Premises Liability

How to Win a Slip and Fall Settlement

The snow and ice are once again upon Chicago. During this season, Grazian and Volpe receives at least three calls a day from potential clients who have fallen and sustained serious injuries. We conduct a detailed interview with the client immediately. However, it is what client before they call us that may spell the difference between a good settlement or mediocre or no settlement.

Here is what you need to do and what your lawyer will need to do in order to bring your slip and fall accident to a successful resolution:

1) Document the accident. Write down all details as soon as you are able. Were there warning signs present? Defects or objects that contributed to you fall? What part did weather play in your fall? Remember you can’t sue Mother Nature for making conditions that caused you fall but you can sue for human made conditions. I.E., fresh snow on a sidewalk is not actionable but improperly shoveled snow may be.

2) Find Witnesses. Write down their contact info and ask them if they would be willing to give a brief statement about the occurrence.

3) Take photographs of the fall site. Try to do so immediately from various angles. If you are unable, return to the site afterwards at the same time your fall occurred to best replicate the conditions you experienced on the day of the fall.

4) Seek Medical Attention! Some injuries are not immediately apparent or visible. Keep records of all follow-up visits and treatments. Remember-if your injury is not serious enough to see a doctor an insurance company will deem it not serious enough to compensate. This is crucial!

5) Take photographs of your injuries. No matter how bloody or graphic. This is compelling evidence and visual proof of pain for a jury or insurance company.

6) Hire Grazian and Volpe! We have a proven and long track record of obtaining maximum settlement dollars for all our clients. Experience in this area is vital to success in litigation.

Grazian and Volpe will bring you case to a successful result by:

1) Proving a duty of care- it must be established that the defendant had a duty for your safety. This may be in a general public safety sense or a workers’ compensation context.

2) Establish the Defendants control of the accident site (premises):
Were signs put up to alert customers as to a dangerous condition as in a puddle caused by a leak, or recently mopped area?
Did the conditions exist long enough that a defendant should have known about it and corrected it? Like defective stair rise, missing banister or broken lighting?

3) Bring in an expert witnesses where technical issues of safety are called into question such as the cut of a curb or the rise of a staircase.

4) Research Law: there are many sources of law that apply to slip and fall litigation. There is case law, state, city and federal statutes and regulations. It is important to hire a law firm that is familiar with all law sources.

A simple slip and fall settlement can be very large. However, proving the liability and cause of the fall can be very complicated. Injured parties need experienced counsel in these matters. Grazian and Volpe has brought hundreds of slip and fall cases to optimum result.

It is always best to stay safe but if you can’t stay safe, stay with Grazian and Volpe. Chicagoland’s Injury Lawyers for over 30 years.

Indoor vs Outdoor Slip and Fall Claims

Slip and Fall claims are based on negligence and premise liability theories. An owner of a premises has a duty to maintain the premises in a manner that is safe for visitors. If the owner fails to maintain the premises in a safe condition, he or she may be liable for injuries that are the result of the unsafe property conditions.

Indoor and outdoor slip and fall accidents often rest on different factors for liability. Knowledge of the law that applies to each accident is crucial to obtaining an excellent result in litigation. Lawyers who are not experienced in slip and fall accidents may often fail in obtaining good settlements because they pursue an incorrect theory of liability.

When a claim involves a slip and fall that occurred outdoors, the following factors may be considered:

1) Weather conditions: Rain, snow, ice, and freezing conditions may create situations where slip and falls may occur. Not all conditions are the stuff of lawsuits. Mother Nature is never liable but human intervention and Mother Nature may present another picture. For example, fresh snowfall creating slippery conditions is not actionable but commercial snow shoveling that creates a dangerous walking hazard does present liability. A natural accumulation of ice does not create premises liability but an accumulation created by a faulty gutter or leaky spigot does
2) Lighting conditions: a premises owner may be liable for a slip and fall caused by inadequate or broken lighting
3) Parking garages and parking lots: Oil and grease from cars may collect and create unsafe pedestrian conditions
4) Stairs: Improperly designed stairs which include rises and railings out of code can cause serious injury and are the duty of a premises owner to correct and maintain

In the case of outdoor claims, the owner is usually liable only for the property they own and control. Sidewalks and streets are normally maintained by the city or local municipal government. A premises owner may be liable if he shovels the sidewalk or has part of his property extending over the public access point, such as a tree or roof.

