Every year, fall injuries send more than eight million Americans to hospital emergency rooms. These incidents cause injuries that eventually heal, such as broken bones and some that never heal, such as brain injuries.
These victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. The damages include money for economic losses, such as medical bills and non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering.
However, stingy insurance companies do not simply give this money away. These companies show a profit only when they collect premiums. They lose money when they pay claims. So, a Rockford personal injury attorney must start with a firm foundation. Only then is it possible to build a successful claim for damages.
Fall Injuries in Rockford
Many people know about the serious injuries that falls cause. But they do not know all the ramifications of these injuries.
Especially among the elderly, falls are frightening events. After they fall once, many seniors are so afraid of falling again they give up their active lifestyles. Instead, they stay at home and spend most of their time sitting. That pattern of living does more than cause emotional injury, such as depression. It also sets the stage for further physical injury, because when people get older, their muscles atrophy at an accelerated rate.
There are some little-known legal aspects as well. For example, even if the victim has fallen before, as is common, full compensation is available. Pre-existing conditions or old injuries do not diminish current compensation for negligence.
Establishing Duty in Illinois
Legal duty is an important step in this process. Unless the property owner violated a legal duty, the Winnebago County judge will throw the claim for damages out of court.
To determine legal responsibility, many states still use an outdated common-law classification system. This system uses antiquated categorical terms that often overlap and are difficult for jurors to understand. Confusion like this plays into the hands of defense attorneys, because the victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof.
Illinois has a streamlined system that’s easy to understand and apply. In the Prairie State, there are only two types of fall victims and two types of duties:
- Invited Guests: The invitation could be direct (“come over for dinner next Tuesday”), indirect (an “open for business” sign), or implied (children who cut across a parking lot on their way to school). In these cases, the landowner has a duty of reasonable care.
- Uninvited Guests: The aforementioned common-law classification system called these people “trespassers.” Generally, owners have no duty to protect uninvited guests. Some exceptions include the frequent trespasser rule and the attractive nuisance doctrine.
Typically, the duty of care includes the responsibility to make the premises initially safe and also inspect the premises frequently – to be sure high standard is maintained.
Establishing Knowledge in Winnebago County
Injury and legal duty are not enough. The victim/plaintiff must also prove the owner knew about the dangerous condition. Evidence of knowledge can be one of the following:
- Direct: “Smoking guns” like restroom cleaning reports and unpaid repair invoices often turn up during the discovery process. If any employee knew about the hazard, that knowledge is imputed to the owner.
- Circumstantial: Most Illinois courts use the time-notice rule to evaluate circumstantial evidence. For example, if the victim slips on a wilted piece of lettuce, that wayward produce item was probably on the floor for a while, so the duty of care applied. However, if the lettuce was crisp, it probably just fell on the floor, so the owner could not have known about it.
In most cases, the victim/plaintiff must establish all the elements of a slip-and-fall case by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
Contact Aggressive Attorneys
Fall victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Rockford, contact Fisk & Monteleone, Ltd. Home and hospital visits are available.