Do Fall Injury Victims Always Get Settlements?
Sadly, the answer to this question is no, especially in Texas. The Lone Star State has a very weak res ipsa loquitur rule. This Latin phrase means “the thing speaks for itself.” Assume Max falls down the stairs and there were no witnesses. In most states, RIL applies, and jurors may presume that owner negligence caused Max’s fall. But Texas courts only apply this rule in very limited situations.
Since it’s harder to prove negligence, or a lack of care, in fall injury cases, insurance company defenses that usually fall flat in other states could hold up in court in Texas. As a result, only a very diligent Missouri City personal injury lawyer should handle a fall injury claim. Attorneys must carefully collect evidence and anticipate insurance company defenses. Otherwise, a fall injury victim almost certainly must settle for less.
Lack of Evidence
Since res ipsa loquitur usually isn’t available, a Missouri City personal injury attorney cannot count on a presumption of negligence in a fall injury claim. So, an attorney must prove a claim the old fashioned way, mostly with out-of-the-box eyewitness evidence.
As mentioned, many falls don’t have human eyewitnesses. Usually, however, a surveillance camera records the fall. Property owners aren’t very forthcoming when they provide such footage. So, an attorney must often view many hours of digital film from many different cameras before they find the few seconds of footage that is meaningful to a fall injury claim.
Sometimes, the witness testifies about the property condition as opposed to the fall. If a walkway was icy on a cold morning, it’s more likely than not that the sidewalk was also icy if the victim slipped and fell there several hours later.
Prior written complaints are usually admissible as well, especially if the company keeps them as part of its official records. Recent complaints are usually compelling, as is a large volume of complaints about roughly the same dangerous condition.
Open and Obvious Defense
Property owners don’t have a duty of care if the hazard was open and obvious. By the book, this rule is straightforward. But in reality, it’s very subjective.
Older adult falls are a good example. AMD (age-related macular degeneration), a common health issue among older people, blurs straight-ahead vision. So, many of these victims cannot see open and obvious hazards, especially in the dark.
On a related note, many older adults shuffle their feet when they walk. As a result, when they stumble even slightly, they cannot regain their balance, and they usually fall.
Comparative Fault/Assumption of the Risk
This defense sometimes hinges on a basic “s/he didn’t watch where s/he was going” argument. Other times, the defense involves a warning sign, like “Caution Wet Floor.” In each situation, jurors must divide responsibility based on the evidence, such as 80-20 or 60-40.
Texas is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. Fall victims are entitled to compensation if they were no more than 49 percent at fault for the accident. Additionally, if a sign was involved, the insurance company must prove the victim saw the sign, could read the sign, and could understand what the sign meant.
Rely on a Diligent Harris County Attorney
Injury victims are entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Missouri City, contact the Henrietta Ezeoke Law Firm. We routinely handle matters in Fort Bend County and nearby jurisdictions.