Example of a Case We Handled Involving Dangerous Conditions on a Property
Falls due to ice are the cause of thousands of serious injuries in Maine each winter. While these cases can be difficult to win, a properly conducted investigation that is performed in a timely manner greatly increases the odds of success. Case in point: We represented a woman who was seriously injured in a fall due to icy conditions on a walkway leading to her apartment. Fortunately our client did not assume that the property owner would pay her medical bills as many people believe and called us immediately. By contacting our office within 24 hours of her fall, we were able to immediately go out the area where she fell and take pictures of the ice and general conditions of the walkway. These pictures turned out to be critical because they clearly demonstrated that the maintenance of the walkway was shoddy (at best) and there was, at the time we took the photos, little if any salt or sand on the walkway. The surface of the ice was also very irregular, making it difficult even for our investigator to cross to take pictures. Not surprisingly, the insurance company claimed that our client knowingly encountered the ice and took the risk upon herself to cross it. It further claimed that our client had another way in which to gain access to her apartment which did not have ice that she could have used. Fortunately our investigator also took pictures of the other walkways leading up to the apartment building and these pictures demonstrated that, while there was less ice on the walkways and at least some sand on the ice, the walkway was still a hazard.
We were also able to obtain statements from witnesses who lived in the apartment building about the general lack of maintenance by the apartment owner of the walkways and parking lot in the winter. Of even greater importance to the outcome of the case, we obtained statements from the other tenants that they had made repeated complaints about the poor ice and snow removal and that the apartment owner had in almost all cases ignored their complaints.
Obtaining statements from the other apartment dwellers was difficult because they were concerned that the owner would retaliate against them for speaking to us about their prior complaints. We assured them that the owner of the building was prohibited by law from retaliating for speaking with us about unsafe conditions on his property and advised them to contact us if the owner was foolish enough to try something like that. With these assurances, we were able to obtain several very helpful statements which ultimately were critical to convincing the apartment owner's insurance company that they needed to settle the case fairly. Our client was pleased with the outcome and especially pleased that we were willing to take a case that two other attorneys had turned down because it was not, in their view, a "safe bet."
While it is true that likelihood of prevailing on the majority of ice-related fall accidents is slim, a properly investigated and documented case can result in a good outcome. As noted above, it is important to look into whether there have been prior complaints about the property condition at issue. We have had other cases where, by speaking with other tenants, we learned that not only had there been prior complaints, but that there had been prior, similar accidents due to a hazardous condition.