When a claim involves and indoor slip and fall in either a public or private space liability can be broader:

1) Floors, stairs, elevators and escalators must be well-maintained and kept free of debris. Warning signs should be posted where hazardous conditions exist. Mechanicals must be in working order and clear of protruding parts that may cause injuries.
2) Rushing employees who cause a slip and fall accident with a patron may also result in premises liability for the owner as well as a workers’ compensation suit if the employee is injured
3) Business establishments must be handicap accessible at all levels

Premises liability and slip and fall accidents can be a complicated area of law subject to many nuances. Injured victims should interview lawyers to assure that they have experience and success in litigating these cases. Grazian and Volpe has a proven, successful track record in slip and fall litigation. Visit us on Facebook and at our website for more informative articles designed to help the public protect its legal rights.

Winter Cruisers Read the Fine Print!

Kudos to the clients of Grazian and Volpe who are able to escape ChiBeria, Chillinois whether by train, plane, auto or cruise ship. January is a good month to review some preventive measures to assure a safe and fun cruise. Included are steps to take should injury occur to protect your rights.

Mishaps on cruise ships are often highlighted in the newspapers. We have had experience litigating for passengers injured on cruise lines. This type of litigation can be complex and lengthy given the nature and registration of various cruise ship lines. The law combines elements of common carrier liability and premises liability and may often involve issues of admiralty law. There is vast amounts of case law in this area. However, the ruling document is the agreement between the passenger and the cruise line. We find that most clients ignore this document in their excitement to sign on for a sun-soaked vacation. When they are injured during their cruise; they are shocked at what they signed.

15 million cruise passengers leave from a port located in the United States. Cruise ships are large and becoming larger as each year passes often carrying in excess of 6,000 passsengers!. These floating cities expose passengers to all manner of peril, ranging from infectious disease and food poisoning to violent crimes or a simple slip and fall. A passenger should always be aware of their surroundings and the actions of co-passengers.

Before the cruise, all passengers must receive a “cruise of package” booklet from the cruise line. This booklet is not only you ticket to board the ship but also a binding contract between the passenger and the cruise line. Pay special attention to the fine print in this document- there are often several clauses that strip passengers of certain valuable rights in the event they are injured.

First and most typical, the cruise line must be notified in writing with six months of any injury sustained on the voyage. Failure to take this simple step may negate the claim. We suggest you report and accident immediately and make sure a written report is entered in the ship’s records. Grazian and Volpe had a client who slipped on liquid left by a cleaning crew. Not wanting to mare the trip with the fuss of making a report, our client did not report the fall despite experiencing pain in the left knee. The pain progressively worsened causing our client to visit a doctor upon his return home. The doctor diagnosed an injury requiring immediate and painful surgery with long term recovery period. We were able to obtain a settlement for him, but it was complicated and short the settlement he could have received had he made an immediate report of the slip.

Further, the booklet may limit the time within which a passenger may file a claim and it may be more restrictive than the Statute of Limitations in the passengers home state.

Attorneys and their injured clients must also be wary of the ticket provision which specifies where the lawsuit can be brought and it may very well bear no relationship to where the passenger embarked the ship, lives or where the main offices of the cruise line sit.

So how can you protect yourself?

As in all accidents-document everything! Cruise lines employ their own security forces charged with investigation and documentation of all accidents. The media is full of dramatic onboard crimes where gaping holes exist in the the investigations conducted by the ship’s security personnel. Remember, they work for the cruise ship line- their investigation will most likely favor their boss.

Be careful about what you say and what you sign. If the cruise line does not agree to give you a copy of anything you sign-immediately- don’t sign. Ask for a copy of their accident report and obtain the names and contact information for any witnesses. Try to document as many details as possible regarding the scene of the accident and how and why it happened. Document the name and conversations with any crew members (including full name and job title). If you can, take photos and videos of the accident scene. This is very important as passengers and crew will soon traverse the area, potentially corrupting the conditions that existed at the time of your accident.

Most of all – have fun! These are strategies and precautions to protect your rights and keep your trip safe and enjoyable. The vast majority of cruise passengers have a safe and relaxing voyage and return home glowing and in better shape than they left. Remember, Grazian and Volpe wants you to stay safe first-but if you can’t stay safe-stay with us, your Chicago and South Chicago Premises Liability Lawyers for over 30 years.

