Can You Sue to Recover Compensation for a Slip and Fall Accident in a New York Parking Lot?

Driving is an integral part of American life. The United States has one of the highest vehicle rates per capita, with 267,894,860 cars registered in 2019. Of those cars, 11,389,158 were registered to New Yorkers. Given our country’s enormous volume of vehicles, it’s no surprise that parking lots cover more land than the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. 

Few New Yorkers give much thought to parking lots, let alone the hazards they may present to people who park their cars in them, or simply walk through them on their way to a store or somewhere else. But parking lots are the location of car and pedestrian accidents, as well as slip and falls. 

Parking Lot Hazards

Parking lots are vast expanses of asphalt or gravel which are often left exposed to the elements. Lots can also take the form of multi-story structures which introduce the danger of stairs. There are a number of hazardous conditions that can arise in parking lots, including:

  • Potholes
  • Ice 
  • Snow
  • Puddles of oil or water
  • Poor lighting
  • Inadequate signage
  • Lack of handrails
  • Damaged staircases
  • Trip hazards, such as rocks or debris

What Are the Most Common Parking Lot Injuries? 

If you’ve encountered one of the parking lot hazards listed above, you know that nearly any type of injury can result from slipping and falling. Some of the most common are: 

All of these injuries are serious and can radically change a victim’s life. If you’ve taken a painful spill in a New York parking lot, you may be in enormous pain, unable to work, and staring down hefty medical bills. You’re probably wondering, “How will I pay my expenses and get back to normal?”

One out of five falls causes a serious injury, such as broken bones or a head injury, according to the CDC

Options for Compensation

If you have had the misfortune of being the victim of a parking lot slip and fall accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Let’s explore each of them:

Insurance

One way to pursue compensation is to file a claim with the negligent party’s insurance company. Such a party could be the parking lot owner, a third-party contractor, or whoever had the foremost duty to keep lot users safe. 

Filing a claim entails contacting the party’s insurance company and submitting a form which states that you were injured on their property. After you submit that form, the company will assign you an insurance adjuster who will ‘investigate’ your case. Keep in mind that this adjuster is not entirely impartial. As an employee of the insurance company, he or she will be examining your case in a light most favorable to the company’s financial interests. In other words, the adjuster will be looking for ways to avoid blame or offer to pay you less than you deserve.

Many victims pursue this option because they believe they can do it on their own. If you are going up against a very small business, that might be the case. If you’re filing against a large corporation, however, you will certainly want an attorney regardless of whether you’re going to court. 

Lawsuit, Settlement, & Trial

The first step to reaching a settlement or trial is to initiate a lawsuit. If you choose this path, your lawyer will file a document called a ‘complaint.’ This basically asserts that you believe another party’s negligence led to your accident and requests that the court order that party to compensate you accordingly.

The other party can respond by taking you to court or offering to settle. If you and the party opt for a settlement, that means that they are agreeing to pay some amount of money in exchange for you dropping the legal claim against them. Many companies want to avoid the headache of a trial and will quickly opt for a settlement. Others may decide to dispute the claim and go to court only to offer a settlement further down the road. In our experience, settling is a common option for all parties concerned because it avoids the long, difficult journey of a trial.

Sometimes the negligent party won’t agree on a fair settlement and a trial will become the only option. If you go this route, your personal injury attorney will spend time collecting evidence in a process called ‘discovery,’ and eventually you and the other party will go to court. A jury will hear your case and ultimately render a verdict. 

In the state of New York, which operates under a ‘pure comparative fault’ rule, more than one party could be found negligent. You could even be found partially at fault for your accident and still win some amount of compensation. For instance, if you were initially awarded $100,000 and were found to be 20% at fault, you would lose 20% of that award but still get $80,000. 

Proving Negligence After a Slip and Fall in a Parking Lot

All of the compensation options – insurance claim, settlement, or trial – will require you to prove the other party was ‘negligent.’ Negligence essentially means ‘carelessness.’ 

Legally speaking, negligence is violating the ‘duty of care.’ All citizens carry certain duties of care. Parents have a duty to care for their children. Drivers have a duty to exercise care on the road. Property owners have a duty to maintain a safe environment. 

If a property owner breaches this duty, they enter an area of the law called ‘premises liability.’ Premises liability concerns property owners and their duty to maintain safe premises. The New York State law is that, “Owners and lessees are under a duty to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition in view of the existing circumstances, including the likelihood of injury to others, the seriousness of the injury, and the burden of avoiding the risk.”

In order to prove that a property owner (or whoever is deemed responsible for the premises) was negligent, you must establish three things: 

1. The Existence of A Duty of Care

This part is pretty straightforward. You need to show the court that the person you are suing either owned the lot, was contracted to care for it, or was in some way responsible for your safety while you were in that lot.

2. Failure to Meet Their Duty

This is where it gets more complicated. A liable party could have failed to meet their duty for a variety of reasons. The court considers a property owner liable if the defendant can establish “that a defective condition existed and that the landowner affirmatively created the condition or had actual or constructive notice of its existence.”

