Attorneys Handling Slip and Fall Claims Throughout West Virginia
A Morgantown slip and fall accident lawyer can help you pursue fair compensation for injuries sustained on someone else’s property. Slip and fall cases are the most common type of claim under the area of law known as premises liability. Premises liability law concerns the rights of people who have been injured on properties owned and/or controlled by others.
Property owners and other parties can be held liable for their failure to keep visitors safe on the premises. A slip and fall accident is just one example of the harm that can occur when a property is not safe.
Contact Colombo Law at (304) 599-4229 to speak to a Morgantown slip and fall accident lawyer today. Your initial consultation is free, and you pay no fees until we recover compensation on your behalf.
Slip and Fall Laws in West Virginia
Slip and fall laws vary from state to state. It is crucial to consult a lawyer with in-depth knowledge of the law, as well as experience in the state and local courts.
A West Virginia slip and fall accident attorney at Colombo Law can review your case for free. Our lawyers are well-versed in premises liability claims, and we can take on the insurance company so you can focus on healing.
Important legal considerations in a slip and fall injury claim in West Virginia include:
For many years, the law in West Virginia favored the victims of slip and fall accidents. However, the passage of WV SB13 changed the law to make it more difficult for plaintiffs to recover compensation for slip and falls and other injuries arising on dangerous premises.
WV SB13 revised the West Virginia Code to include the following provision:
“A possessor of real property, including an owner, lessee or other lawful occupant, owes no duty of care to protect others against dangers that are open, obvious, reasonably apparent or as well known to the person injured as they are to the owner or occupant, and shall not be held liable for civil damages for any injuries sustained as a result of such dangers.”
‘Open and Obvious Hazard’
The revised statute establishes what is known as the “open and obvious hazard” doctrine for premises liability claims. Property owners, tenants, and other occupants cannot be held liable for injuries sustained by visitors as a result of a hazard that should have been obvious or reasonably apparent.
If the defense can show that the danger that led to the plaintiff’s injuries was open and obvious, comparative fault for the accident could be assigned to the plaintiff. West Virginia uses a modified comparative fault standard (see WV Code § 55-7-13a).
Under the comparative fault standard, the plaintiff’s compensation is reduced in proportion to his or her level of negligence in causing a slip and fall injury. The plaintiff is not barred from recovering damages, unless it is found that the plaintiff’s fault “is greater than the combined fault of all other persons responsible for the total amount of damages” (see WV Code § 55-7-13c(c)).
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is the time limit for making a legal claim. In West Virginia, the statute of limitations for injury claims (including those stemming from slip and fall accidents) is 2 years from the date of the injury (see WV Code § 55-2-12).
What Qualifies as a Premises Liability Accident?
Premises liability claims can take many different forms. Colombo Law has extensive experience handling personal injury cases involving slip and falls and other accidents on dangerous properties.
Bottom line: If you are injured on someone else’s property, you may have a valid premises liability claim. This can encompass a number of different scenarios, including the following:
- Dog bites
- Nursing home injuries
- Swimming pool accidents
- Playground accidents
- Injuries sustained due to negligent security on the premises
- Construction site accidents
- Amusement park accidents
- Injuries resulting from elevator malfunctions
- Injuries resulting from escalator malfunctions
- Building fires
It can be difficult to know whether you have a viable claim. You should speak to a lawyer promptly if you were injured in a slip and fall accident or another incident where dangerous conditions on the property caused you harm.
A premises liability lawyer can investigate and gather evidence on your behalf. Your attorney can also identify the party or parties responsible for your injuries.
Slip and Fall Accident Statistics
Falls are a major source of accidental injury on premises throughout the country. Slipping and tripping accidents may occur due to a variety of different hazards, including a wet floor, an icy sidewalk, poorly maintained steps, and more.
The National Floor Safety Institute states that falls are responsible for 8 million emergency room visits every year. Slip and fall accidents alone account for 1 million trips to the E.R. annually. Together, these two types of accidents account for one-third of all visits to the emergency room.
