Every year, serious fall injuries send over eight million Americans to hospital emergency rooms. The physical injuries these victims sustain are just the beginning. Falls usually cause emotional injuries, as well, especially if the victim is over 65. Many of these individuals are so afraid of falling again that they cease most physical activity. Generally, the physical and emotional injuries are permanent, at least to an extent.
Despite the image that TV commercials portray, insurance companies care nothing about these severe injuries. Instead, they hire lawyers who look for ways to reduce or deny compensation to victims. A Marietta personal injury attorney takes the opposite view in pretty much every way. Lawyers quickly connect victims with high-quality doctors. Then, when the case goes to court, an attorney fights for the compensation you need and deserve.
Duty of Care
Most people are somewhat familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan. He was the guy who went out of his way to help a man in need. Georgia’s duty of care is based on a similar principle. Essentially, property owners must go out of their way to ensure that invitees (people with permission to be on the land and who benefit the owner) are safe. Almost everyone is an invitee. The permission could be direct, like a party invitation, or indirect, like an “open” sign. Likewise, the benefit could be financial or non-financial.
Owners go out of their way to prevent injuries by frequently inspecting their lands and ensuring that there are no fall hazards, like wet spots or loose handrails. The same responsibility applies in other areas, as well, such as providing reasonable security.
The duty of care is lower if the victim is a licensee (permission but no benefit) or a trespasser (no permission and no benefit). Some legal doctrines, like the attractive nuisance rule, protect some child trespassers in some situations.
Knowledge of Hazard
Just like permission can be direct or indirect, evidence of knowledge can be direct or indirect.
Smoking guns, like restroom cleaning reports or safety reviews, are the best evidence. Usually, since insurance companies bury such proof for as long as possible, this evidence is not available until relatively late in the civil litigation process. So, if a Marietta personal injury lawyer settles a claim too early, the best evidence, and therefore the most compensation, may be unavailable.
Indirect evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known) usually involves the time-notice rule. Assume Brenda slipped and fell on a yellow banana peel. The fresh peel probably just fell on the floor, so the owner isn’t legally responsible for damages. If Brenda slipped and fell on a black banana peel, the owner is legally responsible because someone should have seen the old peel and picked it up.
Compensation in a fall injury claim usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
As mentioned, insurance company lawyers typically pull out all the stops to reduce or deny compensation. Frequently, these efforts include the contributory negligence defense.
An insurance company lawyer argues that both the owner and victim were partially responsible for the fall. Let’s go back to Brenda and the banana peel. A lawyer might claim Brenda should have seen the peel and avoided it. Then again, perhaps Brenda could not see the peel because the room was dark or could not get out of the way because the room was crowded.
There are also two sides to the story if an insurance company lawyer tries to use the assumption of the risk defense. This doctrine usually involves a “Caution Wet Floor” or other warning sign. The insurance company must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the victim saw the sign, could read the sign and could understand what the sign meant.