A casual walk in your neighborhood can turn hazardous with a slip and fall injury. And then comes the big question: who is liable? It is possible to seek financial compensation if you’ve been injured in a public place, but the added layer of complication is identifying the negligent party and proving that they were responsible for your injuries.
Slip and fall injuries in a public place can happen in many common areas, such as:
- Neighborhood sidewalks
- Sidewalks in a downtown area or front of businesses
- Local parks
- Common areas in a shopping center
- Shared parking lots
- Government buildings
- In a crosswalk on a public road
Each scenario might have a different at-fault party, which means it’s crucial that you seek counsel from an attorney immediately. Public place accidents tend to require more research to find the at-fault party and, if the government is liable, you also have a shorter time frame in which to report the accident.
Don’t delay in hiring an attorney to protect your rights after a slip and fall in a public place. As you research your options, here are some things to consider.
Possible at-Fault Parties in a Public Slip-and-Fall Case
When you’re injured in a slip and fall in a public place, there may be many possible at-fault parties. The circumstances surrounding your case and the local laws will dictate who is truly at fault and who you name in your lawsuit. Some possible at-fault parties include:
- Homeowner/property owner: in many areas, the homeowner is responsible for maintaining the sidewalks in front of their property. This means checking to make sure there are no hazards on the sidewalk, such as cracks or dangerous elevation changes. If they find a hazard, they should report it to their local government for maintenance. In the winter, homeowners also have a responsibility to remove snow and ice.
- Homeowners association: some communities have a homeowners association that cares for the entire exterior of a property. This would include community sidewalks. If the homeowners association fails to monitor and maintain the sidewalks, they could be liable for your injuries if you slip and fall. Just like homeowners, a homeowners association has a responsibility to remove snow and ice in the winter.
- Government entity: generally, homeowners are not required to do sidewalk maintenance, other than reporting issues to the proper government authority. Once a homeowner has reported a problem with their sidewalk, the government should respond by sending someone to fix the hazard in question. Failing to do this promptly could mean that the government is at fault for your slip and fall accident. Additionally, the government must perform upkeep on roads and crosswalks to keep them safe. If you slip and fall in a crosswalk due to a pothole or other maintenance issue, the government could be at fault.
- A contractor who works for the government: in some rare circumstances, a contractor who works for the government could be the at-fault party. For example, after a road crew comes through and repaves a road but leaves hazardous lumps or potholes in the pavement of a crosswalk, they could be liable for your injuries if you fall. Likewise, the government might contract private businesses for snow and ice removal. If those companies miss a spot or don’t remove the hazard appropriately, that private contractor could be at fault for your injuries.
How to File a Personal Injury Claim for a Slip-and-Fall in a Public Place
If the government is at-fault, or you believe they might be at-fault for your injuries, you need to act quickly. The Indiana Tort Claims Act states that injured parties must file a notice of their potential claim.
Under the Indiana Tort Claims Act, the injured party has 180 days from the date of an injury to file a notice where a county or city is the defendant. If the state of Indiana is the defendant, the victim has 270 days from the injury date to file the notice.
It is imperative that you find and hire a slip and fall attorney quickly. You don’t have much time to prepare the notice to the governmental entity to preserve your right to sue. Filing a notice is not the same as filing a lawsuit, but it can protect your right to file against a government entity.
Once you and your attorney have filed the notice, you will generally have a standard two-year statute of limitations to build your case and file your formal lawsuit. However, failing to file the required notice within the given timeframe could mean you have no case against the government entity if you decide later that you want to sue.
Hiring a Slip-and-Fall Attorney
After a slip and fall accident, you must act quickly to protect your right to sue. Even if you’re currently unsure if you want to pursue a lawsuit, it’s a good idea to discuss the matter with a personal injury attorney.
Stewart & Stewart offers a free consultation to learn more about your case and advise you on the next steps. We’ll help you determine the at-fault party in public property accidents and fight to protect your rights. Contact us to schedule a consultation.