When is a Slip and Fall Not Worth Money?

There are two questions that are very important in analyzing the monetary value of personal injuries suffered in any type of accident. The questions are as follows:

1) Is there any liability for the accident meaning can fault be attributed to another party and can that party be sued? and;

2) Were injuries suffered and are those injuries of a serious enough nature to warrant the emotional and financial cost of pursuing compensation through the legal system?

The answer to the first question depends on whether their exists a person or entity that caused the accident or was responsible for preventing the circumstances causing the accident. For example, was the driver of a car texting on her phone which caused her to hit another driver or pedestrian or; did the landlord fail to provide adequate lighting or comply with the building code in such a manner has to cause a person to fall and sustain an injury? Liability can be a complex subject and will always require the scrutiny of an experienced personal injury lawyer to determine whether there exists sufficient liability to proceed with a personal injury lawsuit.

The answer to the second question as to whether there had been a injury directly attributable to the slip and fall or any accident depends on the seriousness of the injury and whether the person injured suffered the injury as a direct result of the accident or whether the injury existed before the accident. For example, a person who has been treated for back pain in the years before an accident will have a difficult time proving that their back pain was caused by a recent accident. Again, these issues demand a careful evaluation by a qualified and experienced personal injury attorney.

However, one thing is definitive. If the injury was not serious enough to demand medical attention it is not serious enough to warrant compensation. It is almost impossible for the most experienced personal injury attorney to prove you are entitled to compensation for personal injuries when there is no proof of a personal injury. This proof may only be provided by a medical professional. Grazian and Volpe has served injury victims in Chicago for over 30 years obtaining verdicts in the thousands and millions. It is always disheartening to explain to a person suffering from injury that we cannot take their case because they did not seek medical attention. Going to a doctor or hospital days or weeks later calls into question whether the injury was actually caused by the accident or slip and fall and/or seriousness enough to warrant the monetary and emotional drain required to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. We will always attempt to do what we can to make recovery possible for any client where it is justified but insurance companies are always on the prowl for reasons not to compensate an injured party. It is important that anyone suffering personal injury in any accident attempt to document the accident and accident site through any means available, i.e., witnesses, photos, and police reports. It is of utmost important that immediate medical attention is sought. Obviously that is easy in the case of broken bones and other serious injuries. However injury victims need to know that brain, neck and back injuries may not be obvious and it is better to error on the side of caution and obtain immediate medical attention. It may mean the difference between recovering and not recovering money damages for personal injuries suffered.

When Your Slip and Fall Accident May Be Worth Money

Grazian and Volpe have fielded thousands of calls from potential clients who have been injured during a slip and fall accident.  People can suffer serious and possibly permanent damage from a simple fall including concussions, spinal injuries and broken bones. Many of these personal injuries require surgery, physical therapy and lost time from work.   Now that spring is upon us, the Grazian and Volpe phones and our website, myaccidentlaw.com are especially active due to the snow, freeze, thaw and re-freeze weather cycle that make Chicago infamous.

It is always difficult to explain to someone who has been injured and is suffering that their injury may not be actionable and they will not be able to recover for their injuries and pain. Most often this is in the context of a injury that is due to natural accumulation of ice or snow.

When people call our Chicago offices we will immediately question them as to how and what caused the slip and fall. Often they may say that it had recently snowed and/or the temperature dropped and the area had not been shoveled or plowed causing them to slip on the ice or snow accumulation. Unshoveled snow or an accumulation of ice caused by Mother Nature are “natural accumulations” and the property owner is not responsible for injuries suffered by a person who falls thereupon. People are often very surprised to discover that under Illinois Law there exists no duty for a property owner to remove snow or ice from their property. A property owner may be a homeowner, condo association, a government body or a commercial entity.

It is only when a property owner undertakes to remove the snow or ice and thereby creates the slip and fall hazard or what is known under the law as “an unnatural accumulation” of snow, ice or water that the property owner may have liability for injuries suffered during a slip and fall.

The distinction between what constitutes liability under the distinction of “natural” versus “unnatural” accumulations is subject to other considerations such as whether there was a defect in the stairs where the snow had fallen or the fall had occurred at work. If possible, it is important to take a photo of the place where the slip and fall occurred and the names and phone numbers of any witnesses. If you are in a commercial or retail premise make sure to file an accident report if possible. There are many factors wherein a natural accumulation may be actionable due to other factors and it is always best to call the lawyers at Grazian and Volpe to help make that determination.

