Peter Thompson
Peter Thompson

Owner's Prior Knowledge of Hazard

Proving Fault in a Slip and Fall Case: Previous Complaints About Existing Hazards

Accidents resulting from slip and falls are the second most prevalent cause of injuries in the United States. Over 15,000 people die every year from an accident related to a slip and fall. One of the leading causes of injuries sustained from slip and falls is defective or hazardous property conditions. It is estimated that over 70% of accidents are caused by dangerous conditions such as untreated ice, poorly maintained sidewalks and stairs, rotten decks, or stairways that are not to code.

Injuries from a fall are often serious, sometime life-threatening. Frequently occurring injuries from a fall include broken hips, vertebrae, arms, wrists, legs, and ankles; head injuries; disk herniation; and spinal cord damage. Even seemingly minor fall can cause death, particularly if the victim’s head strikes the ground or hard object with significant force.

New Hampshire Laws Protecting the Public from Dangerous Property Conditions

New Hampshire law requires all property owners to use reasonable care in the upkeep and maintenance of their property. This includes any sidewalks that may be adjoining to the property. To be able to hold a property owner liable, a victim of an accident must be able to prove that the owner of the property was aware or should have been aware of the dangerous condition that caused the accident and that he or she had failed to address it.

One of the better ways to show that a property owner was aware of the hazardous condition is to locate witnesses who encountered the dangerous condition (e.g., untreated ice, a broken stair, or a detached rail) and made a complaint about the condition to the property owner. Because this evidence can make all the difference in the outcome of a case, it is critically important to interview people who live in the area, particularly if the fall occurred at an apartment house, and/or employees who work at businesses located adjacent to the accident scene. Delaying an investigation almost always hurts a case—witnesses move and memories fade—and, for that reason, contacting an experienced personal injury law firm to at least discuss your options is advisable. Most law firms, including ours, provide free consultations. You should take advantage of the free advice to make sure that your rights and interests are protected and to determine how long you have to bring your claim. In certain cases, the time-period for bringing a claim is as short as 180 days.

Example of a Case We Handled

Our client, Doris, was seriously injured in 2016 when she fell on ice that had accumulated from water dripping out of a leaky gutter and freezing on her stairs. Doris was 82 at the time and still living on her own. Her landlord’s insurance company initially said it would take care of her medical bills and give her a “good settlement” when she was better. When it turned out that she needed surgery on her hip to repair a fracture, the insurance company changed its tune and asserted that the problem with her hip was due to her age.

By the time we were contacted by Doris' niece, six months had passed from the time of the fall. Our private investigator interviewed all of the people who lived in the apartment building and, unfortunately, the one other person who used the same set of stairs that our client used had moved and could not be located. Because the insurance company denied the claim, we filed a lawsuit and deposed the property owner. He denied he had any knowledge of the ice or leaky gutter. When asked who his tenants would call if they had a problem, he said his administrative assistant received and dealt with tenant complaints/problems. That assistant, he said, was no longer with the company. We obtained the assistant’s name and last known address and our investigator was able to track her down in Colorado. In a statement she provided to the investigator, she said that she had received many calls from tenants about ice in the parking lot, walkways, and stairs and that the owner would tell her “that’s their problem…they can go buy their own salt”. She also mentioned that the other tenant who shared the stairs with our client had fallen on the stairs due to ice and that she informed her boss who said he would “get to it” but, to her knowledge, never did. This witness’s statement proved to be of critical importance in establishing that the landlord had knowledge of a dangerous condition on his property and did nothing.

Peter Thompson & Associates: Experts in Investigating Dangerous Property Conditions

If you or a loved one has been injured due to a hazardous property condition, contact Peter Thompson & Associates today. We will immediately begin investigating your case to obtain and preserve evidence and thereby protect your rights and interests. We have offices throughout New Hampshire and will come to your home or the hospital if you have difficulty getting around or are unable to come to us. To speak with one of our attorneys, call 800-804-2004 or fill out the online contact form.