Whether a result of unsafe property conditions, neglect, or accidents, slip and fall injuries can have a tremendous impact on quality of life. Generally speaking, Ohio property owners have a legal duty to maintain the property in a safe condition for visitors, but what happens when they don’t?
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In the years we have been in business, we have helped over 100,000 clients with personal injury and other cases. In that time, we have seen quite a few slip and fall injuries. In this article, I want to walk you through the basics of slip and fall accidents and the lawsuits that follow in their aftermath.
The owner of a piece of property generally has a legal duty to maintain that property in safe condition for visitors. That means there can’t be hidden holes in the ground or rotten stairs. If you’re injured on someone’s property due to unsafe conditions, you may be entitled to compensation under Ohio law. This is called “premises liability.”
Most often, cases involving injuries due to unsafe property conditions are slip-and-fall injuries. These fall under the general umbrella of personal injury cases.
Statute Of Limitations for Slip and Fall Cases
If you are considering pursuing a lawsuit for a slip and fall injury, the first and most important thing to know is your applicable statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is the time within which you can file your lawsuit after your injury occurred.
In Ohio, under Oh. Rev. Code § 2305.10(A), the statute of limitations for personal injury claims, including slip and fall claims, is 2 years.
This time begins to run on the date your injury occurred. Once the time period has expired, you can no longer file a lawsuit.
Slip And Fall Cases
To prove your slip and fall claim, you must be able to show that the premises owner, or other responsible party, owed a duty to not cause injury to you. You must then show that they breached that duty, and that you sustained an injury as a result of that breach. Finally, you must be able to prove the extent of your damages.
The owner of a piece of property has a duty to maintain that property in reasonably safe and secure condition. That duty applies when the property is open to the public or when you’re invited onto the premises, although in rare cases there may be a duty even if the property is private and you’re not invited. That duty is breached if the property isn’t safe. In a slip and fall case, the breach is usually a hazardous condition: ice at an entrance, a slippery walkway, a hole in a sidewalk, or a broken step.
You’ll have to show a link between the breach of the duty and your injury. For example, you can show that the owner let a walkway ice over and that you slipped and fell on the ice. Finally, you’ll need to have actual damages – medical bills, emotional distress, lost wages, or other costs associated with the injury.
How to Calculate Damages
If you can show all of these elements, then you can win your slip and fall case. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll win back the full cost of your injury. Ohio’s comparative negligence law and tort recovery limits may cut down on the damage award you receive.
Ohio’s Comparative Negligence Law
Most slip and fall cases are based on the legal theory of “negligence.” Negligence refers to failing to do what a reasonable person would do – like keeping ice off the walkway into your store. In some states, negligence is an all-or-nothing question, but Ohio has a comparative negligence law. That means the courts will compare your actions and the defendant’s actions to determine who is at fault. If you are found to be more negligent than the defendant, you can’t recover anything. If the defendant is found to be 60% at fault, you’ll recover 60% of the total possible damages in your case. The jury decides who is at fault and in what proportion.
Ohio’s Tort Recovery Limits
In addition to its comparative negligence law, Ohio has a tort recovery limit. The Tort Reform Laws enacted in 2005 set arbitrary limits on your recovery in civil lawsuits for personal injury. The caps on the amount of damages you can recover are set out in Oh. Rev. Code §2323.43 and 2315.21 and depend on the type of damages and the type of injury.
There are 2 types of damages awarded in civil litigation: compensatory and punitive.
An expert tip from Doug Mann
Compensatory damages are meant to repay you for your losses. These are further divided into economic damages (such as medical bills and lost wages) and non-economic damages (such as emotional distress). Punitive damages are payments over and above your costs and are used to punish the defendant for egregious behavior.
There are also 2 types of injuries: non-catastrophic and catastrophic. Catastrophic injuries involve permanent serious damage, such as the loss of a limb, brain injuries, or a severe deformity. Less-severe injuries are considered non-catastrophic.
- No cap, regardless of injury type
- Non-Catastrophic Injuries: capped at $250,000 or 3 times the economic damages, whichever is greater, but never to exceed $350,000
- Catastrophic Injuries: capped at $500,000
- Capped at 2 times compensatory damages
- If defendant is an individual or small employer, capped at 10% of the defendant’s net worth or $350,000, whichever is less
- If the defendant acted knowingly or purposefully, no cap
Pursuing Your Claim
If you’ve been injured by a hazardous condition on someone else’s property, you may be legally entitled to compensation. Gather your medical documents and any documentation you have about the condition of the property and speak to an experienced local personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
You and your attorney may decide to write a demand letter before filing any formal legal claim. That’s simply a letter stating that you were injured and asking for a certain amount of compensation, in return for which you’ll give up the right to sue. If you can’t negotiate a positive outcome that way, you may decide to proceed to a formal lawsuit.
Your attorney will handle all of the paperwork to initiate a lawsuit. Then your case will enter the discovery phase, during which both sides will seek the evidence they need to build their case. You may need to meet with your attorney and the defendant’s attorney during this time. After the discovery period, the judge will set a date for the trial. At any point up until the trial ends, you and the other party can reach a settlement agreement. If you don’t settle, your case will go to trial and the jury will determine how much, if any, compensation you will receive.
What To Do
If you’ve been injured in a slip-and-fall accident, contact us today for a free case evaluation and consultation. We can help you understand your legal rights and options and how to reach the best outcome for you. When your injuries are someone else’s fault, you shouldn’t have to foot the bill.