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Protection After a Sinkhole Accident

by / Monday, 11 February 2019 / Published in Personal Injury, Premises Liability

It’s not something that happens every day, but sinkhole accidents do happen. In fact, the last one that happened in Arizona was just at the end of last year. In early October 2018, a Phoenix intersection was completely closed because of a sinkhole that developed during a day of record rainfall.

If you have been involved in an accident involving a sinkhole, it’s important to know what legal protection you can obtain.

Can You File a Lawsuit Following a Sinkhole Accident?

Yes, if you’ve been involved in a sinkhole accident, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit.

You’ve seen ads on TV, posters on the sides of buses or bus stops, and maybe have even received ads in the mail for personal injury attorneys. But what exactly is a personal injury case? And how can a personal injury attorney help?

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A personal injury attorney handles any number of things that are “personal injuries,” including car and bus accidents, elevator accidents, accidents that occur on city streets, bed bugs, dog bites, construction accidents, wrongful deaths, and sinkhole accidents.

A personal injury can be defined as a physical and/or mental injury that occurs because of someone else’s negligence, intentional actions, or strict liability.

Negligence: when another party fails to act with reasonable care. For example: if you suffer physical injuries as the result of a driver rear-ending you because they are not paying attention, the injuries could be deemed a personal injury due to negligence.

Intentional Harm: when another person sets out to hurt you. Examples include battery, assault, and false imprisonment.

Strict Liability: if you are injured by a product (such as a malfunctioning car), anyone involved in the production, distribution, or sale of the defective product can be held responsible.

Sinkholes

Every day cars are damaged as a result of poor road conditions, including sinkholes. When cars are damaged, that means people are injured. These injuries could be prevented if the roads were kept clear. Because roads are maintained by cities and states, it’s often in their best interest to blame the driver, and not the road. This is why it’s advised that you work with a personal injury attorney if you are injured as the result of poorly maintained roads.

Sinkhole on Personal Property

If you are injured by a sinkhole on someone’s property, you might be able to sue the property owner under premises liability. Homeowners have a duty to maintain a safe environment for guests to their property.

It might seem easy or fair just to blame a property owner for sinkhole injuries, but that’s not always the case. While we all have a responsibility to watch where we are going, pay attention to signs, and be aware of where we are placing our feet, there are times when a property owner can be held responsible for the upkeep of their property. Sometimes a property owner is responsible, and sometimes he or she is not.

There is no precise formula for determining if someone is legally responsible if a sinkhole accident occurs, or if you were careless or unaware. There has to a level of responsibility that should be taken on both your part and the property owner. However, property owners do need to be careful in keeping up their property. Here are some general rules for determining if someone else was at fault for a sinkhole accident.

In order for you to prove that someone else is legally responsible, one of the following must be true:

  • The property owner or an employee must have been aware of the dangerous surface and yet did nothing about it.
  • The property owner or an employee should have been aware of the dangerous surface because a “reasonable” person in charge of taking care of the property would have discovered the danger and taken precautions to remove or repair the situation.

Often times a judge will determine if the property owner was careful by looking at if the owner took steps to keep the property safe.

“Reasonably”

Often times negligence claims hinge on the idea of a person acting “reasonably.” The law often concentrates on if the property owner has made regular and thorough efforts to maintain the safety of the property. Here are some questions that are weighed in determining this:

  • Had that dangerous spot been there long enough that a property owner should have been aware of it?
  • Does the property owner regularly examine and clean or repair the property? Is there a set procedure for doing so? If so, does the owner have proof of this regular maintenance?
  • Could the sinkhole have been removed or covered to make the situation safe?
  • Could a warning sign or barrier been created to prevent people from injury?
  • Was poor lighting or broken lighting a contributing factor to the accident?

These are all considerations that must be asked before determining liability in these types of accidents. Still, if you have been injured in a sinkhole accident, you will also need to determine if you acted carelessly.

