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11/07/2021

A slip and fall accident is a significant type of personal injury. Many people in Houston, Texas, suffer major or minor injuries from sidewalk falls. A property owner has a duty of care to ensure that their sidewalks are free from dangerous conditions.

Therefore, as with all legal duties, where there's a breach of duty, the property owner may be the subject of a personal injury lawsuit. However, to win, you'll require an experienced attorney in Houston. Therefore, it'll be best to hire the lawyers at Calhoun, Meredith, & Sims.

Can You Sue if You Fall on a Houston Sidewalk?

Damaged sidewalk in Texas

Slips and falls or trips and falls are one of the many ways you can sustain personal injuries. So, depending on the circumstances, you can sue if you fall on a sidewalk. However, many people don't even know that they can file a premises liability claim for such injuries. One reason is that people often see tripping and falling on objects as normal. Some may even blame it on their clumsiness.

Slips and falls occur in various ways. For instance, you could trip over shopping carts in the mall. Conversely, broken sidewalks can also push you down, or you slip on a wet floor. In all these cases, depending on the severity of the fall, you can sustain the following injuries:

  • Broken bones
  • Sprains and strains
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBIs)
  • Spinal cord injuries (SCIs)
  • Broken ribs
  • Concussions

Usually, there must be negligence on the property owner's part to sue for a slip and fall. The property owner or their employer must have caused the tripping hazard that resulted in your injury. If they didn't cause the tripping hazard, they knew or should reasonably have known about it but did nothing to remove it. This inaction would be a breach of their duty to protect visitors on their property.

Who Is Responsible for Falls on a Sidewalk?

After determining whether you can sue in a Houston sidewalk fall, the next thing is to know who you can sue. Knowing the rightful defendant in a slip and fall case is paramount. Not everyone can be liable for your fall. In some cases, no one is liable at all.

Below are the different categories of liable parties. 

The Property Owner

The property owner is often the most likely person responsible for a sidewalk injury. Property owners have a responsibility to protect people on their property from injury. Therefore, if they were negligent towards their legal duties, you can sue them. You may have to prove that they caused the spill, crack, or other dangerous conditions that made you fall. It may also be an employee of the owner.

If they didn't cause the tripping hazard, they should have known about it and not taken the steps the law expects of a reasonable person to protect their visitors. The judge or jury will consider many issues to determine whether the homeowner acted reasonably. This would include whether and how frequently they undertake sidewalk maintenance or sidewalk repairs.

The Government

In Texas, cities, municipalities, and the state can be liable for slip and falls in some instances.. This was previously impossible because of the doctrine of sovereign immunity. However, under the Texas Tort Claims Act section 101.022, a government agency can be liable for a premises liability claim. You can sue the state entity in cases of

  • A special defect; or
  • Where you paid to use the premises.

The Act in section 101.027 also gives the government the right to purchase liability insurance. This insurance covers the government entity and city employees against accident claims. Essentially, although public sidewalks are public property, the government still owes you the same responsibility that a private property owner owes licensees on their property.

Can You Sue for Slipping on Ice on the Sidewalk?

There are many legal myths surrounding sidewalk liability claims. One such myth is that an injured person can sue a property owner for a sidewalk slip caused by snow or ice. However, in Houston, Texas, some cases seem to show that a property owner or governmental entity won't be liable for the natural accumulation of ice, snow, or mud on their sidewalks.

Firstly, the subject of these cases was mud and not ice because of the Texas climate. For instance, in M.O. Dental Lab v. Rape, the plaintiff slipped on mud in a dental lab's parking lot after a rainfall. The Texas Supreme Court didn't hold the lab liable. The court stated that a holding of liability would be too heavy a burden.

The rationale was that the accumulation of mud was beyond the control of landowners. Furthermore, the court held that personal injuries were bound to occur from such natural accumulations. A Texas Appeal Court also held in Haney v. Jerry's GM Ltd that naturally forming ice doesn't amount to unreasonably dangerous conditions that can ground a premises liability claim.

