest settlement,” she said.
Case filed a claim without help from a slip and fall accident lawyer. While she recovered, it took a few weeks for the insurance company to review her case. Not only did they find that the homeowner wasn’t liable, but they also offered her a low settlement.
Rain and Bad Weather Increase Your Chances of Slipping
When victims fall on private property, they can submit a claim with the owner’s insurance company. If the property is covered, the defendant should be able to provide adequate compensation for damages as common as a sidewalk accident.
According to Case, “…the homeowner may have responsibility for the condition of the sidewalk…Cities where snow is common typically require home and business owners to shovel the sidewalks around their property, and give them a set amount of time to do the job.
“In some jurisdictions, the same requirement applies to any other hazards, such as leaves, that might also be hazardous to passers-by, and even to the likes of uneven pavement,” she continued.
According to the National Floor Safety Institute U.S. hospitals experience more than 8 million emergency room visits a year regarding falls. Slipping and falling increases significantly in bad weather conditions, such as:
- Wet leaves
- Wet debris
- Slippery surfaces
- Water buildup
In California, the Streets and Highways Code 5610 require property owners to provide safe conditions, including sidewalk maintenance.
What Should Case Have Done Differently?
The actions you take immediately after a slip and fall accident can impact your case significantly. If an injury occurred because a property or business owner did not maintain their property or warn visitors of dangers, don’t hesitate to take photographic evidence and get emergency treatment.
Case failed to take pictures or videos when she fell to record the conditions that contributed to her fall. Instead, her son photographed the sidewalk and wrote a letter to the homeowners two days afterward, in hopes that their homeowners’ insurance would pay for her medical bills and lost earnings.
Shortly after, an insurance company reached out to her. Keep in mind, victims are not legally required to answer their questions – most of the time answers are used to limit the settlement amount reached. If this took place in California, instead of answering questions or negotiating with an insurance company directly, victims should retain a Los Angeles personal injury attorney to speak on their behalf.
The laws in Minnesota differ drastically from California law. There, the risk of walking in wintery conditions is well known. The insurance company claimed Case was partially at fault because she should have taken extra precautionary measures. Many legal professionals would disagree. The owner is liable for dangerous conditions; the house she slipped in front of wasn’t adequately maintained six days after a snowstorm.
Hiring an Attorney Makes A Difference
In the end, Case realized help from a legal professional is vital to getting your claim reviewed by insurance to retain compensation after a fall.
“Such an advocate can handle the paperwork and keep you from hurting your own case — by, say, inadvertently disclosing something or wording a statement in a way that the insurer might interpret as an admission of fault,” Case explained.
Having an attorney can also help file a lawsuit against a negligent homeowner. If it is reported within the statute of limitations (two-years following an accident), Case still has a chance at fighting for damages owed.