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.