What is “actual or constructive notice”? Actual notice means someone literally told the property owner that there was a hazard on the premises. Constructive notice means that the condition was so apparent that the property owner should have known about it, even if they weren’t told about it directly. 

Of course, the property owner could have failed to meet their duty by ‘affirmatively creating’ an unsafe condition. If they, for instance, started construction in the lot and failed to post any barricade or warning sign, they would certainly be liable for any resulting injuries. 

3. The Property Owner’s Negligence Caused the Injury

It isn’t enough to prove that the property owner was negligent. You will have to show that their negligence caused your injuries, specifically. This sounds simple enough but property owners will often try to claim that your injuries weren’t actually sustained on their property. 

Your personal injury attorney can use video footage, photographs, medical reports, incident reports, and eyewitness accounts to refute these claims and prove that the lot owner was responsible for your injuries.

Who Is Liable for My Accident?

Now that you know how to pursue an insurance claim or file a lawsuit, you’re probably wondering who to take action against. The answer depends on what type of property you were on. 

Commercial Property

Commercial property is any building or land intended for generating profit, such as a store. There are several different parties who could be responsible for maintaining the parking lot of a commercial property. The burden might lie with the owner of the grocery store if the store owns the property. Other times, the store is simply leased by an owner whose job it is to maintain the lot. Sometimes an entirely different party will be contracted to maintain the property. Such is the case in which a property owner hires a contractor to handle snow removal. Determining responsibility is very difficult in premises liability cases, which is why it’s essential to hire a skilled personal injury attorney. 

In one New York case, a woman fell in a shopping center parking lot. She attempted to sue both the store itself and the owner of the shopping center. The court ruled that since the store did not ‘possess nor control’ the property, it was under no obligation to maintain its premises and she lost her entire case, wasting her time and money. (Note: Judgement regarding the building owner is unknown, as it was not appealed.) That is why it is essential to hire a personal injury attorney who knows not just how to sue but who to sue. 

Public Property 

Any property owned by the government is considered public. When it comes to premises liability, suing a public entity is trickier than suing a business owner. That is because most municipalities have a ‘written notice’ rule, which means that they must have received written notice of a hazard in order to be held liable for it. A private property owner, on the other hand, would be expected to perform routine inspections and discover the defective condition himself (‘constructive notice.’)

One exception to the ‘written notice rule’ is when the public property created the unsafe condition itself. An example is one case in which a woman fell in an icy public parking lot. The public owner of the lot (the town of Mount Kisco, New York) had failed to maintain it on weekends, when the victim was scheduled to work. She suffered a concussion, fractured sacrum, and several herniated discs. She sued the town, which attempted to have the case thrown out because of the written notice rule. However, the court ruled that the case did deserve a trial because the municipality played an active role in creating the accident. 

Will You Need an Attorney?

Whatever your path to compensation, to get the money you deserve, you will need the assistance of a qualified personal injury attorney. Parking lot slip and fall cases are winnable, but can be difficult to navigate. Each option has unique challenges. Fortunately attorneys are versatile, allowing them to skillfully fulfill whatever role your claim may require of them. They figure out who’s responsible for your injuries, help pursue a claim, and negotiate a fair settlement amount. For more on why you should hire an attorney, see our article here.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the time limit / statute of limitations to sue after falling in a parking lot? 

The time limit to sue after falling in a public parking lot is three years. But if you fall in a public lot, you must give notice of your action within just 90 days. These limits are referred to as statutes of limitation. 

What happens if I fall in a parking lot while working? 

If you fell in a parking lot while working, you will likely be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. You will have to prove that the injury took place while you were performing a task within the ‘scope of your employment’ (doing something you were assigned to do). Depending on the circumstances, you may also be able to file a lawsuit against whoever was responsible for maintaining the safety of the parking lot, so long as it’s not your employer.

Can I sue if my family member was killed in a parking lot slip and fall accident?

Perhaps. When someone is killed in an accident, surviving family members can be compensated in what is known as a wrongful death lawsuit. In a wrongful death lawsuit, the deceased person’s estate sues whoever is to blame for the accident. If the accused person or entity is found to be at-fault, they are ordered to compensate the estate. This money is then distributed among the eligible beneficiaries as defined by New York’s wrongful death laws. If you were financially dependent on your deceased family member when they died or are entitled to any inheritance from them, you may be eligible for compensation. The rules are exceedingly complicated, so you should discuss your exact circumstances with an attorney.


Who Should You Contact?

If you or a loved one slipped and fell in a New York parking lot and are facing medical bills, missed days at work, and other damages, contact Rosenblum Law. Our attorneys have decades of experience handling personal injury claims.  We have a record of winning substantial financial awards for slip and fall victims and their families. Contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation by emailing or calling 888-883-5529 today. 

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Customer fallen over after slipping on a spilled cup of coffee on a store floor.
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