Falls are a leading cause of emergency room visits, sending more than 8 million people to the hospital each year. One million of those falls are specifically due to the negligence of a property owner or manager, according to the National Floor Safety Institute.
When a slip and fall accident is caused by a hazardous condition that should have been fixed by a property owner, the victim could be owed compensation. Following a slip and fall accident, it is critical to hire an experienced attorney who understands the law and is prepared to fight for you. Property owners and the companies that insure them will often try to fight injury claims and may try to shift the blame to the victim.
That’s why it is so important to immediately get help from an attorney if you’ve been hurt in a slip and fall accident in South Carolina. Do not discuss your case with insurance company representatives until you have legal representation.
Stewart Law Offices is committed to helping injured people seek justice. Call us or complete an online contact form to have our lawyers review your case and help you understand your legal options during a free consultation.
Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall accidents can occur on any property, public or private. In general, some of the most common causes of slip and fall accidents include:
- Wet, slippery flooring
- Torn floor mats
- Broken handrails
- Inadequate lighting
- Stray electrical cords and wires
- Cracked or uneven flooring
- Dirty and trash covered floors
- Poor lighting
- Potholes, ice, curbs in parking lots
- Defects in pavement
- Snow and ice
Not all causes of slip and fall accidents are immediately apparent. Victims should always try to take pictures of the area where their accidents occurred before the evidence disappears.
Where Do Slip and Fall Accidents Occur?
While slip and fall accidents can occur in virtually any location, some areas are particularly hazardous. One of the most common sites for slip and fall accidents are places of business.
Grocery stores and supermarkets are often involved in these types of accidents because of the number of items that are spilled on their floors. Failure by staff to clean up spills leads to accidents which can make the stores liable for injuries.
Slip and fall accidents also occur in many other kinds of retail establishments. Hotels and resorts in South Carolina are also common locations where slip and fall accidents frequently happen.
Some people are also injured in slip and fall accidents in private residences, and these types of claims can become more complicated. Victims do not have managers to file reports with, so there is frequently confusion about what steps should be taken after a slip and fall accident in a home or apartment.
It is also possible for a person to be injured in a slip and fall accident in a public space, and a government entity could be liable for not correcting a dangerous condition. Claims against government entities are more complicated.
Types of Slip and Fall Injuries
While some people do not suffer any injuries in a slip and fall accident, many incidents lead to severe harm. Some of the possible injuries people may sustain include:
- Neck injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Spinal cord injuries
- Nerve damage
- Internal organ injuries
- Muscle strains
Many of these injuries require extremely lengthy hospital stays as well as several weeks, months, or even years of rehabilitation. Most victims will face staggering medical bills.
Many injured individuals will be unable to work because of their injuries. The inability to maintain employment can also be quite lengthy, or possibly even permanent, and lead to a victim suffering a significant loss of income.
In some cases, people can die as a result of the injuries they suffer in their falls. The family members of victims in such cases may be entitled to file wrongful death lawsuits against the negligent parties.
Proving Fault in Slip and Fall Cases
Slip and fall accidents usually fall under the area of law known as premises liability. In a premises liability claim, a victim argues that a property owner or other responsible party is liable for the damages caused by a failure to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition or warn visitors about potential hazards.
Most slip and fall accident claims involve proving the four elements central to most negligence claims:
- Duty of Care — The property owner had an obligation to the victim to keep their property in safe condition or warn about any possible dangers.
- Breach of Duty — The property owner breached their duty of care by failing to keep the property in a safe condition or warn the victim about dangers.
- Causation — The breach of duty caused the victim harm.
- Damages — The victim’s injuries resulted in damages.
The duty of care that a property owner owes a person in South Carolina depends on how that person is classified under state law. South Carolina divides visitors into three categories:
- Invitees — A property owner owes people who are on property with an express or implied invitation the highest duty of care. Patrons at most businesses are considered invitees.
