No one expects to take a sudden fall, but falls occur every day and are a leading cause of injuries in the United States. A slip and fall at home is terrifying enough, but when a bad fall occurs in a public place, there’s an additional element of embarrassment. Not only that, but a slip-and-fall accident on public property that results in significant damages may be actionable. If someone else’s carelessness caused your fall, you shouldn’t be left responsible for the consequences like medical expenses and pain and suffering—known as “damages” in personal injury cases.
If you or a close family member experienced a slip-and-fall injury on public property, you may be wondering who is liable for damages and how you claim compensation so you can focus on moving forward without the financial hardship associated with the injury. A slip-and-fall lawyer in St. Louis can help you navigate the legal nuances of the claim and help you recover compensation for the injuries you sustained.
Determining Liability in Public Slip-and-Fall Accidents
Where and how a fall occurs is critical to proving liability and claiming compensation for damages. Before a slip-and-fall victim can file a claim, they must identify the liable party and document evidence of their liability as well as evidence of damages like medical expenses and lost wages. If the slip-and-fall accident occurred in a public place with private ownership such as a store, restaurant, cafe, or hotel, the property owner is liable for the damages, or the business owner may bear liability if they lease the property for their business. Proving liability for a slip-and-fall accident requires showing that the property owner was aware—or should reasonably have been aware—that the safety hazard existed, and that they neglected to repair or otherwise address the problem in a timely manner.
When business owners invite people onto their property for commercial purposes, they owe a duty of care to take reasonable measures to prevent causing them injury. Breaching this duty of care by failing to address the safety hazard is negligence. When the act of negligence directly causes injury, and the injury victim suffers economic and non-economic damages from the injury, the property owner must pay the damages from their premises liability insurance policy.
When personal injury claims go to court, the jury is often asked, “Would another, reasonable person have acted differently in this situation?” If the answer is yes, and the victim has provable damages, then the owner is liable for the victim’s damages.
What if the Injury Occurs on Government-Owned Public Property?
Sometimes slip-and-fall injuries occur on government-owned public property including in parks, rest areas, bus stops, and government buildings. A personal injury claim against a government entity differs in several ways from claims against private property owners even when the injury occurs in public. Making a claim for compensation against a government entity means filing a personal injury claim against the Office of Administration’s risk management department. Not only that but there is a substantial difference in the time limit for filing claims against government entities in Missouri compared to traditional injury claims. In Missouri, slip-and-fall victims have only 90 days to file claims for damages after a fall on government-owned property. This is very limited compared to Missouri’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims against private property owners which allows up to five years from the date the injury occurred in which to file a claim.
Filing a claim against a government entity has different procedural rules as well. It takes an experienced St. Louis personal injury attorney to help victims navigate this complex area of personal injury law in Missouri.