Friday, December 17, 2010

The Hazards of Winter Weather: What You Need to Know

During the snow and ice filled winter months ahead, here are some facts and suggestions to keep in mind.

Remember, just because you fall down or are injured does not mean that you are automatically entitled to monetary damages. The law in Illinois requires that you prove that the responsible party was negligent and a proximate cause of your injury. This is not that simple to prove in premises cases in general and even more challenging in fall down cases due to snow and ice.

Land /Store/ Property /Company owners in Illinois are generally not responsible for falls and injuries due to natural accumulations of snow and ice. However, they may be liable under certain circumstances.

Some of those circumstances may be seen when the premises owner by and through its agents or employees acts or omissions:

1. create or are responsible for the existence or condition of an unnatural accumulation of snow and /or ice which is a danger or hazard danger;
2. guarantee in landlord/tenant or condo association agreements that they will clean the snow and ice from the sidewalks and/or parking lots;
3. allow snow and ice to cover a crack or defect in the pavement which, if large enough, becomes a latent and slippery defect and therefore not open and obvious to the victim;
4. have broken/defective gutters that create an unnatural run off of water thereby creating an accumulation of water that freezes and creates a slippery and hazardous condition;
5. hire or are themselves snow and ice removal companies that contract and guarantee to keep the area clear of snow and ice;
6. fail to have sufficient artificial lighting over the area of the fall, such as in parking lots, over sidewalks, and adjacent to exterior doorways etc.;
7. fail to warn of underlying defects and fail to block off or barricade the area;
8. provide mats at the entrance of a store/property but the mats are in some way defective such as torn, old and frayed mats , or they are not firmly secured to the floor;
9. mop the snow, ice or water tracked in to the store but they allow large puddles of melted ice to remain on the floor thereby creating an unnatural condition;
10. fail to place wet floor signs when they knew or should have known that the unnatural condition was created by them and dangerous;
11. allows their parking lot to have broken or defective sewers that do not provide a proper run off of the water which freezes and becomes dangerous;
12. allows unlevel pavements/sidewalks or stairways to become dangerous when slippery from ice or snow;
13. building code violations such as lack of handrails, uneven stairs, improper riser heights, defective/rotten wooden stairs etc....can be a proximate cause of the fall along with the natural accumulations of snow and ice.

Store owners do not generally have a duty to remove snow, ice or water tracked into the store from the wet conditions outside, but the premises owner may be responsible for a dangerous condition if it was foreseeable that the injured person would be distracted and unable to appreciate the danger.

Part 2: Protecting Your Rights
There are important things that you should do and not do to protect your rights. Always try to: preserve the evidence; take photographs of cause of injury; immediately report the injury and document it in an accident report; obtain witness information; seek immediate medical care; It is advisable to not give a recorded statement to insurance company without first consulting an attorney.

For any fall down injury/premises liability case you need to know and document the exact location, date and time of the fall. It is important that the premises owner or manager is immediately made of aware of the incident so that their insurance company cannot claim it did not happen. Make sure that an accident report is actually filled out and ask for a copy. Oftentimes, the employee will not fill out the required forms, and later claim that it never happened and that you never reported it.

If injured, it is advisable to immediately seek medical care. It is preferable to be taken by ambulance from the place of the injury. The ambulance attendants will record the time and location and hopefully the cause of the injury. This will be evidence to prove how and when the fall happened. Always follow up with your family doctor if the pain persists. Medical documentation is also crucial evidence to prove your injury. Any delay in treatment will be used against you by the insurance companies to try to deny and defeat your rights.

Keep in mind, the burden is on the injured party to prove that the negligence of the property owner was a proximate cause of the injury. It need not be the only cause. This can be proven by evidence that they created the hazard or they had Notice that a hazard existed. Notice is proven by either Actual Notice or Constructive Notice . It’s not always easy to prove they actually knew about the defect or danger, but if one can show that they should have known that the danger existed for a long enough time, where they could have repaired the condition or warned the public, then a recovery for the injuries may be successful.

