Building Fall Injury Claims in South Carolina
Unintentional falls, usually falls in nursing homes or other for-profit establishments, are one of the leading causes of injury-related death in the Palmetto State. Even if these victims survive, falls usually cause serious injuries that, in one way or another, are permanent. For example, if Tom falls and breaks his leg, the bone may mostly heal, but he may permanently lose range of motion in his knee.
Most fall injury victims are older adults. These claims are quite complex, usually because these victims have pre-existing medical conditions. Let’s go back to Tom and change the facts a bit. Assume Tom had a gait disorder, a common malady among people over 65. Like many other people, Tom shuffles his feet when walking. So, if he stumbles, he cannot regain his balance, and he falls.
Generally, a Columbia personal injury lawyer can obtain maximum compensation in these cases. The eggshell skull rule typically prevents insurance companies from using victims’ vulnerabilities against them. Instead, the property owner could be liable for all Tom’s damages, if his lawyer diligently builds a strong case.
Hospital and other medical bills are usually the foundation of a fall or other personal injury claim. This amount often determines a claim’s settlement value.
Basically, an injury claim’s settlement value is like a new car’s sticker price. The car’s sticker price is the starting point for purchase negotiations, and the settlement value is the starting point for settlement negotiations. More on that below.
Medical bills are often incomplete. Frequently, they don’t have any information about the victim’s level of pain at certain times. Pain level is a critical part of a noneconomic damages calculation. These damages include items like pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, and emotional distress.
To fill in the gap, a Columbia personal injury lawyer often partners with an independent doctor. This doctor reviews the records and opines in areas like pain level. This doctor also testifies that the treatment the victim received was reasonably necessary.
Duty of Care
The claims process itself usually begins with the property owner’s duty of care. South Carolina uses a victim classification system to determine duty, as follows:
- Invitee (permission to enter and remain on the property and some other benefit).
- Licensee (permission but no benefit), and
- Trespasser (no permission and no benefit).
Almost all fall injury victims are invitees. The permission could be specific to the victim or general to everyone, like an “Open” sign in a store window. The benefit could be economic or noneconomic.
Sometimes, these categories overlap. If our buddy Tom lived at a nursing home and fell behind on payments, he went from an invitee to a trespasser.
Knowledge of Hazard
Owners are responsible for damages if they knew about, or should have known about, the uneven walkway, wet spot, or other fall injury hazard.
Previous falls related to the same hazard might be the strongest direct evidence of actual knowledge. These owners clearly know about the hazard and the potential for serious injury. The time-notice rule usually controls circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known). When property owners neglect hazards, they should have known about them and should have addressed them.
If the medical records are clear, the owner had a duty of care, and the owner knew about the hazard, fall injury claims often settle quickly, and on victim-friendly terms.
Work With a Hard-Hitting Richland County Lawyer
Injury victims are entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Columbia, contact the Marc Brown Law Firm. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.