Cracked sidewalk in high traffic area

You can't sue for natural accumulations of ice on sidewalks. However, where human activity causes ice accumulation on the sidewalk, the property owner may be liable. You can also sue if the ice merely hid an already existing defective condition on sidewalks.

What's the Average Payout for a Slip and Fall?

We would love to give you a definite number for your slip and fall accident, but we can't. The reality is that there's no fixed amount that you can get from slip and fall accidents. Instead, many factors determine the compensation sum. 

These factors affect your slip and fall damages.

  • The Severity of Your Injuries and Damages: How serious your injuries and economic losses are is vital. These are usually special damages to which you can affix a definite dollar amount. The seriousness of your wounds would especially impact the cost of medical treatment, and you can recover the amount. Furthermore, your medical records are indispensable in proving this class of damages.
  • Future Impact of Your Injuries: If you also need future medical care, it'll impact how much you can get. You'll need an estimate of the amount you'll spend on medical treatment and equipment. You can only estimate because you can't fix a definite dollar amount for future issues.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Houston Slip and Fall?

Even if you can sue for injuries caused by broken sidewalks or any sidewalk negligence, you don't have forever to file your action. Premises liability lawsuits in Texas have a definite timeframe within which the injured party must commence an action. The governing law is called a Statute of Limitations. This is a state law that regulates the time limits for filing civil lawsuits in Texas.

The Texas Statute of Limitations for slip and fall is the same one that applies to all other personal injury cases. Therefore, according to Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 16.003, you have a two-year deadline to file your slip and fall claim. Your time starts to count from the injury date.

If you don't file a sidewalk liability claim within this timeframe, you may lose your right to sue. Therefore, it's best to get Houston's best sidewalk liability attorneys on your case, even if you suffered only minor injuries. Furthermore, this time limit applies to your case if you lost any personal property.

Before the city of Houston can be liable, you must first file an incident report with the mayor and the city council within 90 days. This notice of claim must contain essential details of your accident, including where on the city streets, when, and how the accident happened. Furthermore, this actual notice must contain your residence and how much damages you're claiming.

So if you sustain a sidewalk injury on public property or private property, you should have the right time limit in mind. It's especially important if you think that a defective condition caused your injury. In some instances, your clock may stop ticking or "toll," giving you extra time. However, it'll be best not to bank on more time. Rather, get your personal injury attorney to file a timely action on your behalf.

Is It Hard To Win a Slip and Fall Case?

Yes, it's more challenging to win slip and fall cases than it's for other personal injury claims. For slip and falls, you have to prove the negligence of the premises owner. To prove this, you have to show that they knew or ought to have known of the dangerous conditions on their sidewalk. Proving this knowledge is one factor that makes slip and falls more complex. If it were a car accident, you could merely prove negligence by how the fault driver was driving.

Furthermore, getting evidence to support your claim can be difficult. For instance, in car accidents, you can rely on police reports, dashcams and CCTV footage, and the testimony of other road users.. However, in slips and falls, the accident can happen in places without cameras or anyone at all. You may even have only your testimony to rely on. Without any other hard evidence, it'll be very hard to win the case. That's why you need a lawyer.

Sidewalk with drain in Texas

Houston Sidewalk Injury Lawyers to Your Rescue

Personal injury claims have varying degrees of complexity. Slips and falls are some of the most difficult to win. So, it'll be best to hire a lawyer if you'll get the maximum compensation. The chances are high that an attorney has handled and won a case similar to yours. They can then use this experience to win your claim.

At Calhoun, Meredith, & Sims, our lawyers have multiple years of experience winning slip and fall cases in Houston. If you call us today, we can examine your case, identify the responsible party, and initiate legal action. You can trust us to get you fair compensation for your injuries. So, call us now before the Statute of Limitations kicks in.

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