You are in a grocery store, round a corner of an aisle and step in a slick gooey substance on the floor. You tumble and land hard on your rear end. In excruciating pain, you head to the hospital emergency room and find out you have a herniated disc in your back. Your only consolation is that you know the grocery store must be at fault and has to pay you for your medical expense, lost wages, pain and suffering, and permanent injury. Right?
As our ESPN College Gameday friend Lee Corso might say, “Not so fast my friend!” Making a successful claim arising from what the law calls a “premises liability case” that is more commonly referred to as a “slip and fall case” in North Carolina is not an easy task.
A common misconception is that if you fall in a store, the store is liable. That’s simply not true.
The basic elements you must prove in a slip and fall case are:
- A dangerous condition existed on the premises;
- The condition was such that the owner of the premises knew or should have known that it existed;
- The owner failed to correct the condition; and
- As a result of the condition you suffered injury.
Given the fact you have to prove the above, it is imperative that the facts surrounding the incident be documented as soon as possible. In the case of the fall the manager of the store needs to be immediately notified and shown the area of the dangerous condition. If possible, the source of the condition needs to be identified. How did it get there? How long had it been there? Do the circumstances surrounding the condition give clues as to whether it had been there long enough that the store should have known about it (for example, if it was a banana peel was it a fresh looking yellow banana peel or a brown dusty banana peel?)? In this day of camera phones, take lots of photos.
Chances are if you make a claim on your own, the store will tell you they will “pay for your medical bills”. This does not mean they have accepted fault for your injuries. It is typical that stores will carry medical payment insurance policies (usually with fairly small limits of coverage) that pay regardless of fault. Those policies do not pay for the other consequences of your injury and, if you later make a claim for those consequences, the fact that the store paid for some of your medical expenses is NOT admissible to prove the store was at fault.
To protect yourself in making a claim for injuries arising on another’s property, you should, at least, consult with a Raleigh lawyer with experience in handling these types of claims. That consultation should be made as soon as possible after the incident as our experience has been that evidence at the store can get “lost” or “moved” and the memories of store managers “fade” over time.
Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas has experienced personal injury lawyers on staff in Raleigh and Wendell, NC. If you or someone you know has suffered a serious personal injury on another’s property, we are glad to speak to you about it. Our consultation is free and we are happy to discuss your options with you. Feel free to give us a call at 919-615-2473. Request a case review today!
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