In Massachusetts, slip and fall accidents occurring on privately owned properties are common incidences. Victims of slip and fall accidents very often blame themselves for the incident, carrying the financial burden of absence from work to recover from their injuries. If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident occurring on a privately owned property, such as while shopping in a grocery store or a large department store, you may be entitled to personal injury compensation. Personal injury compensation for your lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering may be available to you if it can be proven, by preponderance of the evidence, that your accident was a result of someone else’s negligence.
Types of slip and fall accidents
Property owners and managers have the duty to take reasonable care to ensure the safety of guests and patrons visiting their properties. Poor maintenance of an area, such as leaving grease, water, food, or ice on a floor where people regularly walk, often causes people to fall and sustain injuries. Other examples of negligent property maintenance often include broken floorboards, torn carpets, crumbling stair steps, and failed lighting fixtures. The parties responsible for area upkeep, which can include private property owners, government agencies, companies, or large corporations, are expected to fix hazards that could potentially cause harm to those present on the property. Otherwise, property owners would not be responsible for preventing injuries caused by their negligence and accidents would occur much more frequently!
Trip and fall accidents occur when you step on or over an object that should not have been there, such as trash on the floor of a grocery store or faults on a sidewalk. Step and fall accidents can also happen when you encounter an unexpected hole in the surface you are walking on, such as a sidewalk, and inadvertently fall. When you slip and fall, you may have encountered an unexpected, slippery substance on the surface below your feet, causing you to fall. If you have endured any of these types of falls, and have consequently sustained serious personal injuries, you may be entitled to compensation.
Who is legally responsible for a slip and fall accident in Massachusetts?
When a slip and fall victim files a lawsuit against a negligent property owner, both parties are expected to share some degree of responsibility for the accident. The injured victim has to provide proof that he or she used a reasonable degree of care when walking over the dangerous surface, while the property owner must demonstrate that he or she took reasonable care to ensure the property was safe to use.
In Massachusetts, courts will examine the comparative negligence of each of the parties. Comparative liability takes into account the degrees of responsibility of both the property owner and the slip and fall victim for the accident. Once the comparative liability for both parties is calculated, a decision is made valuing the compensation the property owner is expected to pay. If you, the victim, are calculated to be more than 50% responsible for the accident or more, you are not eligible to ask for any compensation from the other party.
An example of comparative negligence in Massachusetts
As an example, suppose you are injured in a slip and fall accident caused by a damaged floor tile at the grocery store where you regularly shop for groceries. At the time of the accident, you did not notice the damaged tile because you were distracted by one of the shelf displays. It was determined that your failure to pay attention renders you 10% liable for the accident. Whereas, the grocery store was found to be 90% responsible in its negligent property maintenance. As a result of the accident, your calculated damages are valued at $10,000. Due to the comparative fault law in Massachusetts, your 10% liability for the accident will reduce the amount you are eligible to recover to $9,000. Typically, the comparative fault rule is used during the trial stage but it is also occasionally used when evaluating automobile insurance claims.
Slip and fall injuries at work
If you are injured by a slip and fall at your place of employment, it is typically not possible to file a personal injury compensation claim against your employer. Normally, any type of personal injury that occurs while you are working is covered by the Worker’s Compensation laws in Massachusetts.
Personal injury compensation in a Massachusetts slip and fall
If you were injured in a slip and fall accident that was caused by the negligence of someone else, your Massachusetts personal injury attorney will ensure that you get financial compensation for the following:
- the cost of medical treatment;
- lost wages while recovering;
- at-home assistance during your recovery;
- damaged property as a result of the accident (eyeglasses, wristwatches, fitness trackers, damaged clothing, etc.);
- the long term cost of a permanent disability; and
- emotional distress from the injury.
What is the statute of limitations for a slip and fall accident in Massachusetts?
Under the laws of Massachusetts, you are eligible to file a personal injury compensation claim against the at-fault party up to (3) three years after the date of the slip and fall incident. In certain circumstances, an injured victim may not discover the full effect of their injuries until a later date after the accident. In such situations, an injured victim may a file a claim up to 3 years after the date he or she discovered the full effect of their injuries. If you were injured on publicly owned property and intend to file suit against a government agency, the statute of limitations is decreased to (2) two years after the date of the incident.
Where is the settlement negotiated?
Typically, personal injury claims can be settled between the at-fault party’s liability insurer and your personal injury attorney without the need to file a lawsuit. If a reasonable settlement cannot be negotiated, you may a file a lawsuit before the (2) two or (3) three year time restrictions established by the statute of limitations. If the value of your personal injury claim exceeds $2,000, you can file a lawsuit with the applicable Massachusetts District Court. If your claim is valued under $2,000, you can still file a lawsuit with the applicable Small Claims Court.
Do I need a personal injury attorney to file a lawsuit or negotiate a claim?
Legally, you can file a claim or lawsuit on your own behalf. However, hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you will guarantee a higher claims settlement and ensure all of your expenses recovered. Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis which means that the costs of legal services are not paid until a successful settlement has been reached.