I fell on someone’s property, therefore, the owner of the property by law is automatically responsible for all of my injuries and damages: Wrong!
The real answer as to whether an owner of property or their insurance company will be held accountable for injuries you sustained in a fall on the owner’s property is, it depends.
It depends on whether a good argument can be made that a jury would find that the owner was negligent—that he or she failed to exercise reasonable care in inspecting or maintaining the property giving rise to an unsafe condition that was a cause of your fall—and that your own fault in failing to take steps for your own safety to avoid falling—was not greater than any fault on the part of the owner.
Legal myth origins
How the myth got started among non-lawyers that some “no-fault” principle applies when they fall on property owned by another is unclear. It may be that people have confused the liability of a property owner for negligence (fault on the part of the owner) with med-pay coverage that some, but not all, owners may have available under their property liability insurance policy.
Med-pay coverage is a “no-fault” coverage. All you have to do is show that you were injured on the owner’s property and that required medical treatment was related to those injuries in order to be entitled to med-pay coverage. You do not have to show that the owner did anything wrong to cause your injury to access that coverage. However, med-pay coverage, if it exists at all under a property insurance policy, is usually very limited in amount—often only $1,000 or $5,000 in coverage. With the cost of medical care today, that amount of coverage is not going to go very far if you are faced with a serious injury.
In order to receive compensation from the higher liability policy limits available under an owner’s policy, one must convince the decision-maker that the owner was at fault and that your own fault, if any, was not greater than that of the owner. The decision maker is the insurance adjuster before a lawsuit is filed. After a lawsuit is filed, the decision maker is either the defense attorney on behalf of the insurance company, or a judge or jury upon trial of the case if a settlement was not previously reached.
Personal injury tip
If you have been seriously injured due to a slip or trip and fall on property owned by someone else due to an unsafe condition existing on the property it is advisable to contact an attorney to discuss your potential claim as soon as possible. These kinds of cases are difficult, so early investigation and documentation of the hazard before conditions change is important. A qualified personal injury attorney may be able to help you obtain a fair settlement for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Contact Waukesha Attorney Jean J. Brown for an initial consultation to discuss the merits of your personal injury claim.
By Jean J. Brown
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Schott, Bublitz & Engel s.c. has been meeting the legal needs of clients in Wisconsin for over 26 years. As the firm’s reputation has grown, so has the extent of our legal expertise.
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