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Slip and Fall

By | Articles, Personal Injury, Premises Liability | No Comments

You live in Utah, so you know the weather can be quite a challenge. On average, cities in Utah see around 20 days a year of snow, ranging from the low of 5 days in Ogden to 35 days in Salt Lake City. Snow is a major factor in personal injuries, both in terms of car accidents and slip and falls.

We’ve all slipped and fallen at some point in our lives, and most of us just get right back up and keep going. What happens when you can’t get back up and keep going? What happens when your iPhone breaks or your watch is smashed in a fall?

If you’re injured in a slip and fall, or if your personal property is damaged, Utah law enables you to recover compensation for your injuries and your property damages. Property owners have to keep their property safe, and they have a duty to any visitor to keep them safe from injuries arising from the design, construction, or condition of the property. They’re in control of their property, and they have the responsibility of maintaining the safety of their premises.

As a visitor, you have certain responsibilities, too: you have to use the property in a normal manner. That is, if you’re cruising along on your skateboard on a sidewalk, and you slide down the railing at high speed and lose your balance, you’re the one who’s at fault for your injuries. Utah is a comparative negligence state, and in this situation, you’re likely to be held more than 50% responsible for your injuries, which means you get nothing.

However, if you’re just walking along the sidewalk and you reach out for the railing to support yourself on the way down the stairs, and the railing gives way because it’s rusty and unsecure, the property owner is responsible. He didn’t maintain his property, and as a result, his visitors were subjected to what is known as an unreasonable risk of injury.

These are general principles of slip and fall law in Utah, but you also have to consider the statute of limitations. For an injury to your person, you have four years to file a claim against the responsible parties in a slip and fall. For an injury to your personal property, such as a watch or that expensive pair of Jimmy Choos, you have three years to file. This starts on the date of your slip and fall accident.

The rules are different for commercial and residential properties, so you’ll need to know those differences to protect yourself. If you’re in a commercial property, such as a mall, a store, or a shopping center, notify the business about any accident and injury. Responsibility for the accident is determined in the lease, and it can either be the business or the building owner, depending on what the lease says. In either case, you should be contacted by an insurance company over your claim.

For residential properties, responsibility varies based on whether or not the property is rented or privately owned.

If it’s rented, the landlord is responsible for the premises outside of an apartment or property, and anything immovable inside of the apartment. This includes walls, electrical outlets, and lighting fixtures. The tenant is responsible for anything movable in the apartment, like the furniture.

Let’s say you visit your friend Joe at his apartment for a Super Bowl Party. You get your plate of nachos, hot wings, and sausage rolls and go to sit on the couch. Joe’s couch is broken, and you you wind up plunging straight through the couch and hitting your tailbone on the floor. In the process, you pull your back muscles and miss weeks of work. Joe was aware of his broken couch, and took no steps to fix it or warn you in advance. You can sue Joe for your injuries, as the couch is a movable object in the apartment that he is responsible for as a tenant.

Let’s say you’re visiting Joe at his apartment and he asks you to hit the light switch. When you do so, you slip on the loose carpet and break your arm. Joe knew that the carpet was loose and he had previously asked his landlord to fix the carpet. His landlord told Joe the carpet was fixed, when in fact it was not. You can sue Joe’s landlord, because he knew of the danger and he did nothing to resolve it.

If the home is privately owned, the owner is responsible when you’re injured in a slip and fall due to their failure to maintain the safety of their property, if they knew or should have known about the dangerous condition that caused your accident.

What does this all mean to you as a regular person? First, don’t skateboard at the mall and grind on stair railings. This not the normal use of the property, and your injuries will be your fault. Second, if you’re injured, always get help for your injuries and notify the owner of the premises of your injury. Third, you can recover for injuries to your body and to your personal property from a slip and fall. Finally, you’ve got four years to file from the date of your slip and fall for any bodily injuries; for injuries to your personal property, you’ve got three years.

The Personal Injury Education Center of Utah wishes you the best in staying on your feet, come rain, snow, or shine. If you do slip and fall, we hope that this article will be an informative guide to getting back on your feet.

Car Accident

By | Articles, Car Accidents, Personal Injury, Spine and Back Injuries, Wrongful Death | No Comments

America has a love affair with the automobile.  We drive everywhere: to work, to play, to eat, to church, and to school.  Driving is a rite of passage; every year, teenagers mark their passage into adulthood with their learner’s permit or their first driver’s license.

