Slip, Trip & Fall Accidents Attorneys in Chicago, Illinois
Imagine you’re out shopping on a Saturday. You’re walking down the aisle of your favorite retail outlet, and you suddenly slip on a greasy substance on the floor, fall backward, and become injured. Is the owner of the building liable? The answer could be yes or no, depending on the circumstances.
Had the owner known of the slippery condition and did nothing to section it off or clean it up, that answer is yes. Had the spill resulting in the slippery condition just occurred prior to the accident, the answer could be no. The law does require that the owner have knowledge of a dangerous condition—or should have had knowledge by exercising reasonable care—before liability can be assigned.
Responsibility for injuries that occur on one’s property Is called premises liability. The Illinois Premises Liability Act requires property owners and operators to exercise reasonable care in maintaining safe premises. The act, before going on to list circumstances excluded from liability, states: “The duty owed to such entrants is that of reasonable care under the circumstances regarding the state of the premises or acts done or omitted on them.”
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident or other circumstance on someone else’s property in or around Chicago, Illinois, contact the personal injury attorney at the Law Office of Anselmo Duran P.C. We bring 17-plus years of experience dealing with premises liability claims and will work with you to fight for the compensation you deserve.
The Law Office of Anselmo Duran P.C. proudly serves clients in Chicago as well as throughout Cook County, Lake County, DuPage County, McHenry County, Will County, Kankakee County, and the rest of the state.
Premises Liability in Illinois
In many states, visitors to other people’s property are divided into invitees, licensees, and trespassers. Visitors are either customers invited by the nature of the business to come inside, or guests invited to your home. Invitees are those who are on your premises for a specific purpose, for instance, to repair a water faucet. Trespassers are individuals on your premises without your permission. Under other states’ premises liability laws, each class of visitor has different rights or even no rights in the case of trespassers.
In 2003, Illinois abolished the distinction between invitees and licensees and afforded both groups full rights and protections while on the property of others. Trespassers remain trespassers without rights, except to be protected against the willful acts of the owner or operator. Children who stray onto someone else’s property fall into their own category and are protected, though technically trespassing.
The Illinois Premises Liability Act requires property owners and operators to “exercise reasonable care under the circumstances…,” but then lists “circumstances” that void their liability for accidents, injuries, and other events. Under the act, the duty of reasonable care does not include:
A duty to warn of or otherwise take reasonable steps to protect such entrants from conditions on the premises that are known to the entrant, is open and obvious, or can reasonably be expected to be discovered by the entrant;
A duty to warn of latent defects or dangers or defects or dangers unknown to the owner or occupier of the premises;
A duty to warn such entrants of any dangers resulting from misuse by the entrants of the premises or anything affixed to or located on the premises;
A duty to protect such entrants from their own misuse of the premises or anything affixed to or located on the premises.
Slips, Trips, & Fall Injuries
Customers and guests on the premises of others can be injured by both slips and falls and trips and falls. A slip and fall occurs when someone steps on something slippery or loose (such as a rug) which results in a fall backward. A trip and fall generally refers to an incident where the person is thrust forward and lands torso- and head-first. A trip might occur on a stairway on which a step or guardrail is loose and fails to provide adequate support. One could also trip over an unnoticed object on the floor.
The injuries will vary in each type of accident due to the nature of the contact with the walking surface. Slips result in landing on one’s back, often with the head slamming into the pavement or floor. The result can be neck and back injuries, including even a concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI). Fractures and dislocated joints can also result. Spinal cord injuries are to be feared as well, along with pelvic (hip) injuries.
When someone trips and falls forward, they will usually try to brace themselves by thrusting out their hands and arms. The result can be sprains, strains, dislocated joints, and even broken fingers and bones. Torn ligaments, tendons, and muscles may also result. Even with the bracing for the impact with one’s limbs, the body can land in various ways and even roll over. The head, too, may become exposed to the impact, and again concussions or even TBIs can result.
Property owners will generally be covered by their homeowners, renters, or commercial business liability insurance when it comes to accidental injuries. Nonetheless, the claimant must be able to prove the owner/operator of the property was negligent in failing to exercise reasonable care.
Given the exceptions listed above, the insurance company will invariably seek to assign as much fault as possible on the claimant. The insurance representative—typically a claims adjuster—will argue that the danger was “open and obvious,” or that the danger was unknown to the owner, or that the claimant contributed, or even caused, the accident due to reckless actions or misuse of the property.
To prevail in a premises liability claim, whether in an insurance claim or through a personal injury lawsuit, you must prove:
The defendant owned or operated the property where the injuries occurred
The owner should have known or did know that a hazardous condition existed
The owner/operator through negligence failed to safeguard visitors
As a result of the owner/operator’s negligence, you sustained injuries
If you wish to pursue an insurance claim, be aware that insurance policies have clauses requiring prompt notification. If you wait three or four months to file a claim, the insurance company is going to challenge that unless you can show that your injuries didn’t surface until right before you filed the claim.
For a personal injury lawsuit, which you can file either at the outset or after negotiations with the insurer stall or result in too small or no settlement, you have two years from the date of the injury to file in court.
Comparative Fault in Illinois
Insurance adjusters and attorneys for the defendant are going to be well aware of Illinois’s use of the legal standard of modified comparative negligence, which Is why they will try to pin as much of the fault on you, the claimant or plaintiff, as possible.
Comparative negligence is the legal concept that even though one party may have suffered the most injuries or damages, and the other party seems to be at fault, the injured party may have contributed to the accident as well.
For instance, a shopper may be busy texting or talking on their phone and doesn’t notice an object that has just fallen on the floor and trips over it. Does the shopper share any of the fault? A claims adjuster and defendant’s attorney will argue that, yes, the shopper caused the accident through inattention to what should have been obvious.
After lengthy negotiations, or deliberations by a jury, suppose that the conclusion is reached that the shopper was 30 percent at fault. As a result, any award or settlement will be reduced by 30 percent—for instance, from $10,000 to $7,000.
Keep this important caveat in mind: in Illinois, if your percentage of fault rises above 50, you cannot collect anything. That’s why modified comparative negligence is also known as “the 51 percent rule.”
The Importance of Skilled Advocacy
If you or a loved one is injured on someone else’s property, reach out to us immediately. We know the tricks the insurance company is going to use to get you to admit some measure of fault, so they can try to low-ball or deny your compensation. Let us deal with the insurance company while you recover from your injuries. We will negotiate the best possible settlement for you. Additionally, if the circumstances warrant it, we can file a personal injury lawsuit, which will open your compensation beyond any caps the property owner’s insurance policy has on it.
Slip, Trip & Fall Accidents Attorneys in Chicago, Illinois
A slip, trip, or fall can be frustrating—or even overwhelming—for you and your loved ones. You don’t have to go through the legal process alone. Contact us immediately at the Law Office of Anselmo Duran P.C., and let’s get started on pursuing your claim. We will work proactively and compassionately to seek the justice you deserve. Set up a consultation today.