On the streets, sidewalks and buildings of Chicago there exist many hazards that may cause a serious slip and fall injury, including snow, ice, broken pavement, stairs and signage. Not all these hazards may lead to compensation for personal injuries suffered. It is always best to travel safely and mindfully to avoid accidents but if an accident cannot be avoided the first step is to seek medical attention, the second is to call Grazian and Volpe, Chicago’s personal injury attorneys for over 30 years.

Tragic fall from balcony leads to questions about building’s safety

Apartment building owners here in Chicago are responsible for keeping their buildings safe, in good repair and up to code. When property owners are negligent, by failing to maintain the premises or neglecting to respond to safety complaints, they can be held accountable for associated injuries under premises liability law.

Many Chicago residents have heard that a woman fell to her death from a Manhattan apartment’s balcony on Thursday. While the exact cause of the fall is not yet known, city inspectors have warned others to stay away from balconies in the building.

The 35-year-old woman was smoking on her balcony, on the 17th floor of an apartment building, when the railing apparently gave way and she fell. She was on a first date at the time of the incident, and police have not said that they suspect any foul play.

The apartment building pre-dates World War II, and it has not yet been reported what kind of condition it was in.

While we do not have any additional details about the circumstances of this fatal event, it does illustrate the importance of building owners keeping their properties in good repair.

Back in 2010, a 24-year-old man was killed when he fell off of his balcony when the railing gave way. After that tragedy, the city inspected hundreds of apartments and found that 16 buildings had dangerous balconies.

Apartment owners, hotel owners and the owners of other properties with balconies in Illinois have a legal duty to make sure that premises are safe. This includes ensuring that balconies and railings are maintained in accordance with all applicable safety codes. When property owners or managers fail to do this, the results can be catastrophic. These parties can be held legally accountable when injuries or fatalities are caused by railing failures, balcony or porch collapses and other hazards.

Source: ABC, “Tenants warned to stay off balconies at scene of East Side fatal fall,” Darla Miles, Aug. 2, 2013

$109 Million Wrongful Death Verdict Against Power Company

The largest personal injury award in the county’s history was awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit to the husband and family of a woman who was killed by a falling power line in her backyard. The woman burned for more than 20 minutes while in mother-in-law and two young daughters watched helplessly until utility crews arrived to turn off the electricity. The victim’s mother-in-law attempted to help but was burned in the process and unable to render aid. The victim had several fingers severed from her left hand and her left arm was amputated by doctors in an attempt to save her but she died three days later in a local hospital.

Evidence was presented showing that the power company failed to properly train workers for years before the accident and after the victim’s husband told the company that he was concerned for his family’s safety because the spliced power line in their backyard had failed twice before.

It was shown that the power company did not properly train its workers to use a wire brush to clean the power lines before they were spliced. This failure caused the splices to rust which leads to overheating and failure of the lines. The victim had gone outside to call the power company because she saw a tree burning to the overheated wire, cutting power to the house.

This was the most tragic of premises liability injuries and the jurors were justly incensed by the wanton nature of the power company’s response to this safety issue and deliberated less than two hours.

As summertime approaches and more adults and children venture outdoors, Grazian and Volpe advises that all be aware of the presence of power lines and their conditions. Fallen and impaired power lines should be avoided and reported and children taught safety awareness in the presence of these lines-especially where lakes or pools are present.

It is always better to avoid accidents and stay safe but if you can’t stay safe-stay with Grazian & Volpe, Chicagoland’s Injury Lawyers for over 30 years.

Negligent security vs. adequate security: a Chicago case

Negligent security is both a disturbing real-world reality and a particular legal principle. At its core, it’s pretty simple: when a property owner or operator fails to take reasonable steps to keep the property safe from crime, liability can be imposed for injuries suffered by customers or tenants of the business due to criminal attacks.

To be sure, the general rule in the law is that a party is not responsible for the acts of a third party. But the legal principle of negligent security creates an important exception to this rule. Even though the actual injury was inflicted by a third party – someone who committed a crime – the principle of negligent security allows the injured person to hold the property owner or proprietor accountable.

