The Importance of Seeking Medical Treatment After a Slip and Fall Accident
A slip and fall accident can result in serious–and potentially fatal–injuries. That is why you should always seek medical attention following a fall, even if you think you feel well enough to get up and walk away. In many cases, the injuries produced by a fall accident are not immediately obvious, and any delay in seeking treatment can prove catastrophic.
Georgia Food Pantry Faces Wrongful Death Claim Over Fatal Slip and Fall
A recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, North Fulton Community Charities v. Goodstein, offers a sad cautionary tale in this regard. This case began when a father and his teenage daughter drove to a local food pantry (operated by the defendant in this case) to pick up food. The daughter later recalled that she and her father went to this food pantry on a “pretty regular basis.”
On the day in question, the father parked his car at the bottom of a driveway on a hill leading up to the food pantry. The father and daughter started walking to the pantry when the father realized he left his reading glasses in the car. He turned around and headed back downhill to his car when he tripped and fell on an “unmarked raised bump” that spanned the length of the driveway.
The father said he felt fine and proceeded into the food pantry. But a few minutes later, the pantry’s security director found the father in the bathroom bleeding heavily. The director took the father into an office and bandaged his head. The father declined an offer to call an ambulance and decided to return home instead.
A few hours later, the father’s wife found him unconscious on the floor of their bedroom. He was taken to the hospital, which confirmed he’d suffered a severe traumatic brain injury in the fall. The father spent the next two years in a nursing home before dying from his injuries.
The widow filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the food pantry. The lawsuit alleged the pantry was responsible for her husband’s fatal trip and fall because it failed to properly warn visitors about the unmarked raised bump on the driveway. A Superior Court judge denied the pantry’s motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling and said the widow’s case could proceed to trial.
The appellate court rejected two specific arguments raised by the pantry. The first was that since the father had visited the food pantry on several prior occasions–and presumably traversed the same driveway where he fell–he should be assumed to have had knowledge of the hazard caused by the raised bump. This is known in Georgia personal injury law as the “prior traversal” rule. But the Court of Appeals said there was insufficient evidence to rule in the pantry’s favor on summary judgment. Indeed, there was presently “no evidence that [the victim] traversed the bump previously.”
The pantry’s second claim was that it should be allowed to raise a “failure to mitigate” defense at trial. In a personal injury case, a defendant may argue that the plaintiff failed to obtain appropriate medical treatment and thus reduce the defendant’s liability for such damages. In this case, the Superior Court granted summary judgment to the widow, barring the pantry from raising the issue at trial.
The Court of Appeals again sided with the trial court. It explained that the father’s initial delay in seeking medical treatment was not a “failure to mitigate.” Specifically, expert testimony presented by both sides could not conclusively show that the father would have survived his injuries had he gone to the hospital right away.
Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today
If you are ever involved in a slip and fall accident, please do not hesitate in going to the emergency room or seeing your doctor as soon as possible. And if you have reason to believe your accident was the result of a property owner’s negligence, contact a qualified Fulton County personal injury lawyer who can assist you in seeking appropriate compensation. Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.