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The law governing your rights to recover when you are injured on the premises of another is very complex, and seems to change constantly. Many of the recommendations made elsewhere on this website for personal injuries apply to premises injuries.
When injured on the property of another, it is essential that you do not give a recorded statement. Proving negligence of the owner or manager of property is difficult. An adjuster may lead you to make incorrect assumptions that will destroy your claim. An attorney will prepare you for a statement. (You will certainly be told to tell the truth about what happened).
The fact of injury, or even that some substance was on the floor or that there was a defect in the property, does not prove that the owner or manager was at fault. As a general rule, you must prove that their negligence caused the defect, or that they knew of the defect (normally a very difficult matter to prove), and didn’t take reasonable efforts to make the area safe.
You may be able to prove that the owner/manager had “constructive knowledge” of the danger. In other words, they should have known of the danger through reasonable inspection procedures. In summary, this is a complex area of the law.
It is much more difficult to prevail against a homeowner or a renter than against a commercial establishment. The issues are simply too complicated to be addressed on this site. If you are injured at someone’s home, simply do not give a statement to anyone, other than the fact that you are injured, before speaking with a personal injury attorney.
If you’ve been injured on the premises of another, you should make certain that you notify the proper representative that you are injured. It has been my experience that most people who fall in public are embarrassed, and may not want to initially call attention to themselves at the scene.
I also suggest, as soon as possible, that you write down detailed notes, for your own records only, as to exactly what happened in the incident. For example, describe weather conditions, what you were wearing, including shoes, where store employees were located, any witnesses’ names, exactly where you fell or were injured, and what you saw before and after the incident.
If you slipped, it is essential that you determine whether there was water or some other substance on the floor.
While you’re on the scene, and afterwards, try to obtain as much information from employees or management as possible. For example, see if they will tell you if they have had problems with a door, steps, etc. beforehand, and how long the dangerous condition has existed.
Write down the names of all to whom you have spoken. Ask for an incident report. While a business has no obligation to give you one, sometimes they are supplied, with damaging admissions.
If possible, attempt to take photographs or video of the dangerous condition. Many times the dangerous condition will still exist days after the injury. Of course, the property owner or manager does not have to allow you to take photos or videos. Take any photos or videos as unobtrusively as possible.
By contacting a personal injury attorney early on, it will be much more likely that you will be able to prevent the property owner or manager from destroying evidence, such as any videos of the incident.
If you are injured at a commercial establishment or at someone’s home, the owner or occupier of the premises may have “medical payments” (“med pay”) coverage which will pay your medical expenses up to the limits of coverage — often between $1000.00 and $10,000.00. There may also be lost income coverage available. You should be able to collect these expenses from the insurer regardless of whether or not you or the owner or occupier of the premises were at fault.
Dog bite injuries can be very severe, and life-threatening. If you or a family member have been attacked by a dog, I recommend you follow the general advice I have made on this Web site concerning any personal injury claim, including getting immediate medical attention and not giving a recorded statement.
After a dog attack, obtain as much information from the owner and any eyewitness as possible. Often, dog owners will continue to ignore leash laws after the attack. As unobtrusively as possible, seek to video the continuing violations, as well as the barking and growling dog.
After a dog attack, it is very important that you notify your local Animal Control department, if any, and, if not, local law enforcement. This will document that the attack occurred. The investigation often uncovers damming evidence against the dog owner. Local ordinances will likely require that the dog be impounded and tested for rabies.
Particularly with dog attacks, the injury should be thoroughly photographed, with regular follow-up photos when there are scars. (Normally, I have found that doctors will not give a strong opinion on scars and the need for scar revision surgery for at least one year after the incident).
There are numerous facts and legal issues to analyze to determine if you have a valid claim against the dog owner or his landlord. At the outset, as a practical matter, an attorney will need to determine if there is any liability insurance coverage available. It must be determined if the homeowner’s or landlord’s policy provides coverage.
Legal issues often arise when the dog attack occurs off the premises of the dog owner. Insurers often make the generally bogus contention that the insurance policy only covers injuries on the premises. Normally, however, a liability policy will cover any negligence on the premises, such as a defective fence, that allowed the dog to escape. (It is more difficult to recover against a landlord than the dog’s owner).
There’s an old saying that a “dog gets one free bite.” This is rarely the case. It may be necessary, however, to prove that the dog owner was aware, or had reason to believe, that the dog was dangerous. That does not necessarily mean that the owner knew the dog had bitten someone else. The dog’s regular aggressive growling or barking or attacks on other animals may be sufficient evidence.
A dog owner may be liable for an attack even if he was not aware that the dog was dangerous. An attorney will need to review the jurisdiction’s leash laws, if any. Violations of leash laws, resulting in a dog attack, may be sufficient to pursue a claim against the owner.
Very often the dog owner or insurance company will contend that the injured party harassed or was aggressive towards the dog, causing the attack. I have found this contention, actually, to be made in virtually every attack, even when small children are injured. Normally, this is a bogus defense, particularly when small children are involved.
If you have not been bitten by a neighbor’s dog, but fear it, videotaping leash law violations, or an aggressive dog, will certainly benefit you in the event of an attack. I also suggest that you write a certified letter to the dog owner, and landlord, if any, stating your concerns. Animal Control and law enforcement should also be notified of leash law violations.
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