Example of Actual Notice:
1. Fall on a wet floor and there is mop and bucket nearby, but no warning signs. This could indicate that the wet condition was actually created by the store employees and they failed to warn or block off the area.

Examples of Constructive Notice:
1. Fall on a wet floor with evidence of water being dirty and several footprints through the water. This could indicate that the condition existed for a long enough period of time that the premises owner should have known of the danger and corrected it or warned about it.
In either situations, you may be able to prove the property owner was responsible for your injuries. It is crucial that you document the evidence immediately.

If the premises injury was caused directly by the Exclusive control of an instrumentality of the company the store owner may be responsible.

City municipalities generally have a duty to maintain its sidewalks, parkways and streets in a reasonably safe condition but are not liable for minor cracks or defects. However, if the defects are not minor and are covered by snow and ice and a fall results, they may be liable.

There is a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit for injuries. This is called the Statute of Limitations. In Illinois, it’s generally a two year statute, and only one year for municipalities. Minor’s time limit is extended to one/two years past 18 years old, but their parents recovery time for medical expenses is not extended.

It is always advisable to seek legal advice/representation about your rights and the law after an injury.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What Are Your Rights If You Fall and Are Injured Due to Water?

Winter is just around the corner, and that means an increase in wet feet and slippery floors. If you fall down and injure yourself in a place of business or private property, do you know your rights? Here's an overview of the law in Illinois.

In Illinois an owner of property may not be responsible for your injuries if you fall due to slippery conditions of water.

The Law in Illinois holds that a property owner is not responsible for these types of falls if the fall is due to a Natural Accumulations of water. That means that the property owner must have acted in a way or failed to act in a way that created or allowed an Unnatural Accumulation to exist.

Just because someone falls on a property does not mean that the property owner is automatically responsible. You must show the condition was either created by the premises owner or that the owners acted upon the condition to make it unnatural and dangerous or that there was a defective condition causing the water to accumulate and become slippery. There must be proof of Actual Notice or Constructive Notice to owner. This means that you can show they are responsible if they actually knew of the danger or merely that they should have known of the danger.

Important factors to keep in mind and record, and a helpful checklist list in order to show that the property owner may be responsible are as follows:

Fall due to water/tracked in water:

Find the source of the water.

Was it a condition that was created by the owner?

Were there safe, proper mats in place in the premises?

Were the mats defective?

Was there a dripping condition allowed on the property due to defective drains or signs or conditions on the outside?

Was there proper lighting to the area of the fall?

Did the employees do something to the water to create an unnatural condition?

Was the slippery water condition, created by the owner or employees such as mopping or cleaning the floors?

Does the water on the floor look dirty?

Is the water soapy?

Are there footprints around the area of the fall from other customers that indicate the water was on the floor for a long enough period of time to prove the owner should have known about the water and the danger?

Is there evidence nearby, such as a bucket or mop?

Are there any warning signs or wet signs in the area or lack thereof? If so, are they close enough to the area of the fall?

If you fall to the ground, are your clothes wet or stained from the fall?

Are any employees standing nearby doing the mopping, but there are no warning signs in place?

Are there any underlying or overhanging defects on the outside of the property that allowed the water to accumulate, such as: cracks in the outside pavement, improper declines in the sidewalk; improper declines towards a sewer opening; cracked or broken or clogged sewers that cause water to accumulate and become slippery; cracked and/or clogged drains; improper water runoff towards pedestrian walkways or other outside defects?

Important Information You Should Collect:

Always report the fall to the owner or employee and take down the name of the employee or any other employees that helped you after the fall.

Make sure they take your name and number.

Take down info of any witnesses to fall.

Get information on who to call for follow-up.

It is recommended that you do not sign the report and do not give a recorded statement without first discussing with an attorney.