The down side of driving is the accident.  If you’re reading this, you’ve either been in a wreck or you know someone who’s been in a wreck.  If you were fortunate, it was just a fender bender and no one was hurt.  However, car accidents aren’t always just fender benders.  Sometimes people get hurt, and when you’re hurt in a car accident, you need to know what to do in order to maximize your compensation for any injuries or damages.

A car accident can result in major injuries, hospital bills, and even lost wages.  What will your family do if you can’t work?  Utah law provides the means for victims of an accident to recover money for the damages they suffer, but being hurt in an accident is so much more than a lawsuit.

If you have any passengers, make sure everyone is okay.  Even if they appear to be okay, call 911 to report the accident.  Internal injuries may not present symptoms initially, and erring on the side of caution can be the difference between a treatable and untreatable injury.  If it’s safe to move, everyone should move to the curb or shoulder of the road.  Turn on your hazard lights, and if you have any cones or triangles, put them out to increase visibility and prevent another accident.

Keep calm.  Don’t escalate the situation.  It’s normal to feel angry and upset after an accident, but it’s not going to help you come out ahead.

That 911 call is going to come to into play when the police arrive.  You’ll need to show the police your driver’s license, registration, and insurance.  Fill out the accident report, and request a copy from the officer.  Make sure you get the officer’s name, badge number, phone number, and the report number.  The accident report will be critical to recovering any damages from an insurance company.  It’s the product of an unbiased third party, which makes it harder for the insurer to challenge.

Don’t skip calling the police, because as we mentioned, injuries aren’t always obvious at first. The police report can strengthen your credibility, but the most important thing for you to do is to get checked out by a physician within 72 hours.  Insurance adjusters rely on data to determine the amount of any potential settlement, and when an injured party sees a physician within 72 hours of an accident, their actions create what is known as a “value driver” that can increase the amount of any settlement offer by an insurance company.

By not going to the doctor, you’re only reducing the amount of money you can collect.  You’re making it harder for your attorney to get a fair settlement with the insurance company.

Finally, make sure you collect as much information as possible.  Use your smartphone to take pictures of the accident scene, any other parties involved, the vehicles, and get the names of any other drivers and their passengers.  Collect their insurance information.  If at all possible, get an email address. This is information that can be used later to prove you weren’t at fault.

The steps above all presume that you’re in good enough condition to function. If you’re severely injured, you may not be able to do any of this.  If that’s the case, you’ll need to rely on passengers and witnesses.  Understand that your well-being comes first, and don’t worry if you can follow the steps above.

Whatever you do, don’t sign anything from an insurance company. An insurer has one sole purpose: limiting their loss, regardless of whether or not their offer is sufficient to compensate you for your medical bills, lost wages, and suffering.  Make sure your family understands this, and if you’re related to someone who’s been injured in a car accident, don’t hesitate to speak up.  The insurance company’s interests are not aligned with your interests: you need to make sure you have enough money to pay your medical bills, make up for lost wages, and keep your family afloat financially.  That’s why you need to use an attorney to defend your bottom line and make sure you receive adequate compensation for your injuries.

We’ve covered what you need to do, but what is the law in Utah when it comes to car accidents? Utah has a no-fault system, which means that your own insurance company will cover medical expenses and lost income regardless of whether or not you were at fault.  This is why you pay for Personal Injury Protection or PIP on your insurance policy.  PIP coverage is usually $3,000 in Utah.

Only after you exhaust your PIP coverage for any injuries under Utah law can you pursue a claim against the other driver for lost wages, pain and suffering, and all other damages.  That’s why we stressed seeing a doctor within 72 hours after an accident: you want to get any and all injuries diagnosed and treated, and you want to keep your options open by exhausting your PIP coverage.

However,  if your injuries are serious, there may be an exception to the no-fault requirement that you first exhaust your own insurance coverage through PIP, and having an attorney to guide you will enable you to potentially pursue a claim against the other driver sooner. Some examples of serious injuries include dismemberment, permanent disfigurement, and permanent disability.

