I Fell On Someone Else’s Property, Who Is Responsible for My Medical Bills?
A common question I get when someone has a slip and fall accident at a store or someone else’s property is who is responsible for their injuries and medical bills. Many people believe that if they fall or are hurt on other another’s property the owner of the property is responsible for any injuries or medical bills. This is a misconception and these cases are typically very tough to win in North Carolina.
The law is clear that owners of real property are not responsible for the safety of visitors. Rather, owners of real property only have a duty to ensure the property is reasonably safe and to tell visitors if there are any “latent defects” in the property, or defects that could not be found upon reasonable inspection. What that means is if a person steps in a hole that is “open and obvious” or slips in a pool of water that one can see if keeping a reasonable lookout, the property owner is not responsible.
For example, if you were walking through a parking lot after a snowstorm and fell because it is slick, this would not be the fault of the property owner because they have no duty to warn that the snow makes the parking lot slick. However, if a person is walking down the stairs from his apartment and the stairs collapse because, unknown to him, the stairs are in need of repair, the property owner is probably responsible for any injuries.
As if the law of liability was not tough enough, North Carolina is also one of five jurisdictions in the United States that still follows the doctrine of contributory negligence. Contributory negligence means that the person who slips and falls, regardless of fault by the property owner, was not using due care, or not keeping a reasonable lookout. So, let’s go back to the stairs. If the stairs are in need of repair, but it is obvious the stairs are not safe, a person might be blocked by his own contributory negligence by using the stairs and be at fault.
The laws can be confusing. If you have been injured on someone else’s property and have questions concerning who’s at fault, give Oxner + Permar a call for a free consultation.
What Should I Say to the Insurance Adjuster After My Accident?
I speak with clients all the time who have received calls from the insurance adjuster after their accident. They have already given a recorded statement about their accident and injuries before they have called us. These recorded statements are hazardous because the adjuster, who has done these interviews hundreds of times knows just what questions to ask, is always looking for a reason to deny coverage or get you to agree to something that may not be true, or to something that is even damaging to your case.
What you say in an unguarded moment may literally turn a good case into a denial. My message to anyone who has been injured by the negligence of another is to consult a lawyer before speaking to an insurance adjuster. We know what questions are going to be asked and can prepare you for these conversations and help you avoid saying anything that could potentially undermine your claim.
Regardless of what kind of injury you have sustained, I recommend declining to speak with the adjuster until you have spoken with an attorney who has helped you go over the questions that will be asked.
Don’t risk your claim being denied because of what you said in a vulnerable moment. If you have been injured in an accident give Oxner + Permar a call for a free consultation before you speak with an adjuster.
What Is Considered Contributory Negligence?
North Carolina is one of the few states in the US that still uses contributory negligence as a way of deciding whether or not an injured party can earn a settlement. The court will look at whether or not your negligence caused your accident. If your negligence contributed to your accident in any way, you could lose your settlement.
Let’s say you’ve been injured in a car accident. Any observer of this accident would agree that it was the other person’s fault. However, what was less easy to observe was the fact that you were speeding. When this case goes to court, they will look at whether or not your speeding caused your accident in any way.
The court determines that if you hadn’t been speeding, there’s a possibility the crash wouldn’t have occurred. Because of this, the court will be unable to award you any money in your settlement. This is because your speeding is considered contributory negligence.
However, if the court had determined that the crash would have happened regardless of whether or not you were speeding, then it would not be considered contributory negligence. In this case, the court would be able to grant you a settlement if they saw fit.
Usually a defense attorney will do everything in their power to show your contributory negligence, which is why it’s always a good idea to have an experienced attorney on your side when dealing with a personal injury case.
If you’ve been injured, don’t hesitate to contact Oxner + Permar. We can help you stand up for your rights and get you the benefits you deserve.
Binding Arbitration: When Not to Go to Court
I find that many clients assume the best way to win their case is to take it to court and make sure that it is heard by a judge and jury. The truth of the matter is that a trial isn’t always the best (or fastest) way to go about it.
For instance, I recently worked with a client who was injured by an uninsured driver and made a claim for underinsured motorist coverage. Our first step was to submit a demand to the insurance companies. They made an offer of $20,000. That might seem like a fair amount of money, but the reality of the situation was that it only covered the medical bills.
Rather than taking the matter to court, we demanded arbitration with the insurance carriers. They agreed to meet for voluntary mediation. During the mediation, the insurance carriers upped their offer to $30,000. However, they refused to negotiate any further.
I knew that my client deserved more than this, so we went to binding arbitration. Binding arbitration is like a very informal, mini trial in which the rules of evidence don’t apply. Instead, an impartial third party is brought in to hear both sides and decide on a ruling. In this case, the arbitrators came back with an award of $50,000 — $20,000 more than the insurance companies had offered us!
It just goes to show that sometimes the best course of action is to utilize binding arbitration when it is allowed. This kind of hearing can be efficient for settling claims and can result in rewards that are substantially higher than the original offers.
If you or someone you know has been wrongfully injured, be sure to contact an experienced lawyer at Oxner + Permar. With more than $275 million in awards and settlements, we know how to make wrongs, right.
What Qualifies as “Public Use” in North Carolina?
The U.S. Constitution is generally very careful about what the government can and can’t do. The Founding Fathers outlined a government that would not have the same tyrannical power as a monarchy like the U.K. So when the government is given power by the Constitution, it’s usually for something that would benefit the greater good. One such instance is that of “public use.”
The Constitution states that property may be taken away from individuals by the government for public use provided that the government pays a fair compensation. Traditionally this has been used to create public goods such as parks, highways, or schools. The general consensus is that this is a fair use of government power.
However, in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court went a very different direction with what is considered public use. They ruled that a decision that encourages economic development is protected under public use. Therefore, if the city could gain a higher tax value by taking a woman’s home and allowing Wal-Mart to build on the property, they could do so under public use.
As you might imagine, this was a very divisive decision, and many people felt that it was an abuse of government power. As a result, many states decided to enact legislation that would strengthen their laws regarding eminent domain to combat this decision. Many states, such as South Carolina, have elected to exclude economic development as a basis for taking property. North Carolina on the other hand, has not enacted laws to strengthen property right protections.