A recent Chicago case provides an example of how this works. Earlier this month, after a basketball game between high school teams in Chicago, a fight broke out. The altercation moved into the parking lot, where a 17-year-old boy was shot dead.

The game was held at Chicago State University, so neither of the two teams involved was the home team. Chicago State had provided security to perform searches at the doors as fans entered the basketball arena. A video tape of the game apparently showed nothing especially amiss in terms of physical play on the court or unruly behavior by fans in the stands.

It is not difficult, however, to envision a situation where security was inadequate. What if the teams involved had a history of animosity and rough play – and fans or players were known to threaten their counterparts on the other team? If that were the case, a negligent security claim might well be in order if an attack occurred after the game.

Source: “HILLARY SMITH: Can safety remain pure in pure athletics,” NWI.com, 1-20-13

Premises Liability: Your Landlord Should Protect Your Safety

Your Chicago and Cicero Premises Liability Lawyers at Grazian and Volpe want you to know that your Landlord Should Protect Your Safety! Common law mandates that the owner of a building has a duty to take reasonable measures to maintain that property in a safe condition. This means that a building owner is required to take minimal precautions to protect it tenants, and other persons on its premises from foreseeable harm, i.e., personal injury which not only encompasses issues of safe habitability (safe stairways, electrical, plumbing, etc) but also the duty of the owner to protect tenants from the foreseeable criminal conduct of a third person. Minimal precautions have included the requirement that a landlord install working doors and door locks as well as sufficient lighting and visibility at points of ingress, egress and travel. This is a duty conferred upon the building owner because he or she is in the best position to install the safety devices, locks and lighting which would serve to protect its tenants from foreseeable criminal activity.

Tenants may have a claim for personal injuries against the property owner, the manager or the security company in the event that they are attacked and assaulted in their apartment building or where they work.

As a tenant of or worker in a building it is important that you notify the property owner, manager or security company of any issues related to the safety of the building such as faulty door locks, lighting or security systems. If you are assaulted or attacked and it is established that these parties were aware of the security issues, liability will be a slam dunk and you can be assured of compensation for your personal injuries.

The Chicago and South Chicago Premises Liability Lawyers at Grazian and Volpe have obtained just compensation awards for their clients on numerous premises liability claims  and are staunch advocates for tenants and their right to be protected in their own residence or workplace. In fact, Grazian and Volpe has even been successful in obtaining compensation for tenants who are bitten by their apartment neighbor’s dog!

Premises Liability and the Negligent Landlord

Grazian and Volpe has practiced premises liability in Chicago for over 30 years.  It has been disheartening to witness the disregard for human safety practiced by a few but a very harmful number of landlords. If fact, landlord should be used as the title used for responsible and caring persons who take care for the safety and well-being of their tenants. The others are simply “slumlords”. We find them primarily operating in distressed areas taking advantage of Section 8 housing regulations and the financial weakness of tenants. In our accident law practice we have advocated on behalf of hundreds of client/tenants personally injured through criminal activity and unsafe conditions engendered by the careless disregard or extreme negligence of these slumlords. Historically, Illinois courts have not proven as responsive to these complaints. However a recent verdict for $1 million will hopefully draw attention to the cruel and dangerous plight of tenants forced to rent from these negligent landlord. In this particular condo complex, multiple armed robberies, shootings and thefts were committed over a three year period; largely attributable to the property which had fallen into disrepair and lacked proper door locks and light fixtures. A tenant was shot and killed while walking to his car. He was survived by two adult sons who brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the landlord. They alleged that the landlord provided inadequate security. In addition, the wrongful death complaint stated that the landlord had hired an incompetent property manager with a criminal background. The case settled for $1 million. Grazian and Volpe knows this settlement will serve as a positive influence in premises liability law and help to convince courts and insurance carriers to treat slumlords and negligent property managers with an iron fist  sending a firm message to those who do not treat the safety and welfare of their occupants and tenants with the same regard they would show for their own families.

Tenants are advised to be pro-active in finding and documenting safety and security issues with their landlords. Hopefully, the landlord is responsive and the tenants concerns are solved. If the landlord ignores the tenants request the tenant has documented the problems. This documentation will be useful if the tenant or others sustain a personal injury caused by the issues documented.

Remember, it is always better to stay safe and avoid personal injury.  If you can’t stay safe-stay with Grazian and Volpe, Chicagoland’s Injury Lawyers for over 30 years.