Falls On Commercial Property

I fell inside of a mall on a staircase, the insurance adjuster for the mall was very nice at first, but she still hasn’t paid my medical bills after a year.  What can I do?

Depending on what happened, there may be something you can do to get your bills paid.

First, I will assume for purposes of this question that your accident happened in New York.  In New York, the statute of limitations is three years for negligence cases, so you could file a law suit for recovery of your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Broken Stairs

Second, you will have to be more specific about the reason that you fell.  If the stairs were broken, you would be able to recover.  For example, there may be something wrong in construction of the stairs (such as misleveling). Your attorney may have to hire an engineer or architect to look at the stairs. The engineer may determine if there was some violation of the building code in their construction.

Foreign Substance

Third, if you fell because of something on the stairs such as food or some other foreign substance, the case becomes more complex.  As the injured party, you have the burden of proof to show that the condition was was created by the land owner or existed for an unreasonable period of time.  If someone was mopping and left the staircase wet with no signs warning of the condition, the land owner is responsible.  However, probably one the most litigated questions occurs when a third party leaves a hazardous condition on stairs for an “unreasonable” period of time.  Quite frankly, there is no consistent answer among courts about what is a “unreasonble.”  It depends on the circumstances surrounding the accident. One person’s unreasonable is another person’s reasonable.  There are only some guiding principles which a jury will follow to the best of their ability.

Duty to See What There to be Seen

Fourth, under New York law you, as a pedestrian, have a duty to see what there is to be seen.  In other words, if you could have avoided the accident, you should have.  Unfortunately, a judge or jury gets the benefit of hindsight. They could find you are partly or totally responsible for the accident based on what you should have seen.

Finally, you have already given a statement, so your story (even if the story is not complete or you were misled by the questions you were asked by the adjuster) is already set.  That bell cannot be unrung.  The purpose of the insurance adjuster is to try to get admissions out of you to help the insurance company defend the case.  Even if the adjuster seemed nice, they are only doing their job.

People are more willing to talk to an adjuster if that person seems like they want to help you.  That is why we advise people not to give recorded statements until they consult with our office.  We advise people to tell the truth. But we also advise people about traps the adjuster may set to help the insurance company.