Being involved in a trip and fall injury can be very painful and embarrassing. If you were seriously injured, the New York Slip and Fall Guide was created by Hamburg personal injury attorney Daniel Chiacchia to help residents learn their rights after an accident.
If you have a slip and fall injury that occurred on someone else’s property in New York you should call an experienced personal injury attorney right away.
New York has slip and fall premises liability laws to protect you if you suffer injuries due to neglect on another person’s property.
An experienced Hamburg slip and fall attorney can help you file a claim for any injuries that are the result of equipment that is used on the property. Also, injuries that may be a result of another person’s actions on the property may be the responsibility of a property owner, especially if the owner fails to provide adequate security on the property.
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A “slip and fall” or “trip and fall” is the generic term for an injury which occurs when someone slips, trips or falls as a result of a dangerous or hazardous condition on someone else’s property. It includes falls as the result of water, ice or snow, as well as uneven changes in flooring, poor lighting or a hidden hazard without a sign, such as a gap or hard-to-see hole in the ground.
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Although some premises cases, such as “slip and fall” cases, can seem simple, in some states the law now favors the premises owner. Thus, in assessing a premises liability case, it is often helpful to consult with a lawyer. Here at Chiacchia & Fleming, LLP we take these issues seriously to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.
Fall-related injuries are of large concern, mostly to older individuals. According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2005, 15,800 people aged 65 and older died from slip and fall-related injuries, 1.8 million aged 65 and older were treated in emergency rooms for slip and fall-related injuries, and over 433,000 of these people were hospitalized.
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If you are on someone else’s property and injure yourself as the result of a dangerous condition, the landowner or business proprietor may be liable for your injuries due to premise liability. If you are a property owner and someone injures himself on your land, you may find yourself legally responsible for his or her injuries. Either way, you should seek the advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer right away. Contact our experienced New York slip and fall injury lawyers for a free consultation. Let our experience work for you.
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Frequently Asked Questions | New York Slip and Fall Guide
What Should I Do After a Slip and Fall on a Residential Property?
First, be sure to gather any evidence you can, and do it sooner rather than later. Witnesses forget. Evidence is lost. The contributing condition may be repaired or replaced. Taking pictures, making sure that you get witness statements, and collecting evidence are all very important. Reach out to counsel sooner rather than later too, so that they can immediately begin their efforts toward gathering that all-important evidence for you. Especially in a slip and fall case, that evidence gathering can make or break your case.
Should I Notify the Property Owner After a Slip and Fall?
Although the answer to that question is yes, I would caution you to remember that, in many situations, it’s best not to notify the property owner right away. It’s more important to reach out to an attorney first so that they can hire an investigator, perhaps send someone out to the property to take pictures, get statements, and speak to other people who may have been injured by that same dangerous condition. If you notify the property owner before taking those steps, they may get rid of some evidence or repair the condition that caused you to fall, and you can’t recreate that condition. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s important to reach out to counsel first and have them take the appropriate steps, including notifying the property owner.
How Long Will My Slip and Fall Case Take?
Slip and Fall cases can take anywhere from six months to six years to resolve. Sometimes they take longer because of how much the other side fights. Sometimes we may have three or four people that we’re trying to hold responsible for a slip and fall accident, and then you have these other defendants filing motions, either against you or each other, to try to get out of a case. When that happens, you get the courts involved. When the court is involved, they have to make decisions, and those decision can be appealed. If they’re appealed, it could take a year to a year and a half for a case to be appealed. That’s why you see sometimes that these cases take multiple years.
How Long Do I Have to File?
There are certain time limitations to filing slip and fall claims, just like any other claim. If it’s a case involving a municipality – say you’re walking down the City Hall steps and you fall on ice –you may only have 90 days to file what’s called a notice of claim with that municipality, and a year and 90 days from the date of the accident to file your actual lawsuit. When you’re involved with a municipal situation, you really have to make sure you act quickly and get your notices out, and do a quick investigation, so you can determine what, if anything, the municipality did that caused the condition resulting in your fall.
The other slip and fall situation is maybe a private entity. Usually there’s a three year statute of limitations to bring claims in the private entities. Say you’re going into a Walmart or some other “big box” store, and you slip on something on the floor or you slip on ice in the parking lot, usually they have three years to file a claim. Do we recommend waiting three years? Of course, we do not.
We preach over and over again that it’s good to get these claims filed and started right away, so we can make sure that we have our witnesses. We make sure that we have our video evidence preserved. Many times, these businesses have video and if you don’t put them on notice right away, they either destroy the video or it gets written over every 30 days, and you may have lost your opportunity to find critical evidence that will support your case.
Are Tripping Hazards a Reason to File?
