Too many people have firsthand experience with slip-and-fall accidents and the resulting debilitating injuries that could have been avoided. If you are the victim of circumstances allowed or created by a property owner, you may be suffering both physically and financially.
Get a free consultation with our highly recommended New York slip and fall attorneys. Our dedicated personal injury attorneys have secured more than $1 billion in compensation for deserving clients over the years, and we are committed to fighting for justice for you.
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What to Expect After You Slip and Fall
Getting back up from a fall can take seconds if you’re lucky or years if you aren’t. Some people never stand on their own again, especially the elderly victims. The National Floor Safety Institute, a nonprofit group, warns that slip-and-fall accidents send more than 1 million people to emergency rooms every year and are the top cause of lost workdays.
Among the most common slip-and-fall injuries are:
Broken bones. Hands, wrists, and elbows often take a beating in a fall because they are used defensively, with breaks resulting. Hip and pelvis fractures also are common, especially among older victims. The National Floor Safety Institute says hip fractures typically are the most serious fall injuries “and lead to the greatest health problems and number of deaths.”
Even simple breaks that a cast and a little time can mend often result in long-term effects such as arthritis. Severe breaks can require reconstruction using metal plates, rods, and screws, with multiple surgeries possible. Tissue damage can yield deadly blood clots, and there’s a risk of potentially lethal infection.
Recovery can take months, with physical and occupational therapy needed, as well as vocational therapy if mobility is permanently affected.
Spinal cord injuries. Falls are the No. 2 cause of spinal cord and brain injuries. Compression of the spinal cord or broken vertebrae can result in lifelong pain and problems. The location of a spinal cord injury is critical. Injuries toward the top of the spinal column pose the greatest risk of full paralysis.
Treatment can be long, painful, and extremely expensive, often with multiple surgeries and extensive rehabilitative care used to regain some semblance of normal physical activity. Survivors could face partial or full paralysis.
Head and traumatic brain injuries. Injuries to the head and brain can be extremely severe ─ physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Slip-and-fall victims should seek medical care immediately if they have hit their head in a fall, even if it seems like you’re not experiencing any symptoms.
A bump on the head can be a sign of a concussion, and a severe concussion can be life-altering, affecting cognitive skills, speech, and movement. A traumatic brain injury can change a person’s personality, cripple a victim, or prove fatal.
Recovery can take months or years, and full recovery might not be possible. Long-term treatment can include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech or language therapy, and vocational therapy. Specialists involved in treatment can include psychologists, psychiatrists, family therapists, and physiatrists.
Neck injuries. Many slip-and-fall accidents are tumbles backward, causing a whipsaw motion of the head that can lead to neck injuries such as whiplash. It’s a condition that sometimes shows no initial symptoms, which underscores the need for a full medical evaluation after a fall.
Whiplash often can be handled with pain medication and exercise, but chronic neck pain and ongoing complications are possible.
Soft-tissue injuries. These typically are sprains and strains, including whiplash. Spraining something means to stress or tear tendons that connect muscle to bone and ligaments. These injuries often are signaled by bruises and scrapes, but they can go unnoticed initially.
Severe soft-tissue injuries, often occurring in the back during a slip-and-fall accident, can yield a lifelong debilitating condition. Treatment typically includes painkillers, ice packs, and elevating the injured area. Surgery as well as physical and occupational therapy might be required.
Cuts, scrapes, and bruises. A cut requiring stitches forces people to seek medical care, but scrapes and bruises often are shrugged off. A doctor can assess you while stitching up your head and determine whether a concussion or other outwardly invisible condition exists and requires treatment. Scrapes and bruises too often are ignored.
It’s wise to have cuts, scrapes, and bruises professionally evaluated to check for signs of internal injuries and ensure you get the proper treatment.
Do not delay in seeking medical treatment after a slip-and-fall injury. Getting treatment for your injuries as soon as possible will not only get you on the road to recovery faster, it will also serve to document your condition as you pursue compensation from the at-fault party.
It is important that you follow your doctor’s instructions closely and keep all follow-up appointments. This will help to show how serious your injury is and how vigilant you are in receiving the proper care.
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What should you do if you are injured in a fall? A person injured walking in an area normally used by pedestrians can file a slip and fall lawsuit if there is evidence that a defect caused the accident. These dangers can include wet floors or icy sidewalks, cracks in the walking surface, or other hazardous conditions.
