Do Fall Victims Automatically Get Settlements?

Unfortunately, no, and that’s a shame. Slip-and-fall injuries are the leading cause of hospital emergency room visits. These injuries send over eight million Americans to emergency departments every year. The ER bill is only the first of many medical bills and other expenses that someone must pay. Unless they receive settlements, these victims are usually financially responsible for all these bills and expenses.

Insurance company lawyers do whatever it takes to reduce or deny compensation for head injuries, broken bones, and other serious wounds commonly associated with slip-and-fall incidents. Only an equally determined Marietta personal injury lawyer levels the playing field. An attorney works hard to build a strong case that overcomes some common insurance company defenses so victims receive maximum compensation for their serious injuries.

Open and Obvious

Under Georgia law, property owners usually are not responsible for damages if an open and obvious hazard causes the victim’s fall. 

All fall injury victims are different. A hazard that is open and obvious in one situation may be covered and hidden in another situation.

Assume 35-year-old Max, who is generally in good health, slips and falls on a patch of ice in daylight. Most jurors would agree that, in most situations, Max should have been able to see that hazard and should have been unable to avoid it. 

Even if Max was partially at fault for his injuries, he should still partner with a Marietta personal injury lawyer. As outlined below, he may still be entitled to compensation. 

Now assume 75-year-old Maxine, who has AMD, slips and falls on a patch of ice during twilight. Age-related Macular Degeneration is an eye muscle condition that impairs straight-ahead vision. Given her medical impairment and the lack of light, Maxine most likely could not see the ice patch. People cannot avoid what they cannot see.

Comparative Fault

This defense, which shifts blame for an accident to the victim, is basically a modified form of the open and obvious defense. 

Let’s go back to Maxine. Assume a judge rules that, based on the evidence, the icy patch was not an open and obvious hazard. An insurance company could still reduce the amount of compensation she receives under the comparative fault rule.

This legal doctrine requires jurors to divide fault on a percentage basis, such as 80-20, if each party was partially at fault for an injury accident. Georgia is a modified comparative fault state with a 50% threshold. Victims are entitled to compensation if they were less than 50% responsible for an injury.

Older people often have more than one pre-existing health condition, which could affect the risk or severity of a fall injury. Gait disorders are good examples. These individuals shuffle their feet when they walk. So, when they stumble on a patch of ice, they usually fall.

Assumption of the Risk

This defense, which often involves a warning sign, is basically a modified version of comparative fault.

A sign like “Caution: Ice” is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. The property owner must prove the victim saw the sign, could read the sign, and could understand what the sign meant.

Even if all these things are true, and that is a pretty big “if,” assumption of the risk, much like comparative fault, usually only reduces the amount of compensation in a personal injury case. 

This defense also comes up frequently in dog bite, swimming pool drowning, and other premises liability claims. The same principles apply in all kinds of cases.

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