Additional facts you should know about slip and fall injuries include:
- Broken bones are the most common injury sustained in falls. Approximately 5% of all falls result in one or more fractures.
- Occupational slip and fall injuries are the leading cause of lost time from work, with nearly one-quarter of slip and falls (22%) resulting in more than a month of lost work time. Slip and fall accidents also account for the most workers’ compensation claims among employees aged 55 and older.
- Unsafe floors and flooring are responsible for over 2 million falls per year.
- The risk of a fall increases with each decade of life. 1.8 million people aged 65 and older require emergency room treatment for a fall.
- Approximately one-third of people older than 65 fall each year. Around half of these seniors will have fallen before.
- Falls are the second-highest cause of death for people between the ages of 65 and 84. Individuals 75 or older account for 60% of all deaths from falls.
- More than 60% of nursing home residents will suffer a fall in a given year.
- Fall-related injuries are common in “virtually all manufacturing and service sectors.” The industries with the highest rate of fatal falls, meanwhile, are construction and mining.
- Falls from a height make up 40% of compensable fall cases, whereas falls on the same level account for 60%.
- 50% of accidental home deaths are the result of a fall. Most of these falls are the result of a slip or a trip, rather than a fall from elevation.
Whether you slip and fall, trip and fall, or fall from a height, serious accidents can happen just about anywhere and in any situation. Your legal options and the compensation you are entitled to depend on the circumstances. It is crucial to speak to a slip and fall lawyer as soon as possible to protect your rights and begin building your claim.
Morgantown Slip and Fall Accident Injuries
Slip and fall accidents can lead to a number of different injuries. A West Virginia slip and fall attorney can thoroughly review your medical records and collect evidence establishing how serious your injuries are and what compensation you may be due.
Common injuries sustained in slip and fall accidents include:
- Head and neck injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Fractures and broken bones
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Cuts, scrapes, and puncture wounds
- Joint, tendon, and ligament injuries
- Partial or complete paralysis
As you can see from the statistics above, not everyone survives slip and falls (particularly workers and the elderly). If your loved one is tragically killed in a slip and fall accident, our slip and fall injury lawyers can pursue compensation on your family’s behalf through a wrongful death claim.
Who Is Liable for a Slip and Fall Accident?
Property owners, businesses, tenants, and other parties are responsible for ensuring that their premises are reasonably safe for lawful visitors. To recover compensation for a slip and fall or other incident on a property, you need to prove that the negligence of one or more parties contributed to your injuries.
A West Virginia slip and fall accident attorney will seek to prove each of the following elements in your case:
- Duty of care: The duty of care is the legal responsibility a property owner or other occupant has to someone on the premises. When it comes to lawful visitors (i.e., invitees and licensees), the duty of care generally includes inspection of the premises for potential hazards, timely removal and/or repair of hazards, and warning visitors of non-obvious hazards. The duty of care to trespassers is limited to not “willfully or wantonly causing the trespasser injury” (see WV Code § 55-7-27).
- Breach of duty: A breach is a failure to exercise the necessary care. Common examples in slip and fall claims include not posting warnings about a slippery floor, failure to repair or replace damaged flooring, etc.
- Injury: The evidence must show that (a) you suffered injury in the slip and fall accident and (b) the negligence of the property owner directly caused your injuries.
- Damages: Finally, the evidence must show that you sustained compensable damages as a result of the slip and fall. In the event of a fatal fall, you will need to show that you and your family are entitled to wrongful death damages.
Satisfying each of these elements on your own can be challenging. A Morgantown slip and fall accident lawyer will know what evidence is needed to make a strong claim against all of the liable parties.
Premises Liability Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Premises Liability Law?
Premises liability law is an area of personal injury law that deals with injuries that occur on somebody else’s property. If someone is injured in an accident on a property owned and/or occupied by someone else, premises liability law allows the injured person to make a claim for compensation.
