Have you ever thought about what you would do if you get injured at someone else’s property? Nobody ever wishes for accidents to happen, and nobody enjoys wondering about what they would do if or when an accident does happen. However, it is for this very reason that people are at a loss when suddenly an accident happens and they find themselves injured at someone else’s property.
We all go places from time to time. Every time we are on somebody else’s property, be it a store, an office, a park nearby, or a friend’s house, the owner of the property has a legal duty to keep their place ‘safe’ for whoever visits. Medical expenses can be expensive, and it doesn’t stop there. If your injury requires you to stay in the hospital or your home until you’ve fully recovered, then you also lose income. If you ever do get injured while you’re on someone else’s property, there are a few things you should remember--things to consider and courses of action to take.
Steps to take when you get injured on someone else’s property
- Seek medical attention. Never think that everything’s okay just because you’re not bleeding or you don’t feel any excruciating pain. Check with your doctor immediately, especially if you hit your head or have a bad fall.
- Take photos of the scene. Whether you find any obvious hazard that could have caused the accident or injury, take pictures of the scene. You may not notice it at the time of the accident, but having photos will give you something to review at a later time. In case you’re injured very badly, then ask a companion or somebody else to take photos and have them forwarded to you.
- Get the names and contact numbers of witnesses. Should the matter escalate to a full-blown lawsuit, a witness will be crucial to your case. Even if it doesn’t, witnesses will always be helpful in establishing facts during an investigation. It will be helpful to have people who will be able to describe what happened or what the surroundings looked like at the time of the incident--i.e., poor lighting, a wet or slippery floor, a security guard who was asleep.
- Preserve evidence. Make sure you preserve clothes, shoes, or anything else relevant to the incident. If you broke your watch in the process, or tore your pants and obtained a deep cut, preserve your watch and pants without washing away any bloodstain. These will show proof of how bad the accident was. From another standpoint, the quality of clothing or shoes you were wearing could also show proof that the accident happened in spite of having worn appropriate clothing--i.e., helmets, gloves, or footwear on a construction site.
- File an incident report. If the accident happened at a friend’s place (or similar) and you’re taken to the nearest hospital, get relevant reports before leaving the premises. If medical personnel is contacted and they attend to you at the property where the incident happened, get a copy of their reports as well. Should the incident be at a business location or anywhere there is a manager, supervisor, or security officer in charge, inform them and file an incident report. Make sure you get their complete name, designation, and contact number in addition to the copy of the report.
- Keep records of medical and other related expenses. Keep receipts of everything. If the receipts are printed using thermal paper where the print disappears over time, have them photocopied as soon as possible. These documents will support your claim should you be eligible to be reimbursed for expenses or lost wages because of the injury.
Remember that someone who owns the property will have homeowners insurance which would help cover expenses in case somebody gets injured on their property. If you are at a friend’s place and it is being rented, then your friend might have renters insurance which will have similar coverage for personal injury claims. Filing a claim for personal injury may be emotionally more difficult when the incident happens at a friend’s place, but try to make it clear that you are not filing a claim against your friend. Rather, you are filing a claim against the insurance provider so that you won’t have to shoulder the expenses from the injury.
Before you decide whether or not you are going to file a claim for personal injury, it is important to be clear about what caused the accident or the injury in the first place. Was it really due to the negligence of the property owner or yours? It is important to establish that the accident did not occur because of your own carelessness. For example, did you trip and hit your head because the floor was wet and there were no signs to warn you that the floor was slippery or was your shoelaces untied and you tripped because of that? If this isn’t very clear at the time the incident happened, the pictures of the scene and other things such as your clothing will help determine whether the property owner would be found liable as this will affect the result or outcome of your claim.
How to determine legal liability
There are certain scenarios that make it easier to determine whether or not the property owner would be legally liable when someone gets injured on their property.
- Was the property owner aware of the hazard on their property? If the owner of the property or anyone in authority in the establishment knew about a safety hazard but made no attempt to remove the hazard or correct the situation, then they would be liable for personal injury.
- Should the property owner have known about the hazard had they taken “reasonable” precautionary measures to ensure their property was a safe place for them and their visitors?
- Did the property owner create the condition which led to the injury? If, for example, the property owner set up the place for an event which required him to place objects in places where it could potentially cause an accident or injure someone, and then forgot or just didn’t bother to tidy up the place right after and a visitor gets injured the following day, then he would most likely be held liable for any personal injury claim. In the same manner, if you visit a place, whether it’s a social visit or you were invited as a contractor to fix something on the property, and you hurt yourself because of a trap set up by the property owner to catch burglars or trespassers, there’s a very good chance that all your expenses and lost income will be covered by the property owner’s insurance carrier.
- Were you careless in your actions in such a way that your carelessness could have contributed to the accident? For instance, there might have been a sign to warn you that the floor was wet, but you didn’t see it because you were busy shopping online on your smartphone.
As with many other things in life, a personal injury claim is not something as clear as black and white. There are factors that affect liability and the outcome of your claim; a few of which are as follows:
- Were you expected to be on the property, or were you a trespasser?
- Was the injury caused solely by the property owner’s negligence, or did your carelessness somehow contribute to the gravity of the injury?
- Could the accident have been avoided had you been ‘reasonably’ careful?
- Where did the accident happen? State laws concerning the determination of liability on personal injury claims vary. While some states may be more generous in granting compensation, some are more restrictive in that the more careless the injured person was, and the more his/her carelessness contributed to the accident or the severity of the injury, the less the amount of compensation would be.
Do I need a lawyer?
If the property owner has homeowners insurance, you may not need the services of a lawyer as long as you know the basics of making a claim and you have documentation to support your claim. Of course, this will also depend on how severe the injury is. If you’re dealing with a slip or a fall that will only require an X-ray and a visit to a physician, or perhaps a few sessions of physical therapy, then you may no longer need a lawyer. However, if you’re dealing with a permanent disability or health issues due to toxins, then it’s best to seek a lawyer’s advice on what your options are and what you can expect to happen during and after the process.
What is the claims process?
The claims process can be as simple as finding out who you need to contact, making a few phone calls or sending out a couple of emails, and providing relevant documents.
What if the property owner is not insured?
If for some reason the property owner does not have a policy in force at the time of the accident, you have two options:
- To try and come to a fair settlement with the property owner. There is nothing that cannot be settled between two fair and reasonable individuals. Still, it is always best to have any agreement in writing.
- To seek the help of a lawyer if the property owner is not willing to settle. There are some people who are just difficult to reason with. In these cases, your best option would be to get help from your lawyer and possibly file a personal injury lawsuit against the property owner.
Property owners are responsible for keeping their place safe from hazards that could cause accidents and injuries. But at the same time, we are all responsible for our own safety and should be careful at all times to avoid accidents. Of course, it’s always best to know what you should do and the steps you can take should you find yourself injured on someone else’s property. In the same way, another person’s homeowners insurance can help cover the expenses or lost income if you get injured while on their property, making sure that you have an active homeowners insurance or renters insurance will protect you from possible huge expenses in case anyone gets injured while on your property.