The other factor to consider in Utah accident law is comparative fault.  If you’re found partially at fault in an accident, this reduces the amount you can recover from other parties.  If you’re more than 50% at fault for your injuries, you’ll recover nothing.  The percentage of your fault is subtracted from the total damages you’re awarded by a jury.  Again, this is why we stressed collecting as much information as possible earlier: the police report, photographs, and documentation can be used to reduce the level of fault attributed to you, thereby increasing the amount of your recovery.

You’ve got four years to file from the date of the accident under Utah law, and there are no economic caps on the damages you can recover for medical expenses, loss of income, and pain and suffering, permanent disability, and vehicle repairs. If the court finds that the defendant’s actions merit punitive damages, the court will order the first $50,000 to be paid to you, and any punitive damages above $50,000 will be split between you and the state.

We here at the Personal Injury Education Center of Utah hope that you and your loved ones have a safe driving experience, and many happy adventures on the roads.  Have fun, but always be safe when you’re on the road.

Dog Bite Law in Utah

By | Articles, Dog Bites, Personal Injury | No Comments

A dog is man’s best friend, and many of us think nothing of approaching a dog on its walk or when it comes to a fence to say hello.  But what happens when a dog loses control and bites a person?

Utah law is clear: if you are bitten by a dog, you can recover damages from the owner or the person keeping the dog.  You don’t have to prove that the dog was vicious or mischievous before the attack, either.  This is important because other states require you to prove that the owner knew that his dog previously bit someone, or acted like it wanted to bite someone, and the owner was aware of the dog’s prior conduct.  Utah doesn’t require the victim of a dog attack to prove any of this; if you’re attacked by a dog and you suffer injuries, you can recover damages because Utah makes dog owners strictly liable for any injury committed by their dog-and not just from bites.

If you own a dog walking service or a doggie daycare-or even if you’re just watching a dog for your friend-you will also be strictly liable for any attacks by a dog you’re keeping, however, there are important exceptions: states, counties, cities, and towns in Utah, as well as peace officers, are not liable for damages for injury committed by dogs trained to assist in law enforcement, so long as “the injury occurs while the dog is reasonably and carefully being used in the apprehension, arrest, or location of a suspected offender or in maintaining or controlling the public order.”

However, even if you aren’t the owner or the keeper of the dog in question, you can still be liable under negligence.  Let’s say you see a stray dog, and you let the stray into your place of business and it attacks a customer.  You’re liable for damages, but Utah law also requires the court to balance the victim’s fault against your fault.  If the court finds that your fault exceeds the victim’s fault, you can be sued for recovery by the victim; however, the amount the victim can recover will be reduced by the level of his fault.

If you’re an owner, or if you’re the person in charge of a dog, you have to adhere to animal control laws, such as ordinances require dogs to be leashed.  If a dog you own or have responsibility for is off leash in violation of the law, this could be the basis of civil liability in the event that the dog attacks someone.  Such violations give victims a prima facie case of negligence, and the only way you can escape liability is to demonstrate an overriding reason to justify having your dog off leash.

In addition, if you’re the relative of a dog bite victim, and you’re present when your relative is attacked, you can recover for emotional distress if it manifests as an illness or a bodily harm.  Anxiety attacks, blood pressure issues, and other forms of stress can be the basis for you to recover monetary damages from the dog’s owner or keeper.

Whether you’re the owner or the keeper of a dog, or merely a person who sees a dog on your walk, exercise caution.  Keep your dog on a leash, and always ask for the owner’s permission to approach the dog.  When a dog is eating, don’t interrupt the dog’s feeding time or try to play with his treats or toys, because this could trigger aggression in the dog.  Always exercise common sense, because it’s better to avoid an injury than to be put in the position of recovering damages after an injury.

If you’re a dog owner in Utah, realize that you’re liable for your dog and make sure that your dog is adequately socialized with other dogs and people and trained to respond to voice commands.  Always follow local laws and keep your dog leashed, and make sure that they are secured on your property.  What you pay for an obedience class will be far less than the cost of an attorney and any damages you have to pay as the result of a dog attack.

Personal Injury Education Center of Utah wishes you and your furry friends a long, healthy, and legally uneventful life together.  Remember, knowing the law is the first step to avoiding any legal problem.  The second step is following the law, and as long you know what the law requires, you can easily avoid any legal trouble, as well as any spike in your homeowner’s insurance premiums.