If property owners or their agents created or knew about the dangerous conditions and they did not correct the condition or prevent people from walking in that area, they can be held liable for your injuries.
Examples of What Is and Isn’t a Slip and Fall Case
Slip and fall casesonly arise if a property owner or agent created and/or ignored a dangerous condition. If the owner or agent was unaware of the condition, it can be more difficult to prove negligence. However, property owners and their employees are expected to stay apprised of the general condition of property used by the public.
One common example is a grocery store where a product spilled off the shelf and onto the floor. Store employees, including managers, are expected to regularly check the aisles for such incidents. When one is identified, the normal process is to immediately put up warning signs to keep customers out of the area, and clean it up as soon as possible. If the cleaning leaves the floor wet, warning signs remain until the area is dry.
Stages of a New York Slip and Fall Injury Lawsuit
The first step to filing any lawsuit is to consult with a qualified attorney who will carefully evaluate your claim and discuss the details of how the accident happened, the types of injuries you suffered, and gather other relevant information related to your claim. The lawyer will also inform you about important time restrictions, or the “statute of limitations,” the period during which your case must be filed. If the attorney believes you may be entitled to compensation, it is your decision whether you wish to move forward with filing a lawsuit.
In New York, a lawsuit begins with the filing of a legal document, or “pleading,” called the summons and complaint. The complaint sets forth the nature of the case along with the general allegations surrounding your claim, including the date and location of the accident and information about the defendant (or defendants), the party whom you are suing. The complaint also contains a “prayer for relief” which states the type of relief you are seeking in the event of a judge or a jury rules in your favor. After the defendant is served with the complaint, he/she will typically serve a written answer containing various admissions, denials, and/or defenses in response to your claims in the lawsuit. The defendant’s account of how the accident occurred will normally differ from yours and will set forth why the defendant does not believe he or she is liable. The answer may also include “counterclaims” or “cross-claims” alleging that you, or even another party, are responsible for causing and/or contributing to the accident and your injuries. Sometimes, lawyers will file a motion — a type of written request to the court asking for a specific ruling or order — in response to your complaint. There are many different kinds of motions that can impact your case, for example, a motion to change the venue or place where the lawsuit was filed. Regardless of the relief sought, your lawyer will promptly respond to the motion and do his/her best to protect your best interests.
The next phase of the case is called “discovery.” During discovery, your attorney will attend court hearings and conferences, interview eyewitnesses, conduct depositions, file any necessary motions, evaluate medical records, exchange legal documents, and consult with various medical providers and expert witnesses. This is the stage where your lawyer will obtain critical facts and other evidence required for proving your case in the event there is a trial.
While virtually all of the day-to-day matters related to the lawsuit are handled by your attorney, as the plaintiff, you are normally required to attend a deposition at some point during the life of the case. At your depositions, lawyers from both sides are present and you will be asked questions about the accident, your injuries, and other information pertaining to your claims in the lawsuit. You are required to answer these questions, under oath, and your responses will be recorded by a stenographer, who will prepare a transcript of your testimony. Your testimony is evidence that may be used at a trial, so it is imperative that your lawyer thoroughly prepare you beforehand and address any questions and concerns you may have.
Many premises liability cases are resolved before ever reaching the courtroom for a trial. If your case settles prior to trial, the defendant will pay monetary damages in exchange for discontinuing any further legal action. Your lawyer will discuss with you all of the pros and cons related to settlement and give advice regarding how best to proceed. However, if you case does not settle, the lawsuit will continue to a trial. At trial, a judge or a jury will determine whether the defendant is responsible for causing your injuries, and if successful, you will be awarded monetary damages paid by the defendant.
While your attorney will make every effort to ensure that your case is resolved as quickly as possible, it is not uncommon for a lawsuit to take one or more years to conclude. There are many factors that affect how long your lawsuit will take including the type of case and the courthouse where it is pending. Regardless of the length, you will be kept apprised of any developments in your case and your attorney will be available to answer any questions or concerns that may arise.
The experienced New York injury attorneys at Belluck & Fox, LLP will promptly investigate your case and help protect you and your family. Contact one of our attorneys via our online form or call (212) 681-1575 for a free consultation.