The owner of a property has a responsibility to keep the premises safe for others. When they fail to uphold that responsibility and someone gets hurt, they may be liable for damages such as medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses.
It is important to note that simply being injured on someone else’s property is not enough to win compensation. You must prove that the party in control of the property was negligent.
Is Premises Liability the Same as Negligence?
Premises liability is not necessarily the same as negligence. That said, negligence is an essential element of proving liability in a premises liability claim.
If you can prove that a property owner or other responsible party (a) created a dangerous condition or (b) allowed a non-obvious dangerous condition and chose not to remedy it, this may be sufficient to establish negligence on the part of the defendant and prove that you are entitled to compensation.
One element of negligence is also referred to as a “breach of duty.” In legal matters, a “duty” is an obligation to others. A “breach,” meanwhile, is a failure to meet the duty imposed by law. In premises liability matters, examples of breach of duty may include:
- Waiting too long to fix an uneven sidewalk
- Not cleaning up a wet floor
- Failure to warn visitors of potential hazards, such as a slippery floor, broken tiles, loose carpeting, etc.
- Improper lighting in publicly accessible areas
- Failure to implement proper security measures
If you were injured as a result of these or any other safety issues on someone else’s property, it is important to explore your legal rights as soon as possible.
What Is the Difference Between Premises Liability and Personal Liability?
Premises liability is about the specific location where an injury occurred and the unsafe conditions that caused the injury. Personal liability, on the hand, is concerned with the actions of the individual who is held liable for somebody’s injury.
In premises liability claims, these two types of liability can overlap. For example, a property owner could be held personally liable in a premises liability claim if it is shown that their negligence created a hazard on the property that led to injury.
Why Is Premises Liability Important?
Injuries caused by unsafe conditions on residential, commercial, and government properties can be serious, ranging from cuts and bruises to traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. While accidents can happen regardless of how safe the property is, premises liability is important because it provides legal recourse for injured people to hold property owners and occupants accountable.
If you have been in a premises liability accident, this is surely something you have considered. Why should you be responsible for the medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages caused by someone who carelessly neglected others’ safety?
Also, beyond providing accident victims with a means of recovering compensation for their damages, these laws play an important role in ensuring property owners are motivated to keep their properties safe. Ultimately, this means the world is a safer place for all of us—as opposed to if there was no consequence for allowing dangerous conditions to persist.
What Is the Cause of Action for Premises Liability?
The “cause of action” is the incident on the premises that leads to injury (such as a slip and fall, a dog bite, etc.). A direct connection must be demonstrated between the property owner’s negligence and your injuries. This requires you to satisfy the following elements of a premises liability claim:
- A duty of care existed
- The duty of care was breached through the defendant’s negligence
- The danger or defect was not open or obvious
- This breach was what caused your injuries (known as causation)
- Your injuries led to compensable damages
If any of these factors do not apply in your situation, then you are unlikely to have a viable premises liability claim. Only when you can draw a clear line between each of these elements and prove each one will you be able to recover compensation.
Collecting evidence is an essential part of the investigation process. Plaintiffs and attorneys alike should seek out pictures and videos of the accident scene, medical records documenting the injuries, witness testimony, and more.
Is West Virginia a Strict Liability State?
No, West Virginia is not a strict liability state when it comes to premises liability claims. Strict liability would mean that you do not need to prove negligence in order to recover compensation. In other words, if you were injured on someone’s property, it would not matter if they created a dangerous condition or not—they would automatically be held liable for your damages.
Strong evidence of negligence is required if you bring an injury claim against a property owner. A premises liability lawyer can investigate thoroughly, collect evidence on your behalf, and pursue maximum compensation for your losses.
