Falling for You
Falls are a part of life, especially as we grow older. If we suffer minor injuries such as a bruise or two, we may shrug it off. But sometimes people are badly hurt—very badly—by a fall that took them by surprise. If that were you, you might be left with thousands of dollars in medical costs, lost wages, and other financial setbacks, all because you walked in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Falls can happen for a number of reasons. Indoors, falls are most often caused by:
- Wet, slippery, or sticky floors
- Floors that aren’t level
- Torn or raised carpeting
- Uneven or narrow stairs
- Poor lighting
- Obstructions and tripping hazards of all kinds
- Malfunctioning escalators.
Outdoors, falls are often precipitated by:
- Broken or uneven sidewalks and walkways
- Inadequate snow and ice removal
- Lack of handrails
- Inadequate lighting
- Holes and depressions.
In the case of a fall that causes serious injuries, we must ask questions, beginning with who is liable, and under what conditions?
What Maryland Law Says
In Maryland, businesses and property owners are not necessarily responsible if you fall and sustain injury. Property owners are responsible for hazardous conditions only if they knew of such conditions but did not correct them, nor warn you. They are also responsible if they should have reasonably known of the hazard, but didn’t.
Additionally, different levels of responsibility are owed depending on the status of the invitee. A trespasser is owed little to nothing, unless deliberate action to create a hazard for them can be proved. However, an invited guest, such as a customer, or a social guest on private property, is owed “the highest level of care,” meaning that dangers must be pointed out to them, with appropriate care taken, to help the guest avoid injury.
Finally, Maryland is one of four states and the District of Columbia that recognizes pure contributory negligence, meaning that an injured party cannot collect damages if even a small percentage of the accident was their fault. An example of this would be wearing inappropriate footwear, such as stiletto heels, while walking in an area that is visibly icy. Assumption of risk is related to pure contributory negligence, meaning that you freely assumed a known risk.
The strongest liability cases involve owners having knowledge of a problem for a long period of time, or of a circumstance where they should have known about the problem. For example, broken and raised areas in sidewalks that remain unfixed for weeks or months would be considered something an owner should have noticed and repaired.
However, if you slipped on a spilled drink in a store, and the drink was spilled mere minutes before you did so, the store could not have reasonably prevented your injury by cleaning up the spill before you encountered it. Therefore, they would not be liable. Spills that create slips and falls can be a gray area for proving liability.
Defending Against Liability
Pure contributory negligence, as mentioned above, comes into play as a liability defense in Maryland. If you contributed in any way to your fall, then you are not entitled to recover damages. You need to prove that you had no contribution to the accident and that the property owner was fully responsible.
Another defense against liability in Maryland is assumption of risk, also mentioned above. An example would be walking across a visibly snowy or icy area. If you assumed the risk and then fell, you could not successfully sue for damages, because the judge would dismiss your case.
Under Maryland law, you can recover the following damages:
- Medical bills resulting from the accident
- Lost wages resulting from the accident
- Other economic losses resulting from the accident
- Certain noneconomic losses, such as physical pain, impairment, disfigurement, and loss of consortium.
In Maryland, even if it is determined that there is no liability on the part of the property’s owner, you might be able to recover your medical expenses under the no-fault clause in the owner’s insurance. Many business owners have medical payments insurance as part of their property’s insurance policy. This insurance pays for bills incurred because of accidents on their property, regardless of cause. However, such payments are often limited to five thousand dollars or less.
What to Do After a Fall
We at The Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler hope that you never fall, but should you or a family member suffer from one, here are the things you should do that might help your case if you suspect negligence:
- Obtain the contact information from any witnesses.
- Use your cell phone to take photos of the scene and the injured person immediately.
- Write down all the details of the fall, including exactly what happened, the weather conditions, the lighting, what caused the fall, the body position of the victim, and what was said to you by anyone associated with the property, if anything, especially if their statement indicates knowledge of a defect.
- Keep the clothing and especially the shoes worn by the person who fell.
How Can “The Injury Lawyer” Help You?
Steven Heisler has been practicing law in Maryland since 1988. In 1996, however, he decided to focus exclusively on personal injury law. Why? Steve has a heart for helping people. He determined that his education and experience could best be put to use advocating for the rights of folks who were harmed through the negligent actions of others.
At the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler, we know how traumatic an injury from a serious fall can be for both the injured person and for his or her family. If you or a family member has suffered from a fall or a fall-related injury, call Baltimore personal injury attorney Steve Heisler. Keep in mind, however, that there is a statute of limitations – or a time limit – for filing personal injury claims. If you have been injured in an accident or have otherwise incurred a personal injury, you should not delay. Contact the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler of Baltimore, Maryland, for a free initial consultation by calling (410) 625-4878 today.