Take your own photograph of the condition and defects.

Seek immediate medical care from the scene. Ambulance is preferable.

Seek advice from attorney and remember that the Illinois statutes allow you only TWO years to file a lawsuit for a fall at a property and ONLY ONE year if you fall on a property owned or controlled by a governmental entity such as a municipality, transit authorities, city colleges and any city or State entity.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Checklist For If You Are in an Automobile Accident

1. Call the police.

2. Obtain the following information: The names, addresses, telephone numbers and...

3. Driver's license numbers of all persons involved in the accident, and any witnesses.

4. Record the time, date, location, road conditions, make and year of vehicles involved, apparent damages and injuries, and your version of what happened.

5. Call your insurance agent or company to report the incident as soon as possible.

6. Ask your agent what documents, forms and data you will need.

7. Take notes each time you talk with your insurance company, agent, lawyers,

8. Police or others involved in the situation. Write down the dates, times, names and...

9. Subjects you talked about, as well as any decisions or promises made.

10. Ask your insurance company if you have coverage for a rental vehicle if your car is not drivable. Save all receipts and bills, including those from renting a car or...

11. Having your car towed and/or stowed.

12. Keep a disposable camera in your glove box in the event that you are in accident you can quickly take photos.

If you are injured do not refuse emergency medical care.

Within one to two days after emergency room treatment see your family doctor or doctor recommended to you by the emergency room.

Try to obtain copies of medical records from the medical facilities each time you are seen and retain all copies of bills.

You should never tell an adjuster that you are not injured Injuries often take several days to manifest themselves. Sometimes clients with acute disc problems that result in surgery do not have immediate symptoms Insurance adjusters want information that may also help them deny your claim. It is strongly advised to not give a recorded statement to an adjuster until you speak to an attorney.

Any delay in medical treatment will greatly affect how an insurance analyzes your case and may result in a denial of your claim or substantially lessen the offer to settle. Follow your doctor's instructions and if problems persist within a few weeks request that your family doctor recommend a specialist. For example if you injure your back and pain is still great after a few weeks, you may have a disc injury that should be examined and treated by an orthopedic specialist.

What To Do If You're in an Auto or Fall Down Accident

For Auto Accidents
Call the police to the scene. Exchange insurance information. It is important to note the traffic controls, lane configuration, speed limits , weather and road conditions, and the points of contact. If a driver admits responsibility get it noted in the police report as an admission of guilt. Notify your insurance company immediately.

For Fall Down Accidents
Notify the property owner or manager of the store immediately after the fall. Determine the cause of the fall. In order to recover there must be a defective or hazardous condition created by the owner or allowed to exist for a long enough time that the owner should have fixed it. Get the names of any workers or employees. Falls due to water, snow or ice may be compensated for if there is an underlying defect in floor or pavement . Check for torn or old carpets or mats.

Preserve the Evidence
For both types of accidents, get contact info from potential witnesses; draw diagram of the scene and/or defective condition; take photographs at scene.. Do not give recorded statements over the phone to the insurance company.

Time Limits Under the Law
Generally, in Illinois an adult has only two years to file a lawsuit for an injury. A minor child has two years from their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit but only two years to recover medical bills. Actions against municipalities may be only six months to one year. Always consult a lawyer to make sure the law has not changed.

Don't Delay Medical Care
Call 911 immediately and get emergency treatment. Follow up with your family doctor as soon as possible. Even minor injuries should be documented immediately with your family doctor. Your condition may be worse after a few days, but if not initially complained of, the insurance company will deny the claim.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Buildings and Elevator Injuries

Buildings that have elevators are considered common carriers as to passengers aboard or boarding the elevator. This means that the owe the highest degree of care to ensure the safety of the passengers, much as buses and railroads do for their passengers. This includes a duty to inspect and maintain the equipement. Inadequate maintenance and inspections are usually the key causes behind most elevator injuries.