Broadly speaking, if negligence played a part in your slip and fall accident, the negligent person or entity bears liability for the damages you suffer. That means it’s the negligent party’s job to pay for the hospital after a slip and fall accident. However, it does not mean the negligent party must pay them right away or that they will agree to pay them at all. You should always request that the hospital bill your health insurance, whether that be Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, Medicare, Medicaid or any other health insurance plan you pay for. So, the liable party may be the property owner where you fell and injured yourself.
However, the circumstances surrounding the slip and fall will ultimately determine who is liable for damages. Working with a slip and fall accident lawyer can help you clarify liability in your claim. Below, you’ll get an understanding of premises liability cases (such as slips and falls), the damages you can recover (like hospital bills, lost wages and pain and suffering), and how an attorney can help you file a compensation claim.
Slip and Fall Cases Are Premises Liability Issues
Slip and fall accidents are premises liability cases. Premises liability refers to a subcategory of personal injury law that allows you to hold the property owner accountable if you get hurt due to a fall on their property. Typically, the property owner bears responsibility for the upkeep of the premises, and therefore they bear accountability for accidents that result from their failure to do so.
The premises may have been hazardous when the accident occurred. A puddle of water near the grocery store’s freezer section, an unexpected dip in the ground in front of a doctor’s office, and a frayed carpet at a daycare centerinclude examples of hazardous conditions. In cases like this, the property owner will likely bear liability for the damages you suffered. The owners may have neglected their duty to maintain their property in safe working order.
Property Conditions That Lead to Slip and Fall (or Trip and Fall) Accidents
Some of the common dangerous conditions that can lead to fall accidents include:
- Wet or slick floors
- Frayed or loose carpeting
- Unstable or damaged stairs
- Dimly lit areas like parking lots and stairwells
- Uneven or bumpy flooring or ground
- Loose or missing railing
- Un-shoveled snow
- Icy sidewalks, driveways, or parking lots
- Sidewalks in disrepair
- Hazardous conditions on a construction site
- Objects left in the walkway
- Falling objects or debris
- Ill-placed cords
If you were hurt under any of the above circumstances or others not listed, you may want to enlist the help of a premises liability lawyer. An attorney familiar with premises liability cases can assist you in investigating the cause of your slip and fall accident and determine who might bear responsibility.
If the property owner bears responsibility for your fall, you could file a claim against them for your injuries and losses.
Demonstrating a Property Owner’s Negligence
In many cases, property owners bear liability when someone gets hurt due to conditions on the property, but that’s only if the victim can show the property owner was negligent. For example, if you were injured because you weren’t paying attention to where you were walking, the property owner does not bear fault for negligence. However, if there was an uneven surface or a hazardous condition where you were walking, you may still have a claim.
Recovering compensation through a slip and fall accident claim requires you to prove several key facts to establish that negligence directly led to your fall and injuries. You and your attorney must establish the following elements of negligence to successfully recover compensation in a claim against a property owner:
1. The Property Owner Knew of the Dangerous Conditions
You or your lawyer must establish that the owner knew of the unsafe condition or should have known of the conditions on their property. Many times, property owners know of these issues but fail to fix them. Tenants, neighbors, employees, or customers likely informed them of certain defective conditions that require repair.
Even if they did not receive information about the specific situation, owners should generally check up on their property periodically, ensure proper maintenance, and implement safety measures to prevent harm to others. The excuse that they didn’t know of the dangers does not always constitute a viable defense in a premises liability case. This is especially true if the owner or someone working for the owner created the hazardous condition(s).
2. The Owner Breached Their Duty to Keep the Property Reasonably Safe
When the owner fails to maintain their property or keep it safe for use, they are negligent. For example, if a landlord receives complaints of a leaky pipe in a tenant’s home but fails to repair it, leading to a child slipping in the bathroom, they breach their duty to keep their tenants safe. In every personal injury case, you must establish a breach of duty.
3. You Were on the Premises Legally
For the property owner to bear accountability for the harm you suffered, you must have been on the premises lawfully under the invitation or consent of the owner. If you were on the property illegally, the owner owes you no duty of care other than to refrain from willfully causing you harm.
4. The Danger Was Not Open and Obvious
If the dangerous condition was open and obvious but you failed to attend to it, the property owner may not bear responsibility. You would need to show that there is no reasonable way you could have avoided it unless you had known of the concealed danger.
5. The Defective Conditions Directly Led to Your Accident
The property’s faulty conditions—whether in a store, apartment, church, or elsewhere—must constitute the proximate or most immediate cause of the slip and fall accident. Here, it’s necessary to demonstrate that you would not have fallen and gotten hurt without the leaky pipe, the loose handrail, and the box left in the middle of the floor.