Tripping hazards are a big thing that we see in a lot of our trip and fall cases. Tripping hazards could be a lot of different things. It could be a rug that wasn’t put down properly. It could be a hole in a sidewalk. It could be a piece of strip from a door that became dislodged. It could be a lot of different things. When you see these types of imperfections involving a trip and fall case, you need to make sure that you get somebody out there and get photographs, and get measurements, and stuff like that. Try to interview people: how long was that hole there? How long was that defect in the stair? How long was that railing loose? When you have a defect-related case, there are a lot of things you want to do right off the bat to make sure that you preserve your claim.
Can I File for a Faulty Handrail?
Sometimes injuries are caused on staircases by a faulty handrail. They’re not secured properly, the handrail’s too low, or it isn’t graspable. You’ve probably seen these stairways where they have 2x4s or 2x6s as handrails. Well, that’s not good enough. The law requires that you’re able to grasp onto the railing, in case you do stumble, and that it prevents you from falling.
Railings serve a purpose. Railings make sure that if people do happen to stumble on stairs – because people do –handrails are there to make sure that they don’t fall. You have to make sure that that handrail is properly secured, that it’s the right height, and that it’s proper as far as being able to grasp onto.
It’s very important, in these types of cases, to get photographs, measurements, things of that nature. We have code enforcement experts that we use on a regular basis, that get out and get the proper measurements, and then we can look at building codes and property maintenance codes to determine whether or not the owner of the property was in compliance. If they weren’t in compliance, you have a pretty strong case.
Can I File for a Slip and Fall Injury on a Faulty Step?
We’ve handled quite a few claims involving defective staircases. In fact, we’ve had a couple recently that almost mirrored each other. Several factors must be considered, including whether the stair treads are uniform. In other words, is each step the same height as the one before it? Sometimes, we see deviations where one step is nine inches high and the next only seven inches high. Other times, staircases are too narrow or the railings aren’t graspable. When I say graspable, I mean that you should be able to grab a hand railing and get a strong grip by putting your hand far enough around it to secure your hold. Many times, we see railings that are inadequate, and some of that causes clients to fall.
You’ve seen those railings that look like a 2×6 or 2×4 – and I know people think they look kind of cool – but people need something they can grab onto to prevent themselves from falling. Let’s face it, any number of things can happen on staircases. For instance, there could be slippery substances on the stairs that can cause people to fall. It’s important to make sure that, when someone is about to slip and fall, they can at least try to prevent their fall. If the railing isn’t sufficient, that’s not going to work.
We consult with several experts to help us with those cases and, over the years, we’ve gained a wealth of expertise about what to look for with stairways. If we can’t get an expert out there right away, we go to the site ourselves to take pictures and measurements, check railing heights, look at the stair tread, and evaluate the widths and heights. We also make sure to note whether there’s a slip-resistant surface on the stairs. All those factors come into play when determining whether or not someone was negligent or responsible for your injuries.
How Do I Prove I Wasn’t at Fault?
Many times, when we get involved in these cases, the other side tries to blame you for your accident, that you weren’t being careful enough when you were walking. Well, how do we disprove that? One, of course, is by eyewitness testimony. You get your witnesses to say, “You know, I saw her walking in the store. She wasn’t running; she wasn’t doing anything crazy.” One thing they always say is, “What type of footwear did you have on?” “Well, I had good footwear. They had a good sole on them. It wasn’t like I was running around in flip flops, or bad shoes, or things like that.”
Getting your witnesses involved right away and getting an investigation done helps get rid of that defense that you did something wrong. We want to make sure that we get that investigation done and have our witnesses to show that you didn’t do anything wrong. Part of that investigation, many times, involves video. If there’s video that shows your fall, great! It might show that you did nothing wrong and that it was totally a result of the imperfection or the slippery stuff that was on the floor that caused the accident, and nothing that you did.
Can a Warning Sign Ruin My Case?
A warning sign can affect your slip and fall claim because it’s putting you on notice that there’s a dangerous condition and that you should be more careful. If you’re going into a department store and you see “wet floor” signs, and you decide, well, I’m just going to run in the store, knowing you see those signs, then you weren’t careful. That could affect your ability to recover. It also comes into play where you may see these in stores where they have uneven pavement coming in and out of a store or some businesses. Because of their old structures they’re not quite surface level, and they may have signage.
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When you see those types of signs, you have an obligation, as a pedestrian, to obey them and watch where you’re going. Those things can be used against you, so if you see those warning signs you have to, of course, be careful of what you’re doing, but sometimes even the warning signs aren’t good enough. Sometimes floors are just so slippery and wet, and you’re being as careful as you possibly can and you still go down. Then, the owner of the property is on the hook.
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At Chiacchia & Fleming, LLP, our mission is to deliver the finest quality legal representation while providing clients with the personal attention they deserve. Our experienced personal injury attorneys in Buffalo and the surrounding area have successfully handled every type of personal injury case from auto accidents, slip and falls, sex abuse, construction accidents, truck crashes, and dog bites.