Can premises liability laws apply when someone suffers a concussion?
Concussions are serious health issues, falling into the category of traumatic brain injuries. Depending on the severity of the concussion, injured parties can recuperate for days or weeks, and some may be left with lingering effects that may wind up being permanent.
Here in the United States, the top causes of TBI are:
- Transportation accidents
- Construction incidents
- Sports injuries
But there is another set of circumstances that can cause concussions, and
that is slip and fall injuries. When injured parties slip, trip or stumble
on someone else’s property and wind up diagnosed with a concussion,
that may open the door to a premises liability lawsuit against the business
or property owner.
Anatomy of a typical slip and fall injury
Let’s look at a hypothetical scenario.
You’re a loyal shopper of a major grocery chain and like to take advantage of the weekly sales in their ad circular. One week as you are moving through the aisles with your shopping cart, your foot slides in fluid from a leaky freezer case. You try to grab the cart to steady yourself, but wind up slipping backward and going down hard. The back of your head smacks into the linoleum on the floor, and you see stars.
The store manager calls an ambulance for you, and you are seen in the emergency room of a local hospital where you are diagnosed with a concussion and then sent home. You expect to be back to normal within a few days, perhaps dealing with some headaches, but instead find yourself beset with a host of other problems, including:
- An inability to tolerate the noises coming from the video games on your kids’ hand-held devices. All those beeps, dings and smash-ups seem amplified and grate on your nerves.
- Having to wear your sunglasses inside of the house because the fluorescent lights are just unbearably bright all of a sudden.
- Bouts of nausea after eating anything that isn’t bland.
- Snapping at your family members for the smallest things because you seem to be so easily irritated ever since your grocery store mishap.
- Not being able to complete crossword puzzles or even play Words With Friends while you recuperate because your brain always seems so foggy that you forget how to spell all but the simplest of words.
All of a sudden, the concussion you suffered at the neighborhood grocery
store is starting to seem like a much bigger deal than it did on the day
that you slipped and fell in the spill on Aisle 6.
Your legal rights after a slip and fall concussion
The business in our fictional scenario is a leading grocery store chain and not a mom-and-pop corner store. It certainly appears as if the store manager’s failure to maintain a premises that is safe and free of hazards is the direct cause of your present suffering.
Under Texas civil law, consumers have rights as invitees on the property owned by businesses. Business owners or store managers have to use care to keep their premises reasonably safe for customers. Even if they don’t know about the specific dangerous condition that caused a customer’s injury, if the plaintiff can prove that reasonable store managers or business owners would have known about the condition, the property owner may be found liable for damages stemming from the incident.
In our hypothetical situation, your slip was caused by a leaking piece
of store equipment. This ups the ante considerably. If you slipped and
fell in a slick spot resulting from a dropped jar of olives, for instance,
you could have a harder time establishing that it was reasonable for the
owner/manager to have been aware of the condition. However, it is certainly
reasonable to assume that a responsible manager or owner would have knowledge
that a freezer case was leaking water onto the grocery store floor. There
may even be watermarks or other stains on the floor to substantiate your
claim that this was an ongoing problem.
Settlement offers don’t always cover every damage from a concussion
In most cases, a big grocery store chain will want to handle your claim quickly to avoid the negative publicity a lawsuit can bring. Their claims adjuster will probably be in touch with you within hours or days of your slip and fall in their store. They will offer to cover the costs of your ambulance ride and emergency room visit, including any prescriptions you may have been given. They probably will pad their settlement offer with some extra cash for your pain and suffering and compensate you for a couple of days off of work.
But don’t take the bait. Below are some reasons why you should wait.
- Insurance companies always low-ball their initial offer. They hope that the low-hanging fruit they offer will be palatable enough that the majority of claimants will accept the low offer.
- In the first days and weeks after suffering a concussion, it’s impossible to know if you will fully recover or how long your recuperation may take. Are you going to be okay to go back to work within days or will it take weeks? What if your job involves climbing and walking over catwalks and you get dizzy? Or you drive a bus, but now struggle with double vision? What if you work inside of a loud plant but can’t even tolerate the video game noises? How effective a professor will you be if your new irritability has you snapping at students?
- Does the settlement offer cover future medical treatment it’s likely you will need? Most don’t, and neurological testing and diagnostic procedures like MRIs don’t come cheap. The moment you cash that settlement check for your concussion, you are closing the door to future compensation for related medical problems you could develop in the future.
Make no mistake — insurance companies’ bottom lines depend on claimants’ eagerness to settle up quickly. But once the check has been cashed and the funds spent, you will be on your own if you require further medical treatment down the line.
At Shrader & Associates, we understand the havoc concussions can wreak on our clients’ lives. Our attorneys pledge to do their best to get you the largest settlement or judgment possible for your concussion injury. Call today at 888-637-6236 for a confidential consultation with a member of our concussion legal team,