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 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.
How do I know who has responsibility for my injury at a business or residence?
Discovering which insurance policies apply when you suffer an injury at a business, home or amusement park can be difficult. Often, more than one organization or individual will have legal liability for maintaining an unsafe premises or for failing to take appropriate actions to protect visitors from harm. For instance, a burn suffered at a restaurant could be due to insufficient oversight of staff by management or due to improper work done by the contractor who installed gas lines or electrical wiring. Similarly, a near-drowning in a rental property’s pool could be due to the property owner’s decision to ignore building codes or due to a resort lifeguard’s inattention. Figuring this out often requires partnering with a personal injury who has extensive experience handling premises liability cases to do the research necessary to identify the responsible party and hold them accountable.
Notee, too, that in Virginia, the injured person must also be free from what is called contributory negligence or contributing fault. If an insurer, judge, or jury finds that injured person materially contributed to causing harm to him or herself, no settlement or monetary award will be granted. Hiring a Virginia personal injury lawyer will give you a legal ally who will argue against accusations of contributory negligence.
Why are premises liability cases often called slip & fall cases?
Most people call premises liability cases “slips and falls” because the classic example of a premises liability claim involves a plaintiff who fell on a wet floor in a store or slipped on an icy sidewalk in front of a business. The category actually covers any type of injury that can be caused by a property owner or occupant’s negligence. A short list of premises liability cases includes
- Dog bites and animal attacks
- Falls down stairs and from balconies
- Assaults by staff, customers or other visitors
- Injuries from falling objects
- Electric shocks and electrocutions
- Recreational vehicle crashes (e.g., ATVs)
- Injuries on rides and attractions
The liability for compensating the injured person arises from the property owner or occupant’s legal duties to protect customers and visitors from injuries by keeping premises and equipment in proper repair, controlling the behavior of other people on the premises to the extent that is reasonable and complying with all applicable safety laws and regulations.
A final consideration is that Virginia bars premises liability claims from individuals who materially contribute in any way to causing the harm they suffered. Virginia and its neighbor North Carolina are among the only four states that still enforce this strict interpretation of contributory negligence.
Why are premises liability cases tough in Virginia?
In order to win a premises liability (slip and fall) case in Virginia (VA), a Virginia Beach personal injury attorney must prove that the premises owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition that caused your fall, and that you as the injured person could not have seen or appreciated the slip, trip or fall risk before you fell. This creates a narrow set of circumstances under which a person can expect to have a successful case, but an experienced attorney can help you understand if your case fits the right criteria.
How do we establish that the owner of the property is liable for my slip and fall injury?
In a premises liability case, we need to prove that the owner or operator of the premises knew or should have known that the dangerous condition existed at the time of your fall. This can be proven in many ways. Failure to do adequate safety checks, failure to put out necessary signage and warnings, and failure to comply with state and federal building codes are all ways to prove the property owner was negligent.
What type of recovery can I expect if I've been the victim of a slip and fall case?
Monetary recovery in a successful lawsuit will vary in every personal injury case. Typically, you can seek recovery for your medical expenses, your pain and suffering, and your lost wages if your injury caused you to miss work.
What should I do if I fall and get injured at a store?
Slip and fall cases, or premises liability cases, can be difficult, so you should do everything you can to make sure you remember the conditions and circumstances surrounding your fall. One of the first things you should do if you are able is to fill out an accident report with the store manager. If they do not offer one to you, ask for one. Secondly, you should try and take pictures of the dangerous condition that caused you to fall. In the era of cell phone cameras, often your phone is the best method to record a visual image of the conditions. The more you can remember about what caused you to fall, the better chance you have to proceed with a lawsuit for your injuries.
What questions should I ask a store employee if I slip andfall on their property?
An admission by the store employee is often the strongest evidence you can gather in a premises liability, slip and fall case. If you are physically able, ask the employee about the condition that caused you to fall. Ask them if they knew the condition existed, or when the last time that they checked the area was. It is unlikely that they will accept fault for your accident, but it never hurts to ask.
I fell at work and suffered a serious injury, do I have a case?
Most personal injury claims that arise while an employee is working are covered by Worker's Compensation laws. This probably means you'll have to file a workers compensation claim in order to recover for your injury. As a result, you will probably not be able to bring a successful separate personal injury lawsuit against your employer, but this rule does have exceptions. It is possible that a third party, and not your employer, is responsible for creating the dangerous condition that caused you to fall, and that third party may not be covered by worker's comp. You should ask an experienced injury attorney about your options.
What should I do immediately after a slip and fall?
First and foremost, inspect the area where you fell. Important questions to try and answer include: What caused you to fall? Did anyone see you fall?
Write down the contact information of anyone in the general area where the incident occurred - both those who saw you fall, and others who were there after the fall - since they may be needed as witnesses on your behalf if the landowner potentially disputes your claim. Even if no one saw you actually fall, an individual could help describe your pain and the conditions of the area immediately after you fell.
If the incident occurred in a store or place of business, immediately speak with the manager or supervisor on duty. Have them make a record of the incident, and get a copy of anything prepared by the business. If anyone suggests this type of incident occurred before, or they were aware of the condition before your fall, make a note and get the name and contact information of the individual who made the statement.
Even if the condition that caused your fall is permanent, or temporary (i.e. icy street), take photographs of the area as soon as possible so a record is available. Even"permanent conditions" could change if the landowner thinks you might file a claim for an injury.
About the editors: The motto at Shapiro & Appleton& Duffan law firm is simple -"All we do is injury law." We hope you were able to find the answer to your injury query. If not, please review our Virginia Accident Lawyer FAQ Library for additional information. If you'd like to speak to an actual attorney about your potential injury claim for free, please contact our office at 1-800-752-0042.