Slip and fall injuries go up during the Holidays. Lack of floor safety while shopping this holiday season can result in a health nightmare over the best part of the year instead of a wonderful holiday. Stores have more merchandise, bigger crowds and items placed in dangerous areas this time of year. Why is floor safety so important? What do we mean by floor safety? As personal injury attorneys our Eastern NC offices have represented hundreds of people seriously injured while shopping by carelessness, inattention and lack of forethought by retail stores. North Carolina is one of a few states left in the country clinging to outdated law that makes recovering for serious and life altering injuries from retail fall cases very difficult. A spill by a customer that remains for hours; a grocery store that poorly packages items such as chicken in the deli which leaks blood and remains all over the store; failure to have a leaking cooler fixed; mopping without warning signs; placing merchandise on the floor in front of the selves without a warning; leaking drinks or chemicals on the selves that are not discovered for hours and sometimes days and old tile floors that are typically gray or light gray to not show dirt well past their need to be replaced have resulted in serious and life changing injuries to hundreds of our clients. We typically hear from the store it was our clients own fault for not paying enough attention while shopping in their store. Advertisers and store owners take classes, hire experts and go to seminars each year in how to best get our attention to their merchandise displays. They place items at eye height, flashy displays, banners, sale stickers (who looks away from a 1/2 off sticker) and place these items such that as we walk down the isle from our intended purchase we are drawn to their other items. If our eyes are by design and millions of dollars in research by retail experts drawn away from the floor and focused on the for sale items; the floor becomes of lower concern. An unexpected fall brought on by either tripping over something left in the floor of a store or by having one foot slip out from underneath you can result in serious back injuries, head injuries, broken bones or other injuries that have long term and serious consequences for the injured. Our office has represented more clients than I can recall who have permanent injuries from a fall while shopping for clothes, groceries and personal items. Serious injuries from Falls require a trial lawyer. This holiday season while you are out shopping for your family and loved ones remember to be safe, watch your step in stores and enjoy your holidays. If you do have the unexpected fall, call or contact our office, we will be glad to discuss your case.
Our NC Court of Appeals recently heard the case of Cone v. Watson (COA12-670)argued by two of the stars of the Eastern NC Bar where the issue was whether a fall down inadequately lit stairs was enough to demonstrate negligence. The Court found that failure to illuminate stairs where one would leave a business after dark is enough for the jury to determine if the defendant was negligent. The Court found: North Carolina landowners . . . are required to exercise reasonable care to provide for the safety of all lawful visitors on their property. Whether a landowner's care is reasonable is judged against the conduct of a reasonably prudent person under the circumstances. There is no duty to protect a lawful visitor from dangers which are either known to him or so obvious and apparent that they may reasonably be expected to be discovered. Kelly v. Regency Centers Corp., 203 N.C. App. 339, 343, 691 S.E.2d 92, 95 (2010). Our Supreme Court has said that "[i]f [a] step is properly constructed, but poorly lighted, and by reason of this fact one entering the store sustains an injury, recovery may be had." Garner v. Atlantic Greyhound Corp., 250 N.C. 151, 159, 108 S.E.2d 461, 467 (1959). (A) defendant breaches her duty to a lawful visitor if she fails to provide adequate lighting such that a reasonably prudent person would be likely to expect or see the step. See York, 264 N.C. at 455, 141 S.E.2d at 868-69. Therefore, our Court has found that failure of a business to properly light the entrance and exit of a business may be enough to show negligence on the part of the business owner. For more discussion about negligence, visit our website.
Often people first call our office out of concern over payment for large medical expenses as a result of an automobile collision that was not their fault. The law in North Carolina after the passage of HB542 and SB 586 has changed and only a portion of any bill, that amount that is neccessary to satisfy a medical bill, is admissible to prove evidence of medical expenses. Rule 414 Evidence of medical expenses. Evidence offered to prove past medical expenses shall be limited to evidence of the amounts actually paid to satisfy the bills that have been satisfied, regardless of the source of payment, and evidence of the amounts actually necessary to satisfy the bills that have been incurred but not yet satisfied. In the real world, many clients debate whether or not to use their health insurance to pay their medical bills after an injury. They don't want to use the insurance because it was not their fault, they are afraid of higher premiums and don't want to have the hassle of filing the insurance. Often, many hospitals take that decision away from the patient by refusing to bill the health insurance regardless of whether the patient would like it billed or whether the patient has already paid for health insurance that should pay the bill. Many insurance companies, such as Medicare, are secondary payors. That means they pay only if no one else pays. However, even Medicare states that when a bill is left over 120 days it shall become primary and pay. In these situations, insurance such as Medicare of the State Health Plan is entitled to obtain reimbursement for all the bills paid by them by the third party at the end of the case. Regardless of the reimbursement provisions (called subrogation) many hosptials take the decision away from the injured party and refuse to bill the person's health insurance hoping for a greater recovery from the at fault party in the collision. However, the hospital doesn't take the risk of the patient recovering the amount from the at fault person's insurance, instead they often make claims against and sue the patient for the unpaid bill, even though they could have accepted the insurance. The Charlotte Observer has recently written a series of articles on these not-for-profit hospitals suing uninsured persons for their unpaid medical expenses. Articles. Another article by the Charlotte Observer even references a veteran with tri-care insurance whom they sued because they could not properly bill the insurance. Article 2. In another article Duke University failed to properly code an insurance bill and hired a collection agency to hound and call repediatly a couple who had proper insurance. Article 3. Forbes Magazine has chosen to call this the Tort-Reform for Hospitals. In their article they describe that not-for-profit hospitals are obtaining significant benefit from directly suing their patients rather than working with the insurance companies or using low paying health insurance such as Medicaid. Our clients, and many other persons injured through no fault of their own should worry. Just because you have been financially stable and smart, it will not prevent
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