Slip and Fall Accidents
As a retail hub for both Southern Texas and Northern Mexico, McAllen has a thriving retail industry that makes up a large chunk of the city’s economy. Shopping brings joy to many individuals, particularly if they are out enjoying time together with their families, but shopping may also lead to accidents and injuries. Unfortunately, slip and fall accidents are common in shops throughout McAllen and the rest of the Rio Grande Valley, and they can cause serious injuries.
For example, individuals may experience a slip and fall accident while dining at their favorite McAllen restaurant, going to the movie theater, visiting a friend, or stocking up on supplies at the local grocery store. McAllen property and business owners have a legal obligation to maintain safe premises for visitors, clients, and customers, which includes warning them of known hazards.
Owners who fail to uphold their duty to keep the premises reasonably safe increase the risk of slip and fall accidents on their property. Increased risks of accidents, in turn, increases the risks of causing severe or even fatal injuries.
After suffering injuries in a slip and fall accident caused by a property owner’s negligence in McAllen or the larger Rio Grande Valley area, Texas law permits injured victims to seek compensation. Injured victims may be entitled to compensation for any accident-related injuries and losses. Contact Patino Law Firm today for a free consultation and case evaluation to discuss the details of your slip and fall accident. Our dedicated team regularly fights for the rights of injured victims to seek the compensation they deserve.
Many Dangerous Scenarios Lead to McAllen Slip and Fall Accidents
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that unintentional falls are the top cause of emergency room visits across the nation. Each year, almost nine million people visit an emergency room seeking treatment for an injury caused by a fall accident. More than 1.2 million individuals are hospitalized as a result of fall injuries. Adults over the age of 65 are especially vulnerable to injuries from slip and fall accidents. Oftentimes, the injuries are severe, including traumatic brain injuries and hip fractures. Slip and fall injuries can occur at any time and at any location as people go about their day-to-day lives.
A wide range of hazardous situations can lead to these dangerous slip and fall accidents.
- Rundown office buildings, stores, homes, and other structures with loose carpet, broken tiles, or damaged hardwood.
- Broken or loose stairs and stair rails.
- Uncleared debris or trash in front of stores, in parking lots, and in driveways.
- Use or spill of wet products including water, floor cleaners, floor wax, oil, food, drinks, and ice.
- Use or spill of dry products including food, powders, soil, sand, hay, sawdust, and grains.
- Poorly maintained areas around swimming pools, including cracked or uneven tiles or concrete.
- Cracked and uneven sidewalks, trails, and other walkways.
- Malfunctioning escalators in office buildings or shopping malls.
Liability in McAllen Slip and Fall Claims
Determining liability in a slip and fall claim requires injured parties to prove that the business or property owner negligently maintained the premises. The fact that a visitor becomes injured after slipping and falling does not necessarily mean the property owner was negligent. Lawyers, insurance companies, and investigators are knowledgeable and skilled at identifying potentially liable parties and demonstrating the elements of negligence.
To prevail on a slip and fall injury claim, injured parties must show the property owner was negligent by proving:
- The defendant owns, leases, or manages the property where the injury occurred, establishing their duty to maintain a safe environment;
- The defendant breached his or her duty by failing to warn visitors of a known hazard or by failing to adequately maintain the premises.
- The property owner’s breach of the duty to keep the property reasonably safe contributed to causing the slip and fall accident; and
- The slip and fall accident was the direct cause of the resulting injuries and losses.
In determining whether a property owner is liable for the damages resulting from a slip and fall accident, injured parties must show the property owner acted negligently. All Texas landowners have a legal obligation to maintain a safe environment for visitors. Property owners who are negligent and fail to uphold their duty put visitors at risk of suffering injuries from a slip and fall accident.
In considering whether the breach of a landowner’s duty contributed to a slip and fall accident, lawyers, insurance adjusters, and courts may ask:
- How likely would another person suffer a slip and fall injury in the same situation?
- How severe are the injuries?
- Did the landowner know about the hazard that led to the slip and fall accident?
- Where is the property located?
- How much of a burden would it be for the landowner to fix the dangerous condition or remove it from the property?
- How much control did the landowner actually have over the situation that led to the slip and fall accident?
Visitors’ Status in McAllen Slip and Fall Accidents
As mentioned, Texas law requires landowners to keep their property reasonably safe for visitors, which includes removing or fixing hazards that lead to slip and fall accidents. The specific obligations a property owner owes to visitors on his or her land depends on the visitor’s status. A visitor’s status may also impact a property owner’s financial liability for damages related to slip and fall accident injuries. Texas classifies visitors in three different categories, invitees, licensees, and trespassers.
An invitee is someone who was explicitly invited onto a property for business or public use. Invitees, commonly business clients or consumers, are typically present on the premises to benefit the property owner. Individuals who are using public spaces, such as beaches, playgrounds, and parks, are also classified as invitees.
Of all visitors, Texas property owners owe the highest duty of care to invitees. Landowners’ legal obligations to invitees include removing all hazards on the property or warning invitees of known dangerous conditions that could lead to a slip and fall accident. Patrons of restaurants, bars, or nightclubs; shoppers at the mall; and clients of banks, accountants, dentists, and other professional businesses are all considered invitees.