- Licensees — People who are on property with the consent of the owner, but usually for their purposes, are considered licensees. A meter reader is an example of a licensee.
- Trespassers — People who are on property unlawfully and without permission. Trespassers are typically owed no duty of care.
It is important to note that a crucial exception applies to trespassers who are children. In such cases, property owners must ensure that any “attractive nuisances” (objects that are likely to attract children too young to appreciate the possible dangers, such as swimming pools and trampolines) are secured.
When it comes to proving fault for a slip and fall accident, few types of evidence are as compelling as photographs of the particular hazard that caused the accident. Pictures typically capture the danger that existed and help juries understand why accidents occurred.
Many property owners or other defendants may try to claim that a victim was at fault for their injuries. These property owners may also argue that there was no way they could have possibly known about a danger or taken corrective actions.
Do not assume that you will be unable to recover compensation if your actions contributed to the accident. South Carolina is a modified comparative fault state, which means that a person can recover damages so long as their negligence does not exceed that of a defendant’s.
A victim’s damages will also be reduced in proportion to their degree of negligence. This means that a person who is awarded $100,000 in a slip and fall accident but is found to have been 10 percent at fault will have their damages reduced by $10,000 and ultimately receive $90,000.
When a slip and fall accident case goes to court, a victim could be awarded various kinds of compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are often a combination of economic and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages are awards for costs that can be easily calculated and proven, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. Noneconomic damages are more subjective, usually involving awards such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium.
Statute of Limitations for Slip and Fall Claims in South Carolina
Under South Carolina Code § 15-3-530, a person has three years to bring an action for a personal injury. Do not assume that this means you can afford to wait to start on your case.
You do not want to delay an investigation of your accident. If you wait too long, evidence may have disappeared, and you may have no way of holding the negligent party accountable.
The same statute of limitations also applies to wrongful death actions relating to a slip and fall accident. The significant difference is that the limitations period for a wrongful death action begins from the date of a person’s death as opposed to the date of an accident.
What to Do Immediately After a Slip and Fall Accident
When you are involved in a slip and fall accident, you should make sure that you immediately seek medical attention. It is important for all victims to receive medical care because some injuries involve delayed symptoms.
If your slip and fall accident occurred in a place of business, make sure to file a report with the manager or the supervisor on duty. Ask for a copy of the report.
You should take multiple pictures of the scene of the accident. Take photographs from several different angles and distances. Try to do this before the hazard that caused your fall is corrected.
If anybody saw your accident, try to get their names and phone numbers. Some people may be reluctant to share this information, but most will be willing to help a person they know has been hurt.
You may soon receive a phone call from an insurance company representing the property owner in your case. You should avoid speaking to the insurer until you have an attorney who can handle communications for you.
Some insurance adjusters may seem friendly and concerned, but ordinarily, their ultimate goal is to get you to make statements that could sabotage your claim. In other cases, insurers will offer quick settlements that are usually far less than what victims are entitled to. Often, the insurance company’s goal is to pay as little as possible on your claim, and ideally nothing if they can get away with it. Don’t let them.
Stewart Law Offices can negotiate with an insurance company to help you seek a full and fair settlement to your case. If the insurer proves unwilling to provide a satisfactory level of compensation, our firm will file a lawsuit.
How Stewart Law Offices Can Help
If you’ve been hurt in a slip and fall accident that was caused by someone else, you may have the right to take legal action. Our experienced attorneys are ready to help you seek justice.
Stewart Law Offices can fight to help make sure your voice is heard, and your rights are respected. Our firm can immediately conduct an independent investigation of the accident to determine the true cause, collect essential evidence, and identify all possibly liable parties. We have been helping clients all over South Carolina for more than two decades, and we’re here to fight for you.
Our firm has office locations in Beaufort, Rock Hill, Columbia, and Spartanburg in South Carolina as well a North Carolina office in Charlotte. Our consultations are always free. Contact us by phone or reach out to us online to speak with a knowledgeable member of our team.