The questions on this page were answered by our team of Virginia Beach & Norfolk personal injury attorneys. The questions are categorized by practice area such as car accidents, medical malpractice, wrongful death, etc. If you have specific questions about your situation, contact our firm to set up a free consultation with an actual attorney.
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What Should I Do Right After Slipping, Falling and Suffering an Injury?
Seek medical care whenever you suffer a serious injury.
This is not legal advice (which we’re not allowed to offer in a blog post, anyway). Nothing is more important than your health and well-being. Attend to yourself before you give a thought to potentially holding a negligent business or homeowner accountable for creating the situation in which you slipped, fell and got hurt.
Second, do not assume you are fine just because you don’t see blood or feel as if bones were broken. Slips and falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) among adults, and the most serious symptoms of a concussion may not manifest until hours or days after a blow to the head.
Yes, a concussion is a TBI. Symptoms may linger for years. Go to an emergency room or see your doctor if you slammed your head into a wall or on the floor. Rapid diagnosis and quick treatment of a TBI can make a huge difference in short- and long-term outcomes.
- Virginia Laws on Slips & Falls
- A Virginia Premises Liability Attorney Discusses Property Owners’ Duty of Care
- Personal Injuries Due to Items Falling From Store Shelves Are Increasing
Figure Out Why You Slipped and Fell
You will not know if you have grounds to file an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit until you know with a fair degree of certainty that you were not merely being clumsy or inattentive. You don’t need to become a detective or forensic scientist, but you should collect some facts to confirm your suspicion that you were put in danger unnecessarily.
Here a few suggestions for how you might go about doing that. Consulting with an attorney who has successfully advised and represented other slip and fall victims could provide more specific guidance.
Only when your health allows, report the slip and fall to the manager at the business or the homeowner where you fell. Ask the person if they knew of any unsafe conditions or slip and fall hazards at the time that you got hurt. Keep notes of the conversations and write down the name and contact information of anyone you speak with about the incident. Your personal injury attorney may want to follow up with them.
Also be sure to take pictures of the spot where you fell, and make sure to capture as much of the space as possible (floor, walls, stairs, ceiling, windows, etc.). Even if you slipped on ice or water that is no longer present when you return, detailed photos can tell a story about why a hazard formed and was not mitigated.
Keep all these interactions calm and cordial. At the same time, it won’t hurt to ask probing question about previous accidents like yours and whether records exist about structural or maintenance problems.
Last, speak with witnesses. You experienced the accident and resulting pain. The people who saw you slip and fall can paint a much fuller picture of the circumstances. Ask friends and family who were there what they noticed before and after the accident. Try to speak with business staff or other houseguests. Again, take notes.
Evidence that a business manager or homeowner knew that an injury risk existed and failed to fix the problem provides very strong grounds for pursuing a slip and fall injury case. The other information can be used to substantiate negligence and to prove that the accident could have been prevented.
What types of compensation are awarded in a slip and fall accident?
A victim can receive both economic and noneconomic damages their injuries have caused them. Economic damages are meant to restore the victim to their previous financial position before the accident, such as covering medical expenses, loss of income, attorney fees, and more. The victim can also receive financial compensation for noneconomic damages for their pain and suffering, loss of life enjoyment, emotional anguish, and more.
What factors go into a slip and fall lawsuit to determine compensation?
A Virginia premises liability attorney will look at two factors, negligence and liability. Negligence is a blatant disregard for the safety of others. If the alleged at-fault party (i.e. property owner) acted in a manner that a reasonable person in similar situations would, their actions will be measured to determine what their level of negligence was. The victim must prove that the at-fault party failed to take the steps to prevent the incident.
The attorney will also determine who has the liability to cover the victim’s financial losses. For example, if a property owner is determined to be negligent and the owner has property insurance, then the victim’s attorney will file the lawsuit against the property owner’s insurance company.
How prevalent are slip and fall accidents?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 80,000 victims end up hospitalized because of slip and fall injuries. Some of the more common places where slip and fall accidents occur are:
- On the job
- Grocery and retail stores
- Hotels and motels
- Private homes
- Rented homes
- Public and government places and buildings
I got injured at my neighbor’s holiday party and had to go to the emergency room. Can I sue?
Party hosts have legal duties to prevent injuries to their guests, but those duties are not absolute. When a guest causes harm to themselves, a party host has no responsibility for settling insurance claims.
Two situations illustrate when a personal injury case will be and will not be justified following an accident at a party.
When a wooden porch stair that has long needed replacement due to rot gives way, causing a guest to fall and badly injure her leg, the party guest likely has grounds for filing an insurance claim against the homeowner. Failing to keep the porch in good repair put the party guest at an unreasonable risk for injury.
