As an older American, slip and fall accidents pose a significant risk to your health and well-being. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that falls are the leading cause of injury and death for older Americans. Ore than 27,000 older Americans die from falls each year.
Unfortunately, a number of restaurants, stores and residences fail to keep their premises safe, creating hazardous conditions that lead to accidents. This begs the question: What are your rights under North Carolina law if you are injured in a slip-and-fall accident?
When is the other party liable for your accident?
In order for the other party to be liable for your fall, you must prove that their actions were negligent. "Negligence" indicates that they failed to take reasonable care keeping their property safe. They must have owed society a duty of care, breached this duty and known that their actions could have caused injury.
For example, a storeowner may be considered negligent if they failed to install a handrail on the stairs outside their store when they knew the stairs were slippery after rainstorms.
It's important to point out that North Carolina follows the doctrine of contributory negligence. Under this doctrine, you cannot recover compensation if you were partially responsible for the accident.
How can you be responsible for your accident?
You are expected to remain aware of your surroundings, and to try to avoid dangerous situations. Compare your actions against those of a person using "reasonable caution." Could a cautious individual have avoided your injury? Were you distracted and failed to see a warning sign near the location of your accident?
You must also be able to prove that the property owner was acting unreasonably. If you cannot prove that their actions were unreasonable -- maybe there was no way for them to know of the danger, or they were acting to the best of their abilities to keep people safe - you may not be able to recover compensation.
If the other party is liable, what will you gain compensation for?
Every circumstance is different, and compensation will similarly vary with each case. If the court decides that the other party's negligence led to your slip-and-fall injury, the negligent party may be told to compensate you for:
- Lost wages - current and future
- Medical bills
- Special care needs
- Special damages - such as pain and suffering
Slip and fall accidents can be surprisingly complicated despite their seemingly straightforward nature, which is why it can be beneficial to speak with an attorney about your injury as well as what your next steps should be regarding compensation.