How Slip and Falls Happen
Even when you’re being careful, it’s easy to slip and fall. Most slip and fall accidents happen because of hazards such as:
- Icy surfaces
- Wet floors
- Obstructions in a walkway
- Improperly maintained structures, stairs, and floors
- Poor lighting
- Uneven sidewalks
These unsafe conditions can be present just about anywhere. Some of the most common locations for slip and fall accidents include:
- Parking lots
- Construction sites
- Nursing homes
- Stairs and escalators
- Entertainment venues
- Private residences
- Rental properties
Per West Virginia law, property owners, lessees, and other occupants can be held liable for slip and falls that occur due to negligence. A Morgantown slip and fall accident lawyer can identify the party or parties responsible for the premises and bring a claim on your behalf.
Damages in a Slip and Fall Accident
One of the most important reasons to hire a slip and fall injury lawyer is to accurately account for any and all of your losses. At Colombo Law, we are committed to maximizing our clients’ compensation in settlement negotiations and at trial (if necessary).
Significant compensation may be recovered for serious injuries sustained on dangerous premises. A West Virginia slip and fall accident attorney can pursue recovery of the following damages:
- All of your medical bills
- Future medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Out-of-pocket costs for assistive devices, modifications to your vehicle and home, etc.
- Loss of earning capacity
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Scarring & disfigurement
Hiring a slip and fall injury lawyer is essential for obtaining the full compensation you deserve. Generally, our attorneys are able to negotiate a favorable settlement with the insurance company that fairly compensates you for your losses.
In some cases, however, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit and ultimately take your case to trial. At Colombo Law, we prepare every case as though it will go to trial. The experience, preparation, and courtroom skills of our West Virginia slip and fall accident attorneys enable us to achieve significant trial awards.
What to Do After a Slip and Fall
Slip and fall accident claims require proof of negligence on the part of the owner or other party occupying the premises. In West Virginia, it is highly likely that the defendant and/or the insurance company will try to argue that the hazard that caused your injury was (or should have been) “open and obvious.”
Evidence of liability is needed to overcome these arguments. If possible, you should take the following steps after a slip and fall accident to protect your right to compensation:
- Take pictures or video of the area where the accident occurred. If the accident happened outside, be sure to take pictures of the ground, any nearby obstructions, marks on the ground, and/or signs. If the accident happened inside, take pictures of the floor, ceiling, and furniture. Make sure to take pictures from different angles, including the angle from which you encountered the hazard.
- Also take pictures or video of your injuries. You should try to document your injuries as soon as they occur. In addition to photos and/or video, you should write down any symptoms you experience and how the injury affects your day-to-day life.
- Look for witnesses. Check the area around where you fell to see if anyone saw the accident. Get the names and contact information for any witnesses, and ask them to describe what they saw.
- Keep your clothes. Don’t wash or get rid of the clothes and shoes you were wearing when you slipped and fell. These could contain valuable evidence of dangerous conditions on the property.
- Report the accident. You should notify the owner or tenant of your injury as soon as possible. If you are asked to fill out an accident report, be honest about what happened but don’t say anything to suggest you may have been at fault.
If you were seriously injured in a slip and fall accident, your first priority should be to seek medical attention. After that, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible.
A West Virginia slip and fall accident attorney can start investigating immediately and begin collecting important evidence on your behalf right away. Slipping and tripping hazards can be cleaned up or repaired quickly (especially if the owner knows someone got hurt), so time is of the essence.
Just because you slip and fall on someone else’s property does not automatically entitle you to compensation. The owner of the property will likely dispute liability, and the insurance company will try to pay you as little as possible.
Slip and fall accidents and other premises liability claims require knowledgeable legal guidance and support. With the Colombo Advantage, you can rest assured that our experienced lawyers and staff will represent your best interest at all times. Our team combines a caring, compassionate attitude toward our clients with a relentless drive to hold negligent individuals, companies, and other parties accountable.
Please call Colombo Law at (304) 599-4229 today for a FREE case review. Our slip and fall accident lawyers serve clients in Morgantown and throughout West Virginia.