Slip and fall incidents can result in serious injuries. Victims often sustain head injuries, broken bones, back and neck injuries, and more. Depending on the severity of their injury, a victim may require extensive medical treatment and face a long recovery. During this time they may be unable to work, compounding financial and emotional stress.
If you were injured in a slip and fall accident stemming from another person’s carelessness, you may be able to make a compensation claim. While it is true that some cases end with substantial settlements or awards, the amount an injured person is entitled to depends on the specific situation and medical evidence obtained. Here’s what you should know in order to manage your expectations.
The case assessment
The first step (after you’ve reported the fall and received medical attention) is to consult a qualified personal injury lawyer in Sydney. Choose one equipped with the skills and experience to evaluate your circumstances. He or she will assess:
- the cause of the slip and fall accident;
- where it happened;
- the extent of your injuries;
- the extent of costs incurred for medical treatment, hospitalisation, rehabilitation and so forth;
- your inability to work (if applicable);
- financial hardship;
- any other relevant issues.
To facilitate this process, when meeting with a lawyer you should bring the following:
- CCTV footage (if available). Following a slip and fall injury, always make enquiries about whether the incident was captured on CCTV and if so, ask the occupier not to delete the footage;
- an incident report (if available);
- clear photographs of the possible causes of the accident and the conditions at the scene depicting the cause of your injury;
- all medical reports within your possession such as hospital discharge summaries documenting your injuries, treatment and future treatment requirements;
- copies of medical bills, prescription receipts and so forth;
- proof of loss of earnings such as pre-injury pay slips showing your regular earnings and post-injury records confirming time required away from employment;
- witness statements;
- any other material documenting the time, date, location and cause of the accident.
During this initial stage, your lawyer is likely to ask you about other ways in which your injury has changed your life. For example, you may be asked about your ability (or inability) to perform routine tasks (such as shopping or household chores). Your lawyer may also ask how your injury has affected your ability to do the things you used to enjoy (such as exercising or playing with your kids). Finally, your lawyer may ask about your mental health prior to and after the accident.
With this information in hand, your lawyer can devise a legal strategy and provide tailored advice to you. At this stage, he or she may also provide a rough idea of how much you can claim however this will depend on stabilisation of your injuries and the medical evidence obtained.
How is compensation calculated?
Your lawyer will obtain evidence and proof of your losses to establish the value of your claim. This is then used to determine how much compensation you are likely to receive.
However, you should be aware that there is no set formula for this calculation. This is because no two people, and no two slip and fall cases, are exactly the same. Even if you sustained the same injury or injuries as someone else, your road to recovery will probably be quite different.
So when it comes to compensation, think of it this way. What would your life be like if you had not suffered the injury? What will the future hold as you continue to recover from your injury? In this context, some specific questions should be addressed. One is whether you will be able to keep working (assuming you were working before). Another is whether you will be faced with ongoing expenses associated with your injury.
Remember, the purpose of compensation is to restore you to a position in life where you are likely to have been if the injury had not occurred. Depending on the circumstances of your accident and where the injury occurred, your entitlement to compensation will be governed by legislation however your lawyer will advise you further in this regard during the initial meeting.
Proving your case
Areas and buildings that are accessible to the public must be safe, cleaned regularly and well maintained. This means you may be able to seek compensation if you were injured in a slip and fall accident due to negligence at a:
- grocery store;
- rental property;
- school yard;
- sporting event;
- shopping centre;
- car park;
- or any other public place or building.
To make a successful claim, however, you must prove that the owner or occupier of the premises is at fault, because he or she:
- didn’t identify a potential hazard (such as a damaged step or footpath), or failed to correct and/or failed to warn of the hazard by blocking it off or providing adequate signage;
- created the hazard by doing something such as spilling something on the floor that you walked on and fell or constructing an unsafe structure/hazard.
However, determining who was at fault isn’t always easy. Let’s say, for example, that a patron in a hotel bar spilled his or her drink and no one cleaned it up, leading to your slip and fall accident. Or what if a waiter in a restaurant dropped a bowl of soup or ice cream, with the same results? Who should you make your claim against? This is why securing the services of an experienced personal injury/public liability lawyer is so important.
In addition to proving that someone else’s negligence caused your slip and fall, you must also prove there were no mitigating factors in order to be fully compensated. Specifically, you must prove that your own carelessness did not contribute to or cause the accident. This means you must demonstrate that you weren’t distracted, intoxicated, or acting foolishly when you slipped and fell. If there was some fault on your behalf, it is likely that your compensatory damages will be reduced to take into account contributory negligence.
If your personal injury lawyer determines you have a valid claim, you can seek compensation for pain and suffering, past and future loss of earnings, past and future medical expenses and other special losses suffered due to your injury. In many cases, these matters can be settled on an unlitigated basis prior to hearing, so your case may not have to be determined by a Court.
At BPC Lawyers, we have considerable experience and success handling personal injury cases. If you were injured in a slip and fall accident and need legal advice or representation, please contact us today.