Acting Carelessly

If you have been injured in a sinkhole accident, you will also need to weigh your own carelessness before considering if you want to pursue a lawsuit. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Did you have a legitimate reason (a reason that a property owner should have anticipated) for being where the dangerous area was?
  • Would a careful person have noticed the dangerous area and avoided it? Would they have walked carefully enough to not be injured?
  • Were there any warnings – such as posted signs – that the spot might be dangerous?
  • Were you doing anything that distracted you (texting, etc…) from paying attention to where you were going? Were you running, walking quickly, jumping, or acting in a way that would have made the accident more likely?

While you won’t need to “prove” that you were careful, it’s important that you consider what you were doing and be able to describe it so that an insurance adjuster or lawyer will be able to understand that you were not acting carelessly when the accident happened.

Examples of Other Personal Injury Cases

Automobile Accidents

Automobile accidents are the most common type of personal injury lawsuit. An innocent party injured in the accident is able to collect damages for injuries incurred. If you have been in involved in an accident, write down all the information you can – insurance and drivers’ license information for all involved, pictures of the accident, names and numbers of all witnesses. Make sure you file a police report so there is a formal notice of the accident. Do not admit guilt or innocence. An injured driver may be compensated for damage to the vehicle, lost wages, future lost wages, and possibly for emotional pain and suffering.
In medical malpractice lawsuits, an injured party or the family of an injured party is able to sue a medical practitioner that has performed an act of negligence that results in the death or injury of a patient. Under personal injury law, the injured party or the remaining relatives of a deceased patient may sue and collect damages for medical malpractice. For plaintiffs to be able to collect damages, it must be proven that the professional had a legal duty to care for the patient, and this duty was breached by some incorrect action or inaction by the practitioner.
A proximate cause must be proven, which means that the patient’s injuries (actual damages) were due directly to the doctor’s actions or inaction. Many medical malpractice suits are settled out of court, but some will continue to trial. Damages can include reimbursement for medical expenses, lost wages, future lost wages, and/or pain and suffering.
Products Liability
 
In a products liability lawsuit, a plaintiff sues a manufacturer for damages if he or she is injured by a defective product. Often times a product is ruled “defective” as the result of a manufacturing defect, a design defect, or because of a failure to warn the public about the defect.
Failure to warn is an issue of negligence by the manufacturer, due to the fact the company failed to take precautionary measures and warn consumers of a possible danger. A manufacturer can only be found liable for damages if the injured consumer was using the product in the correct way it was intended to be used. A consumer is not eligible to collect damages if he or she was misusing the product in some unreasonable way. Some products liability cases are considered strict liability, which means the manufacturer can be found responsible for damages regardless of whether or not the manufacturer was found to be negligent.
Workplace Injuries
 
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If a plaintiff is injured at his or her place of employment, such as an accident, slip and fall, or illness caused by the workplace, it can be classified as a workplace personal injury case. It must be shown that the injury was directly related and caused by the working conditions. It must also take place on the property of the employer.
This accident can result from unsafe working conditions, exposure to harmful substances, and even high-stress environments that cause psychological conditions. It must be proven that an employer did not take the necessary precautions to at least try to protect the employee. Compensation can include lost wages, future earning, reimbursement for medical expenses, and/or pain and suffering.

Working with a Personal Injury Attorney After an Accident

If you or a loved one have been a victim of a personal injury accident, you should immediately contact a personal injury attorney that understands the specific laws around these types of accidents. They will be able to perform a full investigation and build your case. It’s crucial that you work with someone that knows the intricacies of the laws surrounding these types of cases as well as your specific state’s laws. The attorneys at Personal Injury Attorneys PLLC have experience handling personal injury cases such as elevator accidents, automobile accidents, and slip and fall accidents. They will help build a case to ensure you receive everything you need to recover from your specific accident.

Personal Injury Attorneys PLLC

668 N 44th St.

Suite 300

Phoenix, AZ 85008

Phone: (623) 552-4959

 

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