Licensees are an intermediate category of visitors who may or may not have explicit or implicit permission to visit another’s property. Invited licensees are primarily family members and other social guests. Licensees have many of the same rights as invitees under Texas law. Other invitees who have implied consent to visit the property include salespeople, postal workers, off-duty employees, and delivery persons.
The level of care owed to a licensee depends on their specific purpose for entering the premises, and whether they were explicitly invited. Each situation is different, but uninvited licensees generally do not have the same rights under Texas law and those who have been invited. Landowners, however, must refrain from intentionally harming uninvited licensees.
Trespassers enter another’s property without explicit or implicit permission from the landowner. Under Texas law, property owners only owe a duty to child trespassers—the duty to protect them from injury. Property owners are not liable for slip and fall injuries suffered by adult trespassers. However, landowners must not intentionally cause injury to adult trespassers.
Child Trespassers in Texas
A young child’s visitor status does not necessarily determine whether the landowner is liable for the child’s injuries. Property owners are financially liable for child trespassers if the dangerous condition on the property that caused their injuries can be classified as an attractive nuisance. Private residences and businesses alike may have features on their property that attract children, which encourage them to trespass onto the property. Texas landowners have an obligation to protect child trespassers by eliminating potential “attractive” dangers that can lead to severe injuries or death.
Examples of attractive nuisances that could lead to a child trespassing and experiencing a dangerous slip and fall accident include:
- Swimming pools.
- Backyard trampolines.
- Piles of sand, dirt, and wood at construction sites.
- Bulldozers, tractors, and other heavy equipment.
- Piles of furniture, old appliances, and old cars.
- Ponds, lakes, fountains, and other water features.
- Outdoor play equipment such as tree houses and swing sets.
Recovering Damages After Suffering McAllen Slip and Fall Accident Injuries
In the aftermath of an accident, injured victims must endure the physical and emotional costs of slip and fall accident injuries. They should not be responsible for the financial costs of an injury caused by a property owner’s negligence. Texas law permits injured parties to recover damages related to a slip and fall accident. Parties must file a claim within two years of the date of the injury, as provided by the statute of limitations.
Injured victims may receive compensation after executing a settlement agreement with the property owner’s insurance provider. If settlement negotiations prove to be unsuccessful, injured parties may proceed to trial, and if a judge or jury rules in their favor, they may collect the court-ordered compensation.
Some commonly recovered damages in slip and fall accident injury claims include:
- Medical expenses including ambulance transportation, emergency room visits, hospital stays, diagnostic testing, surgery, rehabilitation, and prescription medication.
- Estimated future medical treatment costs when a slip and fall accident causes a severe injury or permanent limitations requiring ongoing treatment and care.
- Rehabilitation expenses for receiving treatment from physical therapists, occupational therapists, mental health specialists, and others who help slip and fall accident victims physically and emotionally recover from their injuries.
- Expenses for assistive devices such as wheelchairs, crutches, and canes.
- Lost wages from missing work due to slip and fall accident injuries, hospitalization, and recovery.
- Estimated future lost wages when as slip and fall accident causes a permanent injury that impacts an accident victim’s ability to work.
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life.
- Loss of consortium.
- Exemplary damages when the property owner intentionally caused a slip and fall accident.
When a slip and fall accident results in a victim’s death, certain family members may be entitled to seek damages through a wrongful death claim. Eligible family members may recover medical treatment costs up to the date of death, funeral costs, and burial expenses. hIn addition, eligible surviving family members may be entitled to damages for losses the endure related to their relationship with the decedent.
Examples of these non-economic damages include loss of support, loss of inheritance, and loss of parental guidance for minor children, and loss of companionship for surviving spouses.
Consult our McAllen slip and fall lawyers to learn the best course of action for your family after losing your loved one in a slip and fall accident.
Tactics Insurance Companies and Legal Defense Teams Use in McAllen Slip and Fall Cases
One of the biggest advantages of hiring a McAllen slip and fall lawyer after suffering injuries is their skill and experience in dealing with insurance companies and legal defense teams. Insurance companies are businesses aimed at making a profit, and will use a host of tactics to deny or discredit claims against their insured. It’s common for defense attorneys to shift blame to the victim to avoid financial ability for slip and fall accident injuries.
Insurance companies and their legal teams might employ the following tactics:
- Downplay the seriousness of the victim’s slip and fall accident injuries.
- Claim the victim had preexisting injuries.
- Argue the injuries were not a result of the accident.
- Claim the injured party was trespassing.
- Claim the victim was distracted when walking, so they are at fault for their injuries.
- Argue the hazard that led to the slip and fall injuries was clearly roped off or marked with cones or signs.
- Argue the injury occurred in a prohibited area.
- Argue that no hazard existed, rather the victim was clumsy.
- Argue that any other reasonable person would have seen the hazard and avoided it.
A skilled and experienced slip and fall accident lawyer knows these strategies and can anticipate the defense strategy. With thorough case preparation, attorneys advocate and fight for their clients to give them the best chances of a positive outcome for their claim.
When appropriate, case preparation may include investigating the slip and fall accident, obtaining eyewitness statements, and gathering medical records and other documents. Once attorneys have gathered enough evidence to build a strong case against the negligent landowner, they can enter into settlement negotiations with their insurance provider.