But say the same wooden stair was solid and the guest simply stepped wrong while looking elsewhere. The party host cannot be held responsible for the woman’s inattention to where she was placing her feet.
Of course, a party host faced with an insurance claim over a rotted porch stair will almost always argue, in more legal language, that the woman with the leg injury simply should have watched where she walked. In such circumstances, it is worth consulting with a Virginia personal injury lawyer who represents plaintiffs in what most people call slip and fall lawsuits.
If I slip on my neighbor’s icy sidewalk, can I file an insurance claim against them?
This is a tough question to answer definitively because, on the one hand, city ordinances and common courtesy require homeowners to clear and sand or salt their driveways, sidewalks and stoops. Not complying is negligent and puts other people at risk. At the same time, pedestrians have a duty to take care when they know or suspect that pavement may by icy. Neighborhood sidewalks often go uncleared, so walkers should exercise caution.
A much stronger case can typically be made against a business that fails to secure the approach and entrance to its front door. Customers have an expectation that they will not slip and fall while patronizing a business. Failing to fulfill that expectation can be cited as negligence in a personal injury insurance claim or civil lawsuit.
Another key issue in ice or snow slip or fall cases is whether a business owner had a reasonable opportunity to clear walkways after a complete or temporary cessation of stormy or snowy conditions. Did a day pass, or only 30 minutes? Consult with a skilled personal injury attorney with our firm if you have a question.
What types of accidents provide grounds for filing insurance claims against homeowners?
Any type of accident that injures or kills a visitor and which the homeowner could have prevented provides legal grounds for filing an insurance claim or civil lawsuit. A brief list of successful personal injury and wrongful death claims against Virginia homeowners includes
- Trips on loose stairs
- Falls from unsecured or unrepaired balconies
- Dog bites and animal attacks
- ATV crashes when young children were allowed to ride or operate the vehicles without adult supervision
- Falling dead tree limbs and uprooted dying trees that should have been removed due to safety concerns
- Electric shocks and electrocutions from exposed wiring or faulty outlets
- Drownings and near-drownings in unfenced pools
Note, however, that adults and children older than 8-12 years old cannot receive insurance settlements or win civil lawsuits if they were trespassing, intentionally putting themselves in danger or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Homeowners and their insurance company representatives will often try to argue that one type of disqualifying action or another occurred, so partnering with a Virginia plaintiff’s attorney who has experience handling claims against homeowners may be necessary.
Do homeowners in Virginia have to protect guests from injury?
The common law principle of premises liability gives homeowners an enforceable legal duty to act to prevent injuries to and deaths of other people if the homeowner is aware or should be aware of a dangerous condition. In practical terms, this means homeowners must keep their residences in good repair, keep their properties free from hazards and exercise adequate supervision over vulnerable visitors like young children.
To give just one common example of a homeowner’s premises liability, a barbecue attendee who trips on a loose porch step and breaks her leg would have strong grounds for filing an insurance claim against the homeowner who neglected to repair the porch stairs.
Dog bites also fall under the broader umbrella of premises liability because a pet owner has a responsibility for ensuring that all the animals they keep are well-trained and properly fenced or controlled.
My child got badly hurt while visiting her friend’s house. Should I file an insurance claim against my neighbor?
This is a personal decision that depends on the severity of your daughter’s injury, the cost of her medical care, the available insurance coverage, and the type of accident that caused the injury. You may even want to take your relationship with the other family into consideration, but you should keep in mind that you will be dealing with the insurance company rather than with your friend or acquaintance directly if the friend has homeowners insurance. Speaking with a caring Virginia personal injury attorney will help you weigh your options.
Strictly from a legal standpoint, you have the right to file an insurance claim if the homeowner or occupant caused the accident, allowed it happen, or failed to warn of the danger. A legal principle called premises liability makes homeowners, renters and, in some circumstances, landlords responsible for protecting the health and safety of guests. This duty extends to supervising children at play, keep the yard and residence in good repair, controlling pets and minimizing access to dangerous items, including uncovered pools.
What is premises liability?
Premises liability is one of the oldest concepts in civil law. In its shortest version, the theory is that property owners and occupants have enforceable legal duties to protect the life and safety of visitors. What this means in practical terms is that a customer who suffers an injury at a business, a person who gets hurt while attending a house party, or an amusement park visitor who suffers an injury may have grounds for filing a premises liability insurance claim or lawsuit. Succeeding with a premises liability claim requires the injured person to show that the property owner or occupant knew or should have known that a danger existed and did not take appropriate actions to remove or minimize that danger.