When it comes to suing for personal injury, the laws regarding whether you are entitled to compensation varies from state to state. Just because you slip and fall in a store parking lot doesn't necessarily mean the business owner or its insurance company will have to pay you for your injury. Often, determining legal responsibility for slip and fall accidents is difficult, as numerous factors come into play.
In order for a court to award you damages for a personal injury that results from a fall, you must prove legal fault, or negligence, on the part of the parking lot owner. Since the landowner or tenant renting the space is responsible for maintaining the property both inside and out in a safe condition, you must show that a circumstance such as poor lighting, a hole, or ice caused you to fall. If you can prove the owner was aware of an unsafe or dangerous condition in the parking lot and failed to correct the problem, you may have grounds for a lawsuit.
Winning a personal injury lawsuit depends on the facts surrounding your specific case. To receive compensation for your injury, you need to gather as much proof as you can. If you are unable to do it yourself, ask a family member or friend to take photos of the area where you fell. You should do this as soon as possible after your fall.
It's also a good idea to put the shoes and clothing you were wearing when the incident occurred in a plastic bag and not wear them again in case you decide to file a lawsuit. Even torn or dirty clothing can help prove that you fell.
While it's still fresh in your memory, write down the details about your fall. Include the date and time it occurred, as well as what caused you to fall. If other customers or store employees witnessed your fall, ask them for their contact information. The more evidence you collect to support your case, the better your chances of proving fault.
If you live in a comparative negligence state, the court considers that you contributed to some degree to your injury. Even though you are partially at fault, you still can recover some compensation for your injury. However, the amount of compensation the court awards you is reduced by your degree of fault. For example, if you win a lawsuit award of $80,000, but the court attributes 30 percent of the liability to you, the amount you will receive is $56,000.
Most states use comparative negligence rules, although states vary in their rules. In some states, you can be partially compensated for your injury even if the court allocates more of the fault to you than to the defendant. But in other states, the court will award you damages only if the defendant is equally or more at fault than you are for your injury.
A few states still operate under the contributory negligence rule. If you live in one of these states, you won't be compensated for your injury if the store or business can show that your own carelessness or negligence, even if minimal, contributed to your fall and injury.
For more information, contact an experienced law firm like Putnam Lieb.