Indiana Slip & Fall Lawyer
Get Compensation from a Landowner or Business Owner in a Slip & Fall Accident
Have you been injured in a slip and fall incident on someone else’s property? When this happens, is the landowner or business owner required to pay your medical bills? The answer is no. They are not required to pay your medical bills at any time after your accident and injuries until you prove “fault” on their part. This is often called “negligence” on the part of the landowner.
How do you prove the landowner was at fault? Below we examine Indiana premises liability law pertaining to slip and fall accidents and injuries.
Explanation of Slip & Fall Laws in Indiana
In order to win a slip and fall case, the injured person must be able to prove two things:
- A hazardous condition on the property caused the fall and
- The defendant (the property owner) had “notice” of the hazard.
This might sound elementary but it’s amazing how many times the two elements can get confusing. Being able to prove these elements is necessary to move your case forward to a jury. Oftentimes, a defendant property owner’s lawyer will file what is called a “Motion for Summary Judgment” that asks the judge to throw the case out of court before a trial because one or both of these elements cannot be proven. This is because Indiana follows laws from a long time ago that require these two elements be shown in order to win.
“Hazardous condition” is a legal term that simply means that “something” improper caused your fall. It can mean a foreign object on the floor like a pellet or a BB. It can mean a slippery substance on a floor like snow, ice, water, or oil. It could mean a crack in payment, uneven concrete, or even a pothole. It simply means that something happened to cause your fall other than you tripping over your own feet or fainting.
That’s why it’s so important to try to document what caused your fall after it happens. Fortunately, Indiana law does not require that you know exactly what caused your fall before you fell. It’s okay to simply recognize it was “something” out of the ordinary and not a loss of balance on your part.
This recognition of the foreign substance or defect can come after you fall. For example, it is okay to fall and then realize it was ice that caused your fall because you felt it with your hands as you attempt to stand up. Or after you fall, you realize that your clothes are cold and wet so it must have been a liquid on the floor that caused you to fall. Indiana law says that it’s okay to recognize the hazard after you fell.
What Do We Mean by the Word “Notice?”
The second thing you must prove in order to win is “notice.” This is a trickier concept. Many people have a hard time understanding why notice to the defendant property owner is required to be proven by the injured person. Once again, it’s old Indiana law. It’s rooted in a sense of fairness to the landowner. If the landowner did not know there was a hazard, why should he be held responsible for not fixing it?
Consequently, you must show the landowner knew about the hazard. This means the owner had actual knowledge or actual notice or the owner should have known about the hazard (known as constructive knowledge or constructive notice) and didn’t fix the problem or warn others about it.
How long the hazard existed in its particular spot helps determine whether the defendant knew or should have known about the hazard. Clearly, if something is completely unknown to the defendant and impossible for him to discover, you cannot win your case. That wouldn’t be fair to the property owner.
On the other hand, if you can show the hazard was caused by the natural activities of the property owner, like a leaky cooler in a grocery store, you might not be required to prove “notice” at all. It might be assumed the landowner knew by law.
Were you injured in a slip and fall or trip and fall on a landowner’s or business owner’s property in Indiana? For legal help, call McKibben Shaw Law at (260) 777-7777.
Fairness to the Property Owner
The idea of “notice” is based on fairness to the property owner. The law requires that a defendant property owner have a reasonable opportunity to remedy the defect. For example, if a pothole existed for a few months, that would probably re unreasonable for the property owner to ignore it. The longer the defect was on the property, the more likely the law considers the landowner to have had “constructive knowledge.” Additionally, the landowner is required to do periodic timely inspections of the property. He can no longer simply ignore the property and let customers fend for their own safety.
Temporary conditions like ice and snow can be more difficult to prove that the landowner knew or should have known of the defect and had time to remedy it. For example, Indiana law doesn’t require the property owner to plow his parking lot during a snowstorm because it would simply get snowed over again even though snow is certainly a “hazardous condition” that can cause a fall.
An infinite number of situations exist in which a person can fall. Proving “notice” is dependent upon those facts and each situation is different. A jury will decide what is a “reasonable” amount of time to allow a defendant property owner to remedy a hazardous condition. It has been ruled by Indiana courts that overnight was not enough time for a landowner to inspect and plow his land before customers arrived. On the other hand, a matter of a few days was held to be enough time. And it can be argued the size of the defendant also plays a role in how much time is appropriate.
The Amount of Compensation You Can Recover
Are you limited in the amount you can recover? No. Indiana law establishes the amount of damages that a person can recover from a business or individual whose negligence caused your injuries. But you can recover a settlement for your slip and fall injury in any amount the parties decide upon – and most cases settle out of court.
You are not limited to just out-of-pocket expenses (called “economic” damages).
Two types of damages can be recovered under Indiana law: “economic” damages such as medical bills, lost wages, property damages, trips to the doctor, and the like; as well as “non-economic” damages such as mental anguish, pain and suffering, and the loss of quality of life.
The non-economic damages can be very difficult to quantify. In fact, a judge will tell a jury that the non-economic damages in any verdict must be done reasonably but they are not required to be a strict mathematical calculation.
How McKibben Shaw Law Helps You Recover Pain & Suffering Damages
The first thing we do is gather evidence. Related and relevant evidence need to be preserved and gathered to prove those damages. One thing is clear: the more evidence you are able to gather to support your claim, the better your chances to recover adequate compensation.
Types of evidence that are most effective in proving pain and suffering damages after a slip and fall can include:
- Photographs and videos of you and your injuries both before and after the accident
- Personal diaries or journals describing your experiences
- Testimony from family or friends or co-workers that persuasively explain your hardships, such as friends and family explaining how the personal injury has negatively impacted your life
- Proof of physical and mental health treatments
The value of pain and suffering damages is difficult to define because these damages are not entirely calculable like medical bills, invoices, billing statements, receipts, and other items with hard mathematical numbers attached to them. Pain and suffering damages are usually determined based on the common sense of the jury taking into account how the slip and fall happened and why it happened. It also takes into account the nature and extent of your injury. Was it permanent? Did it leave a scar? Will you require future medical care? Will the injury result in further limitations? Will it cause pain on a daily basis?
While economic damages can be relatively easy to calculate and recover, it is in the “non-economic” damages where big verdicts are won. McKibben Shaw Law has won plenty of big verdicts through the years. Our track record is difficult to beat for large law firms, let alone the smaller, more intimate that we currently operate.
Many people are afraid to file a lawsuit. They think it’s a form of “causing trouble” so they learn to live with their pain. Then later, they discover they can no longer live with the life-changing effects of the slip and fall or other injury and contact a lawyer. At that point, they find out it’s too late to pursue the claim because two years have passed since the date of the injury-causing occurrence.
You don’t have to file a lawsuit to recover compensation. In fact, statistics show that most people settle their claim with an insurance company without filing a lawsuit. However, failure to file the lawsuit within two years bars and estops (prevents or ends) your ability to seek compensation later.
The best thing to do is see an attorney right away. Let the attorney handle the claims process.
At McKibben Shaw Law Office, we’ve found that when it comes to slip and falls, the best thing to do is to file a lawsuit as quickly as possible. That’s because 99.9 percent of all slip and falls are denied by the landowner’s insurance company anyway. Trying to settle an “unsettle-able” case for nearly two years and then filing a lawsuit just delays matters.
Like the famous Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
“Not just the lawyers you need, but the lawyers you WANT.”- Tristen K