We all know that stuff happens and not all of it good. Unfortunately you don’t always see it coming. Slip and fall accidents are a perfect example of this. No one wakes up in the morning planning to slip on the neighbor’s icy sidewalk or the wet floor of a grocery store aisle. Yet it happens to countless folks every single day.
For most people, the results are minor: Maybe some bruising of body and injured pride. There are those, however, who are seriously injured from slip and fall accidents. If you are among those people, read on.
If you are seriously injured in a slip and fall accident, there are some important things to know about how the law will treat you.
Important Questions From a Bergen County Lawyer
Was the accident avoidable?
Most are, of course. The question is, how was it avoidable?
What could have been done to prevent it?
In the case of an icy sidewalk, for example, timely snow removal or breakup of the ice often prevents accidents from occurring. Immediately cleaning up a spill in a store aisle is another illustration of how an accident can be avoided.
Whose responsibility was it to make sure it didn’t happen?
The answer to this question is a bit more complicated. Generally the owner of the property would be considered the party that owes members of the public the standard of care required to keep them safe from harm. This is not always the case.
A commercial tenant might be required under a lease agreement to keep the area in front of their store clear of hazards. Failure to do so could result in the tenant, not the property owner, being held liable.
What was or wasn’t done that caused or contributed to the accident?
If the party responsible had a clearly identified duty to take action (such as the tenant in the example above) but failed to do so, this failure would support a personal injury case. If, on the other hand, the party did all that was reasonably required, you might not have a cause of action for damages.
Were you at fault for the accident in any way?
In other words, did you avoid warnings or engage in unsafe conduct? If the court finds that you were more than 50% at fault for the accident, you will not be able to recover any damages.
Were you seriously injured?
If you only suffered minor physical injuries, there will be no recovery (bruised pride doesn’t count).
If your life has been significantly affected because of a slip and fall accident, you should seriously consider hiring a personal injury attorney in Bergen County with a successful track record of handling such cases. Not just any personal injury attorney will do, however.
Factors to Consider
While most personal injury lawyers are capable of handling a slip and fall case, few are truly experienced at it. Here are the factors to consider when hiring a slip and fall accident attorney in Bergen County:
An attorney’s legal experience can be measured in three ways: Number of years in practice, number of cases handled and/or time spent working in law-related fields or jobs (for example, as a judge or in-house counsel).
As with any profession, longevity in law demonstrates an adequate level of competence. You want more though. You want excellence. So ask the lawyer about specifics:
- In how many areas has he or she practiced and how many years for each?
- What are the lawyer’s preferred types of cases?
- How many clients has the attorney represented? Ask for an estimate of how many different cases were involved?
The vast majority of personal injury cases are settled out of court. Not all do. Some must go to trial. This may be for any number of reasons including the two parties are simply too far apart on the numbers.
Perhaps one party (usually the insurance company involved) digs in its heels. The purpose of this strategy is to wear down the other side in hopes that they will simply give up. Insurance companies succeed with this tactic much too often.
You will want a lawyer who is as comfortable in a courtroom as they are in their office. Find out how many cases the attorney has taken to trial and how many of those were before a jury.
As the saying goes, nothing succeeds like success. All the experience in the world isn’t really helpful if that experience is gained while representing a parade of losing causes.
Lawyers confident in their ability will have no problem telling you how well they have done, both in terms of win/loss percentage and judgment amounts.
The comfort with which an attorney discusses these things demonstrates the level of confidence he/she possesses. And if you’re pursuing recovery for a slip and fall accident, nothing says peace of mind like a confident attorney.
The Attorney’s Opinion of Your Case
You will have many questions when you begin your efforts to recover damages after a slip and fall accident. Perhaps the most significant ones are: “What are my chances?” and “What is a claim like mine usually worth?”. These are questions to ask any lawyer you interview for the job of representing you.
A good lawyer will provide you the information, guidance and advice you need in order for you to appropriately manage your expectations. This will help prevent stress and disappointment down the road.
Level of Trust
Although we have addressed this last, it is actually the most important factor because it is established by the cumulative effect of the other factors. A productive and successful relationship between attorney and client depends on the amount of trust between them.
If you don’t trust your lawyer, you will be hesitant to be completely open and honest with them. There can be no real trust without honest communication.
If your lawyer believes that you don’t trust them, it complicates the relationship by making it difficult for the two of you to stay on the same page, so to speak. Needless to say, such a situation will probably not end well for you.
If you have any questions about your particular situation, be sure to contact an attorney at Fontanella, Benevento, Galluccio & Smith with experience in slip and fall accidents in Bergen County.