A slip and fall accident can happen nearly any time. While shopping or even going to work, it’s easy to slip and fall in a parking lot. Because the accident doesn’t happen inside a store or building, figuring out the liability can get complicated.
Recently, a professional cellist fell in a grocery store parking lot and suffered injuries that left her unable to play her instrument for any length of time. The premises liability laws of her state guided the jury to award nearly $11 million in damages. She was able to secure compensation for her past pain and suffering and to provide for her family’s future in the event she won’t be able to return to her work of playing music.
When you or a loved one suffer injuries caused by negligent or hazardous conditions in a parking lot, the effects can last a lifetime. Don’t just accept it and move on, thinking that it’s hard to justify. Get help from an experienced attorney to determine who is to blame.
Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents in Parking Lots
In states like Oklahoma, the changing seasons bring risks for slip and fall accidents at shopping malls, workplaces, and public parks. Ice and frost in winter are especially dangerous on sidewalks or when walking to a vehicle. Increased rain in the fall causes puddles that can be deceptively deep, leading to tripping or falling off balance. Wet leaves can also cause a person to slip and get hurt.
Those who are already unsteady on their feet, such as small children or the elderly, often fall and suffer serious injuries. Poor traction can be very risky for someone using a wheelchair or other mobility aids. Even a non-disabled person can simply stub a toe on an uneven pathway and take a fall.
Business and property owners must adhere to a duty of care for keeping their premises reasonably safe. They must clearly mark any hazards to warn members of the public and visitors. Regularly scheduled inspections can catch problems before they cause an accident, as can ensuring employees are trained to clean up spills immediately.
Common reasons people fall in parking lots include:
- Damaged or poorly maintained pavement
- Ice or frost
- Snow, sleet, or rain
- Concrete wheel stops
- Stray shopping carts
- Spilled liquids
- Debris or trash
- Insufficient lighting
What to Do After a Slip and Fall in a Parking Lot
Taking a fall is disorienting and painful. No matter how serious the injuries, a person’s first thoughts are of getting back up (if possible and getting help. It can be challenging to think clearly, especially if they are alone and no one is there to assist them. The same goes for falling when the victim has children or an elderly parent with them. They may not know what to do until someone arrives to help.
There are several steps to follow in the event of a slip and fall accident in a parking lot to protect the victim’s rights if they need to file a lawsuit. They include:
- Seek medical attention: Obviously, get the care needed right away. This also provides documentation of injuries to prevent the defendant from claiming the victim was already hurt when they fell.
- Photograph the accident scene: Take pictures of the weather, the place the person slipped, their injuries, the surroundings, and any object that caused the fall.
- Report the accident: Don’t just go home to recover. Report the accident to the business to establish a timeline. Later, ask for an accident report from the business.
- Collect witness information: Get contact information from anyone who saw the accident. Their testimony may be needed to support a claim.
- Keep the clothing worn during the accident: Don’t wash it, and don’t throw it away. Evidence of damage or substances on the clothes can be valuable in proving the case.
- Don’t talk to anyone about it: Statements made to family and friends could be used to damage the case in court. Stay off social media and don’t talk to anyone who would post on social media.
- Keep detailed records: Go to every doctor’s appointment and track all expenses. Use this information to support any claim for damages.
- Speak to a slip and fall attorney: A skilled lawyer can help a victim understand how liability works in their case. They can also negotiate with insurance companies and opposing counsel on their behalf.
- Be aware of filing deadlines: Check state laws regarding statutes of limitation. In Oklahoma, plaintiffs have two years (OK statute 76-5.5) to file a suit from the date of the injury.
Proving the Parking Lot Owner is Liable
Proving liability in an insurance claim or lawsuit is critical to obtaining compensation. Victims must show that the parking lot owner was negligent in some way and, therefore, responsible for their injuries. To prove fault, they must demonstrate the owner met these three conditions:
- Failed to maintain the property in a fair and reasonable condition
- Created or was aware of a dangerous condition on the property
- Did not inform visitors of a dangerous condition on the property
Gathering the most evidence possible creates a solid case to negotiate a satisfactory settlement from the owner’s insurance company. That proof can also convince a jury of the owner’s liability should the case proceed to court. A slip and fall attorney can assist in compiling documentation, such as:
- Pictures of the scene, the hazard, and any injuries
- Security camera video footage
- Accident reports from the business or first responders
- Witness statements
- Doctor and hospital bills
- Medical records of treatment
- Receipts for any related expenses
Damages to Seek in a Slip and Fall Accident
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), over 800,000 people a year are hospitalized after a fall. Most slip and fall accidents result in minor injuries, but those that occur in parking lots involve falling on hard concrete. This means victims are more likely to suffer internal organ damage, broken bones, neck or spine damage, or head injuries. In addition, many people often experience skin abrasions, lacerations, and bruising.
Any trip to the hospital for treatment means high medical bills that can add up quickly. This becomes more worrying if the victim is unable to work as a result of their injuries. Plaintiffs and their families may be put at significant financial risk due to a property owner’s negligence.
A qualified lawyer and their team can assist in collecting documentation to calculate the damages that should be sought. Victims can claim two main types of damages: economic and non-economic. Here are some common examples:
- Doctor and hospital bills
- Physical therapy expenses
- Medical devices
- Co-pays and deductibles for insurance
- Lost wages
- Property damage (such as electronics, clothing, or accessories)
- Travel expenses for medical treatment
- Emotional distress
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
The National Safety Council reports that over 6.8 million people suffered from slip and fall accidents in 2020. In fact, falls are one of the top three causes of both deaths and injuries. When you or a loved one has an accident involving a slip and fall in a parking lot in Oklahoma, contact an experienced premises liability attorney to help value an accident claim and build solid proof of the property owner’s liability.