When you go to a park for a day of fun, you don’t anticipate falling or sustaining a serious injury. Unfortunately, falls can occur anywhere, at any time, without much warning. If you sustain an injury after tripping and falling over uneven pavement or holes in the path at a public park, you might wonder about your legal rights to compensation. In this blog post, we address some of the issues relevant to whether you can sue for your injuries.
A Public Fall Is Embarrassing, but Don’t Walk Away
Believe it or not, the actions you take immediately after tripping and falling in public can affect your legal rights. When you fall in public, embarrassment often sets in. Your instincts push you to get up quickly and move along before anyone makes a fuss over you. These are perfectly understandable and relatable feelings. Unfortunately, they’re also the wrong choice if you’ve sustained an injury in your fall.
If you jump up and declare you’re fine after an embarrassing fall, or if you leave right away without alerting anyone to the incident, you may have difficulty later proving the fall happened at all. Your desire to avoid the momentary humiliation of becoming the center of attention for passersby may inadvertently lead you to ignore the far greater danger of being forced to face long-term pain and suffering without adequate medical and financial resources.
If you fall in a public park, the best thing you can do for yourself physically, financially, and legally (even if not emotionally) is to stay calm and take special care not to say or do anything until you are either sure you are truly okay, or you conclude you need medical attention. In the moments after a fall:
- Before getting back on your feet, do a review of systems for your entire body. Does any part of your body hurt? Can you feel (and wiggle) your fingers and toes? Are you bleeding? Are you confused? Until you are sure you have a firm grasp on the answers to these questions, stay on the ground and let others help you.
- If you feel pain, numbness, or something feels off, ask for help and summon emergency medical assistance.
- Look around and beneath you to see if you can determine what caused your fall. Was it a feature of the ground where you were walking? An obstruction? Something else?
- Get contact information from anyone who saw you fall. They may be helpful witnesses later on.
- Pull out your phone and take pictures of the scene of your fall, especially if you can determine what you tripped over or slipped on.
- Take a photo of your footwear, including the sides and bottoms.
- If the park has on-site employees or caretakers, ask if they have a claim-reporting process and, if so, take the necessary forms with you.
- Whatever your instincts tell you, never say, I’m okay, I’m sorry, or It’s my fault.
Falls Cause Serious and Catastrophic Injuries
Falls often cause serious and catastrophic injuries, especially when they occur on hard pavement. The 2018 National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Data Center reporting reveals that falls cause 31.6 of all spinal injuries. The Center for Disease Control tracks and documents fall-related injuries. 10 years of data have uncovered these national trends.
- Annually, 800,000 people are hospitalized because of falls.
- More than 1 out of 4 older people fall each year.
- Falls are a major contributing factor in traumatic brain injuries.
- One out of five falls cause broken bones or a head injury.
Whether or not you sustain a catastrophic injury, a fall can cost you time and money. Treatment for fall-related injuries is often costly and sometimes continues indefinitely. If recovering from a fall keeps you out of work, you may lose badly-needed income. A lawsuit may be the only way you can recoup your losses.
Can You File a Suit for a Fall in a Public Park?
When you fall in a public park, there are factual and legal factors that can influence whether you have the right to take legal action to recover damages.
For starters, most public parks are owned by a government entity. Unlike private citizens, government entities only have legal liability for damages if a statute or regulation gives citizens the right to sue. The New York City Administrative Code, for example, authorizes claims against the city for personal injuries sustained because of the condition of a park walkway, but only if the victim can show the city received written notice of the condition and failed to repair it within fifteen days.
In contrast, if a park is privately-owned, New York legal principles of premises liability will dictate the result. Generally speaking, a property owner must use reasonable care to keep his premises in a safe condition for visitors, although the scope of this duty of care can depending on the visitor’s legal status on the property. An experienced personal injury lawyer can advise you if the owner of a privately-owned park where you fell and sustained injury owes you damages.
In any legal action for damages arising out of a fall in a public park, the property owner may seek to avoid liability by making one of several common contentions:
- Open and obvious hazard: If holes and uneven pavement were were so visible and obvious that the victim should have noticed them, then the property owner may escape or reduce its liability.
- No prior notice: In the case of a government entity, lack of prior written notice of a dangerous condition can bar the victim from filing suit.
- Comparative negligence: If a defendant proves the injured person was negligent, New York’s pure comparative negligence statute allows damages to be reduced by the percentage of the victim’s fault.
Experienced personal injury attorneys will anticipate these potential defenses and plan their clients’ cases to avoid them.
Contact the Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond
If you or a family member were injured while enjoying a day at a public park, Attorney Ivan M. Diamond may be able to help you recover the compensation you deserve. Call the Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond at (718) 588-2000 or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation.