Compiled by Kenneth Vercammen, Esq. from various sources
Liability of Owner of Commercial Property for Defects, Snow and Ice Accumulation and Other Dangerous Conditions in Abutting Sidewalks The law imposes upon the owner of commercial or business property the duty to use reasonable care to see to it that the sidewalks abutting the property are reasonably safe for members of the public who are using them. In other words, the law says that the owner of commercial property must exercise reasonable care to see to it that the condition of the abutting sidewalk is reasonably safe and does not subject pedestrians to an unreasonable risk of harm. The concept of reasonable care requires the owner of commercial property to take action with regard to conditions within a reasonable period of time after the owner becomes aware of the dangerous condition or, in the exercise of reasonable care, should have become aware of it. If there was a condition of this sidewalk that was dangerous in that it created an unreasonable risk of harm for pedestrians, and if the owner knew of that condition or should have known of it but failed to take such reasonable action to correct or remedy the situation within a reasonable period of time thereafter as a reasonably prudent commercial or business owner would have done under the circumstances, then the owner is negligent.
AT THE ACCIDENT SCENE
1. Stop . . . do not leave the scene of the accident. CALL THE AMBULANCE, tell them where the accident occurred and (ask for medical help if needed).
2. Notify the property manager or owner, if possible. Insist they observe where you fell. For example, if you fall on an icy sidewalk at the store/ business, notify the manager.
3. Get names and addresses of all witnesses Witnesses will be a tremendous help to you in any subsequent court action if there is any question of liability involved. Get the names and addresses of as many witnesses as possible. If they refuse to identify themselves, jot down the license plate numbers of their automobiles. Do not discuss the accident with the witnesses. Do not give the witnesses' names to anyone but the police, your attorney or your insurance company.
4. While waiting for ambulance, write down- Accident Information Date __ Time __ Location __ Weather __ Road conditions __ Damage __
5. Summary of accident __
6. Diagram of accident location
7. Call an ambulance. If you have any reason to suspect you were injured in the accident, go to a hospital immediately or see a physician promptly. You'll want it on record that you sought treatment right away, not in a week or so.
8. Write down name of Police Officers, Department and Badge Number, Ambulance crew, etc.
9. Do not assign or accept blame for the accident. - The scene of the accident is not the place to determine fault. Discuss the accident only with the ambulance and medical personnel, your attorney and with representatives of your insurance company. Give the other party only your name and address. - Be cooperative with the police.
10. Have immediate photos taken of accident site.
11. Call a personal injury attorney immediately, not a real estate attorney. Call Kenneth A. Vercammen- Trial Attorney Attorney At Law (732) 572-0500 When you need help the most, we will be ready to help you.
12. Never give a signed statement to the claims adjuster representing the property owner's insurance company. The same goes for a phone recording. They may be used against you in court to deny your claim. Speak with your personal injury attorney first.
IF YOU HAVE BEEN INJURED BY SLIPPING ON SNOW OR ICE
It is important that you --
1. DO NOT discuss your case with anyone except your doctors and attorney.
2. DO NOT make any statements or give out any information.
3. DO NOT sign any statements, reports, forms or papers of any kinds, .
4. DO NOT appear at police or other hearings without first consulting with your attorney. INFORM YOUR ATTORNEY PROMPTLY of any notice, request or summons to appear at any hearings.
5. Refer to your attorney anyone who asks you to sign anything or to make any statement or report or who seeks information concerning your case.
6. Direct your doctor and other treatment providers not to furnish or disclose any information concerning your case to any entity other than your insurance company without YOU AND YOUR ATTORNEY'S WRITTEN PERMISSION.
7. You may have insurance coverages such as Blue Cross, Blue Shield or Major Medical which require prompt attention. However, be sure to have your treatment providers send bills immediately to all of your insurance companies.
8. Notify your attorney promptly of any new developments. Small things may be important. Keep your attorney informed.
9. Maintain accurate records of all information and data pertaining to your case.
10. If you or any witnesses should move, be sure to notify your attorney of the new address.
Financial Recovery if injured while falling down
1. Kenneth Vercammen Helps Injured persons A person who is injured as a result of the negligence of another person is what we in the legal profession refer to as a personal injury claimant. In other words, they have been injured as a result of an accident, and now wish to prosecute a claim against a negligent property owner and its insurance company. As the attorney of record, I will be bringing this action for the injured person. Therefore, I request that all clients do as much as possible to cooperate and help in every way. The purpose of this article is to describe the procedure that we may follow and give you sufficient instructions to enable you to assist us in this undertaking. Needless to say, helping us is just another way of helping yourself.
2. Clients should provide my office with the following
1. Any bills
2. All Hospital or doctor records in your possession
3. Photos of scars, cuts, bruises
4. Photos of damage to your clothes and property
5. Photos of accident site
6. Major Med Card
7. Paystub if lost time from work
3. Attorney- Client Confidential Relationship First, I want to thank our clients for giving me the opportunity to assist them in their case. I am a legal professional and I have great pride and confidence in the legal services that I perform for clients during our relationship as attorney-client. If you have concerns about your case, please call my office. (732) 572-0500 We feel that this case is extremely important not only to you, but to this office as well. This is not simply a matter of obtaining just compensation for you, although that is very important; we take professional pride in guiding our clients carefully through difficult times to a satisfactory conclusion of their cases.
4. Submission of Bills to Major Medical Second
5. Diary We want you to keep a diary of your experiences since your accident. In addition to this daily record, we also ask you to start describing a single day in the course of your life. In other words, describe what you do when you get up in the morning, the first thing you do after you go to work, what type of work and effort you put into your employment, what activities you engage in after work, etc. In other words, we need you to describe the changes in your working life, your playing life, your life as a husband or wife or child or parent. In your written description of your day, we would appreciate your explanation in the greatest detail possible and in your own words how the accident and subsequent injuries have affected your life, your personality, and your outlook. Remember that suffering does not entail mere physical pain; suffering can be emotional and can be transmitted to your family, friends, and co-workers. Keep a diary of all matters concerning this accident-no matter how trivial you think it may be. You should include notes on the treatments you receive, therapy, casts, appliances, hospitalization, change of doctors, change of medication, symptoms, recurrence, setbacks, disabilities and inconveniences. If you have any doubt about the propriety of including some particular information, please call the office and let us assist you.
6. Record expenses You can also begin to set up a system for recording the expenses incurred in conjunction with your claim in minute detail. Medical and legal expenses are a strong part of the value of your lawsuit, so good records of these expenses must be kept at all times. From time to time, however, there will be expenses incurred that you must keep track of yourself. We ask you to make every effort to avoid any possible error or inaccuracy as jurors have a relentless reverence for the truth. Keep your canceled checks and your list of expenses together, for we will need them at a later date. Your attorney will keep track of your legal expenses, which may include costs of filing, service of complaint, investigation, reports, depositions, witness fees, hospital/ medical records, etc.
7. Investigation and Filing of Complaint Procedurally, the following events occur in most personal injury cases. First, your attorney must complete the investigation. This will involve the collection of information from your physician, your employer, and our investigator. We will need your doctors to provide us with copies of all bills, medical records and possibly a medical report. When we feel that we have sufficient information to form an opinion as to the financial extent of your damages, we will commence negotiations with the opposition for a settlement. If the insurance company will not make an adequate offer, then a Complaint and Case Information Statement is prepared by your attorney. It is filed in the Superior Court, Law Division. Your attorney then will prepare a summons and have the defendants personally served with the Summons and Complaint. The defendant, through their insurance company, must file an "Answer" within 35 days. Kenneth Vercammen's office generally does not file a Complaint until the treating doctor signs an affidavit of merit setting forth why the injury is permanent and the diagnostic tests upon which the permanent injury is based. You will need to speak with your doctor to ask if you have a permanent injury.
8. Interrogatory Questions and Discovery The Answer is followed by a request for written interrogatories. These are questions that must be answered by each party. The Superior Court has set up certain "Form A" Interrogatory Questions which are contained in the Rules of Court. Generally, written interrogatories are followed by the taking of depositions, which is recorded testimony given under oath by any person the opposition wishes to question. The deposition is just as important as the trial itself. In the event you are deposed during the course of this action, you will receive detailed instructions as to the procedure and will be required to watch a videotape. After taking depositions, the case will be set down for an Arbitration. If the parties do not settle after the Arbitration, the case will be given a trial call date. Altogether, these procedures may take from six months to several years, and your patience may be sorely tried during this time. However, it has been our experience that clients who are forewarned have a much higher tolerance level for the slowly turning wheels of justice.
9. Doctor/ Treatment It will help your case to tell us and your doctors about any injury or medical problems before or after your accident. Good cases can be lost by the injured person concealing or forgetting an earlier or later injury or medical problem. Insurance companies keep a record of any and all claims against any insurance company. The insurance company is sure to find out if you have ever made a previous claim. Tell your doctors all of your complaints. The doctor's records can only be as complete as what you have given. Keep track of all prescriptions and medicines taken and the bills. Also save all bottles or containers of medicine.
10. Bills Retain all bills which relate to your damages, including medical expenses, hospital expenses, drugs and medicines, therapy, appliances, and anything needed to assist in your recovery. If possible, pay these bills by check or money order, so that a complete record may be kept. If this is not possible, be certain to obtain a complete receipt with the bill heading on it, to indicate where the receipt came from and the party issuing it.
11. Evidence Be certain to keep anything that comes into your possession which might be used as evidence in your case, such as shoes, clothing, glasses, photographs, defective machinery, defective parts, foreign substances which may have been a factor in your accident, etc. Be sure to let the office know that you have these items in your possession.
12. Photographs Take photographs of all motor vehicles, accident site, etc., that may be connected--directly or indirectly--with your accident. Again, be sure to let the office know that you have such photographs.
13. Keep your attorney advised Keep this office advised at all times with respect to changes in address, important changes in medical treatment, termination of treatment, termination of employment, resumption of employment, or any other unusual change in your life.
14. Lost wages Keep a complete record of all lost wages. Obtain a statement from your company outlining the time you have lost, the rate of salary you are paid, the hours you work per week, your average weekly salary, and any losses suffered as a result of this accident. Where possible, also obtain other types of evidence such as ledger sheets, copies of time cards, canceled checks, check stubs, vouchers, pay slips, etc.
15. New information In the event that any new information concerning the evidence in this case comes to your attention, report this to the attorney immediately. This is particularly true in the case of witnesses who have heretofore been unavailable.
16. Do not discuss the case The insurance company may telephone you and record the conversation or send an adjuster (investigator) who may carry a concealed tape recorder. You should not discuss your case with anyone.
Obviously, we cannot stress too strongly that you DO NOT discuss this matter with anyone but your attorney or immediate, trusted family. You should sign no documents without the consent of this office. Remember that at all times you may be photographed and investigated by the opposition. If you follow the simple precautions which we have set out in your checklist, we feel that we will be able to obtain a fair and appropriate amount for your injuries. If you get any letters from anyone in connection with your case, mail or fax them to your attorney immediately.
17. Questioning If any person approaches you with respect to this accident without your attorney's permission, make complete notes regarding the incident. These notes should include the name and address of the party, a description of the person, and a narrative description of what was said or done. Under no circumstances should you answer any question(s). All questions should be referred to your attorney's office.
18. Investigation by Defendant Insurance Company Permit us to reiterate at this time that the opposition's insurance company will in all probability have a team of lawyers and investigators working diligently to counter your claim. During the course of their investigation, it is quite possible that they may attempt to contact you through various (and sometimes, devious) methods. Please do not make their jobs any easier for them by answering their questions.
We cannot emphasize too strongly that you should refrain at all times from discussing this matter with anyone--and that includes your employer, your relatives, your neighbors, and even your friends. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule.
If there are friends or neighbors or relatives who know all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident and can be of assistance to you, then they should be referred to this office so that their natural sympathy can be channeled into an effective asset for you.
Insurance companies pay money to claimants when they are satisfied there are both liability and damages that support a recovery. They can be expected to thoroughly investigate the facts of the accident and any past injuries or claims. The insurance company will obtain copies of all of the claimant's past medical records.
The value of a case depends on the Permanent Injury, medical treatment and doctor's reports Undoubtedly, you have questions as to how much your case is worth. We are going to be frank: The fact of the matter is there can be no answer to this question until we have completed the investigation in your case. Once we complete our investigation, of course, we can make a determination as to the amount of the defendant's liability, if any, and even at that we will only be at a starting point. After that, we must obtain all necessary information concerning your lost wages, your disability, your partial disability, your life changes, and your prognosis. You may rest assured of one thing, however, and that is the fact that your case will not be settled below its true value, that is the fair compensation for the injuries you have received. You may also rest assured that no settlement agreement will be entered into without your consent.
Conclusion We appreciate that this is a great deal of information to absorb. We also appreciate that our requests for client's assistance have been numerous. However, we are certain that our clients appreciate having this information from the outset. Each request and bit of information given here represents an important part in recovering full value for your injury. Therefore, we respectfully request your full cooperation. If you have questions or concerns regarding these instructions, we encourage you to feel free to contact the office at any time.