6. You Suffered Damages
The fall accident left you with injuries that resulted in financial losses or pain and suffering—and you should receive compensation. Without losses, there would be no reason to file a claim for financial recovery.
Without establishing the criteria above, you may not have a viable slip and fall claim against a property owner. Due to the level of investigation that establishing negligence requires, you may want to have a slip and fall lawyer take on your case and pursue compensation on your behalf.
Who Else May Bear Liability for My Slip and Fall Hospital Bills?
While the property owner may be responsible for the damages you suffer in a slip and fall accident, other parties could bear liability.
If a fall occurs on property under a tenant’s control, the owner may not face responsibility—but the tenant may. A guest who tripped over an extension cord while attending a birthday party at a tenant’s home would first look to the tenant to cover their damages, like medical bills. In this scenario, the tenant has control over the premises and their actions or lack thereof contributed to the accident.
A landlord would not need to pay for the tenant’s error in leaving an extension cord in the walkway. Renter’s insurance would cover general liability in the home. Without a renter’s insurance policy, the fall victim could sue the tenant for damages.
However, property owners could bear liability in a rented home or commercial property when certain issues cause the fall. For instance, defects in a common area of a rented apartment complex could fall on the landlord to maintain.
The government could bear liability for your hospital bills after a slip and fall if you were injured on public property. For instance, South Carolina permits plaintiffs to bring a civil lawsuit against government entities. Like citizens and businesses, the government must keep its property reasonably safe.
If government-held property leads to your injury in South Carolina, you have a right to file a personal injury claim under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act and the Federal Tort Claims Act. City, county, state, and federal entities can bear accountability for their negligence. Certain conditions and deadlines apply to a lawsuit against the government, but you could recover compensation.
The negligent actions of other parties could have caused your slip or trip and fall. For instance, a construction company could bear liability if they left the common areas of your apartment complex in a dangerous state during a renovation.
Determining who bears liability in certain cases can prove tricky. Therefore, you may want to consult an attorney before pursuing a lawsuit on your own.
Who Pays for My Medical Bills in a Slip and Fall Case?
Property owners usually have insurance that covers general liability or personal liability.
The type of insurance varies based on the property involved, but in general, the following types of insurance policies would cover your damages:
- Homeowners insurance
- Renters insurance
- Commercial property insurance (also called business property insurance)
- BOP policies (Business Owners Protection Insurance)
- A standalone policy
You would file a claim with the insurance company to recover compensation for your injuries. You can receive damages up to the policy limits. However, you may need to take legal action in court, such as when the insurer refuses to pay out an adequate settlement.
Filing a Lawsuit for Damages
If no insurance policy applies, you have the option of filing a lawsuit against the negligent party. However, filing a civil lawsuit can prove challenging and take time to complete. A slip and fall lawyer can help determine the best compensation options in your case and create a viable strategy for obtaining the money you may deserve.
Statute of Limitations for a Slip and Fall Case in South Carolina
The statute of limitations in a slip and fall case is generally three years from the injury date. An attorney can inform you about any exceptions to this deadline once they know more about the details of your case.
You should act quickly in a personal injury claim. Building a strong case requires time and investigation. Waiting too late could jeopardize your right to recover compensation through the court. If you miss the deadline, the defendant in your claim can petition the court to have your case dismissed.
What Can I Recover in a Slip and Fall Case?
A slip and fall can result in serious or even catastrophic injury. Broken bones, back injuries, dislocated joints, muscle sprains and strains, and head injuries happen frequently in fall accidents. In fact, falls cause more brain injuries than any other type of accident, especially among older adults and young children.
These injuries can result in extensive medical expenses and financial hardship. They can also take a toll on the emotional and psychological health of slip and fall victims and their families. That’s why recovering compensation from the negligent party can prove so important. You may need to cover the costs of your medical bills and income losses for months or years to come.
Recoverable Damages Include Economic and Non-Economic Losses
Under South Carolina law, you may seek damages for both your economic and non-economic losses after an injury resulting from negligence. The recovery of these losses should attempt to make you whole following your accident. Economic losses include monetary or financial losses. Non-economic damages are also known as pain and suffering.
The liable party may need to pay for more than hospital bills after your slip and fall.
They may need to pay for your:
- Hospital stays
- Current and future medical treatment
- Mobility equipment, such as a wheelchair, cane, or crutches
- Physical rehabilitation
- Lost income
- Reduced earning ability
- Reduced quality of life
- Pain and suffering and inconvenience
You should start the process of your injury case immediately if you face injuries in a slip and fall or trip and fall accident. The injuries you suffer could prevent you from working and impose an undue hardship on you and your family. You should not bear the costs of these losses on your own.
Regardless of who bears responsibility for paying for the hospital after an accident, a personal injury lawyer can help you hold them accountable for the harm they caused.