Experiencing a slip, trip, or other accident on public property you may feel humiliated – not to mention the pain you might feel if you were injured. At Auger & Auger, our Columbia premises liability attorney urges you not to let that embarrassment prevent you from establishing your rights. A member of our team will leave for the scene as soon as you call and begin our own investigation. The faster we can document the incident, the better.
As a Columbia slip and fall attorney, we know the owner of a premises has just as much responsibility for the exterior as they do for the interior. You have rights if you experience an injury-causing accident anywhere on a commercial or residential property. At Auger & Auger, we have represented people who have tripped on loose flooring, lost their balance due to a missing handrail on steps, and experienced incidents due to inadequate lighting. If your injury can be attributed to negligence on the part of the landowner, you have a right to seek compensation.
Reasonable care — a property owner is responsible for ensuring that their entire property, inside and out, is reasonably free of hazards. Business owners have accepted a duty of care by allowing people to park in their lot, utilize their walkways, and enter their establishments. Homeowners accept the same duty when they invite someone onto their property, even if the invitation is implied. Your considerations and the law’s idea of reasonable may not be the same.
There are four classifications of persons who may come onto your South Carolina premises: invitees, licensees, adult trespassers, and children. An invitee is granted the highest duty of care, while a trespasser is granted the least.
South Carolina considers guests in a business open to the public as invitees. Even if you weren’t explicitly invited, you’re an invitee if the business is open to everyone. This means the property owner has the strongest duty of care – to provide a safe environment for their guests (and employees).
However, it is important to note that sometimes an invitee can become a trespasser due to their behavior. For example, if you’re in a store and you see an “Employees only – Do not enter” sign, and you go ahead and enter, you would then be trespassing on the particular property behind the door. If you then trip over a pile of merchandise on the back room floor and hurt yourself, it will be difficult for you to collect compensation from the business. After all, they warned you to stay out of the back room by way of the sign.
On the other hand, if you slipped and fell on a puddle from a spilled perfume bottle right out on the sales floor, then you can argue that the store had a duty of care to clean up any spills or hazards that could injure a customer.
Here is one reason why contacting a Columbia premises liability attorney is important as soon as possible after a slip and fall accident: We don’t want any evidence to get lost. Sometimes stores have surveillance cameras, but the video may be erased frequently. Employees or other witnesses may quit or leave, and it could be harder to find and contact them. If your case goes to trial, or if we’re trying to negotiate with the insurance company, it will be important to show how long the hazard was present before your accident.
Legally, the store is required to act right away to remove dangerous conditions once the store staff becomes aware of them. In fact, most stores have policies that employees are required to follow in these situations to minimize liability. For example, the business may train employees to alert management the minute they see a spill and stand next to the spill to warn customers until someone arrives with a mop and bucket.
However, the store does have some recourse in a premises liability lawsuit. One defense is that the spill happened shortly before you arrived, and they couldn’t reasonably be expected to know about it, let alone fix it, in that time frame. For example, what if another customer drops a bottle of soda and leaves a big, sticky puddle on the floor? Maybe the customer is a child, who fears getting in trouble and quickly runs away, leaving a mess. Thirty seconds later, you round the corner of the aisle and slip on the puddle. In this case, the store could argue that no one had the chance to notice and address the dangerous conditions.
As you might imagine, businesses use this excuse a lot – sometimes when it isn’t true. That’s why recovering evidence, particularly video surveillance, is so important. If we find that an employee walked by the mess and did nothing, then ten minutes later, you came along and slipped, you will have a much stronger case that the employer was negligent. Even though it may have just been one employee who ignored the spill, the business is still responsible for their actions. If the store claims the spill had only happened seconds before your arrival, video evidence may tell a different story.
Another potential argument that the company could use to avoid paying your claim is that you were at fault. Under South Carolina’s modified comparative negligence laws, any personal injury case is subject to a distribution of fault. Should your case go to trial, the jury will be instructed to assign a percentage of fault to each party – typically you and either the store or their insurance company. The jury could decide that you were 0 percent at fault, or 20 percent, or 80 percent. If you are less than 50 percent responsible but more than 0, you can collect compensation from the other party. But your award will be diminished by the percentage of fault you did receive.
This is one reason why “blaming the victim” is such a popular tactic. The store doesn’t have to prove the accident was all your fault to save money. But if they can convince the jury you were at least 51 percent to blame, they can get out of paying anything. To protect yourself from these tactics, call a Columbia premises liability attorney right away.
On private property, falls close to pools are common. Pool water may splash on nearby surfaces, leaving them slippery. Businesses usually have “No running near pool” signs, as well as fences and locks to keep young children out. If there is no lifeguard on duty, there should also be a sign to this effect.
Sometimes homeowners don’t consider taking these precautions as they may assume their yard isn’t open to the public or that a “No Trespassing” sign will cover them. However, small children may not read or obey the sign and could get hurt. Remember that trespassing children are treated slightly differently under South Carolina laws. If something like this happened to your child and the homeowner didn’t have a fence to keep kids away from the pool, it’s possible they may have been negligent.
These situations can cause injury in several ways. Sometimes just hitting the floor can hurt you, while other times, you may have hit something else on your way down – like a shelf or display. Some common injuries include:
If you’ve been hurt in a slip and fall accident, it’s essential that you see a doctor right away, even if you think your injuries are minor. Many people feel this way, then wake up the following day in a lot of pain. Establishing your injuries with a doctor will ensure that you are tested for any serious problems and create records of your being hurt in case they are needed later.
We know that it can be hard to think straight after being hurt, especially if you’re in a lot of pain or bleeding. You may not be in any shape to inquire about the store’s video footage, but if possible, try to get the names and numbers of everyone who witnessed your fall. We may need to speak with them later.
No, although it’s one of the most common. However, there are many ways to get hurt on another person’s property, including trip and falls (just like slip and falls but with a tripping hazard, like an item left on a walkway), fires, dangerous stairways, and even security concerns. For example, if you were mugged or assaulted outside of a business, they may have been negligent for failing to provide adequate security, such as a well-lit parking lot or video surveillance. If you were injured in any way on someone else’s property, and you suspect the owner may have been negligent somehow, please contact a lawyer for a free consultation.
Property owners in South Carolina must keep their premises maintained in such a way that people are not at risk of injury. When an owner is aware of a hazard and fails to make the proper repairs, they have no one to blame but themselves when they are named in a lawsuit. The same is true of an owner who allows their structure or land to fall into dangerous disrepair.
The priority after an accident is your health and wellness, but once you are able to get medical attention, document the scene. Grab your cell phone and take as many pictures as you can. Get information from witnesses and file a report with the property owner or their designee. The very next thing you need to do is call a lawyer.
A fall is nothing to be ashamed of, especially when it wasn’t your fault. If a property owner has failed in their duty to protect you, our Columbia premises liability attorney is here for your defense. We know your ego may be bruised, but that will heal quickly. What may take longer to recover from are contusions, lacerations, and broken bones. You deserve to be compensated for the money you are forced to pay to medical providers and lost wages due to time off work.
Auger & Auger has more than four decades of combined experience representing the rights of victims. You have an expectation of justice, and we are here to ensure it is served. Our client testimonials attest to the fact that our team is dedicated to each one of them, and our zero-fee guarantee is just one of the benefits of hiring our firm.
Call (803) 470-5298 today for your free consultation, with no fees due until recovery!