There’s been an enormous jump in slip-and-fall claims in Colorado, according to Pinnacol Assurance. And, that was just in the first two months of 2019 — so expect that number to be spiking again soon.
January and February 2019 — some of the iciest months of the year — saw a 46.3 percent increase in slip-and-fall claims when compared to the same timeframe in 2018.
“The last two winters we have had have been extremely mild. We haven’t had the type of slip-and-falls claims that we have had over the years prior,” said Pinnacol Safety Service Director Jim McMillen.
What most people find themselves asking after taking a terrible tumble outside of their work or another business is whether or not they can be compensated for the medical bills, time away from work, and other associated costs associated with the bad fall.
With the most common serious fall-related injuries being fractures, concussions, dislocations, contusions, strains, and sprains, it’s no surprise that a bad fall can put someone out of commission for weeks — resulting in serious financial costs.
Establishing Liability in a Slip-and-Fall Case
The first step — after that misstep that led to your tumble — in a slip-and-fall case is establishing liability. This is a two-step process, starting with identifying the potentially liable parties and then assessing whether or not they were negligent.
In these cases, negligence is basically the idea that the party either caused or failed to prevent the slip-and-fall incident.
The focus in these cases is often whether or not the accused party acted in a way that a reasonable person would have.
Should the property owner, or someone working for them, have recognized the dangerous conditions, such as ice in the parking lot? Additionally, should they have mitigated the hazardous nature of the situation, such as by having the parking lot plowed and salt put down?
If the answer is that a reasonable person should have recognized the hazardous conditions and taken actions other than those taken to prevent people from being injured, you probably have a strong slip-and-fall case.
When it comes to establishing liability, the other option involves asking if the property owner or a responsible employee actually created the dangerous conditions that led to the accident. An example of this could be not putting up a warning sign in areas where floors are wet from being freshly mopped.
Establishing Your Freedom From Fault or Contribution
Where things can start to get a bit dicey in a slip-and-fall case is when the property owner or their insurance carrier — who would rather not pay you what you’re owed — starts to argue that you are at least partially, if not totally, responsible for the accident.
Comparative fault laws vary from state to state, with some making it much more difficult for a slip-and-fall victim to be compensated for their injuries.
In Colorado, your contributory negligence can diminish how much you can collect for damages. In fact, if a court determines that your negligence is greater than the defendants, you won’t receive any compensation — even if you’re only 51% at fault.
In a less upsetting example, imagine that the court determines that you’re 10% at fault, and the settlement is $10,000. In this case, you would only be awarded $9,000.
Far too often, people, feeling embarrassed about having taken a tumble, admit some level of fault at the scene. They’ll say, “Oh, I’m so clumsy” or “I should have worn my microspikes” or “It’s my fault, I shouldn’t have been rushing to get to the car”.
No matter how you feel — don’t say these things. Do not admit to any fault until you’ve spoken with a personal injury lawyer who can help you better understand whether or not your knee-jerk reaction to admitting some degree of fault is reasonable.
Such admissions, no matter how unreasonable, will be used against you in court if you pursue a slip-and-fall claim.
There are several things that your lawyer will be looking at when trying to determine whether or not you shoulder any of the liability for the accident.
The first thing that will be examined is if you were doing anything that could have prevented you from noticing the hazard, such as being on your phone. In the same vein, it will be asked if you ignored warning signs or failed to use safety measures that would have been utilized by a reasonable person.
Lastly, lawyers will want to know if you had a legitimate reason for being in the area where the accident occurred. If you snuck into an ice rink at night and injured yourself when you fell on the ice — you’re probably not going to be able to win the case.
Filing Your Slip-and-fall Claim
Though you are not legally required to, most people will review the above information with a lawyer before filing their slip-and-fall claim.
In general, the complaint will name the parties involved, describe what happened, allege who is responsible, and outline what needs to be compensated for, such as medical bills and time away from work.
Mediating Slip-and-fall Claims
More often than not, parties involved in such a claim will attempt to resolve the issue without going to trial. This can either be done via mediation or a settlement conference. During these events, there is a bargaining process in which your lawyer will argue their case and attempt to get you as fairly compensated as possible.
It’s basically an attempt to find a middle ground that everyone can live with.
According to McMillen, the average cost of a work-related slip-and-fall claim is about $13,000.
Final Thoughts — Slip-and-fall Claims Spike in Colorado: Are You a Victim of Negligence?
With the months ahead looking particularly slippery and dangerous in Colorado, it’s best to know what to do if you’re in a slip-and-fall incident.
By not admitting to anything at the scene and hiring the best possible personal injury lawyer, you can put yourself on a path to recovery without it destroying you financially.
Have more questions about how a slip-and-fall claim is handled? Talk to the experts at Manning Law.