In was in November of 2012 when Cheri Thompson was out walking her dog when she tripped and fell, sustaining what she claims to have been serious injuries, including a foot fracture, lacerations to the left shoulder and forehead, and a concussion. Her injuries, she claims, were the result of a negligently maintained footpath that featured several uneven pavers, the large concrete sections of sidewalk that connect to form an entire footpath.
The Finger Pointing Begins
Soon after she filed a $100,000 claim for damages against Aliso Viejo, CA, the city which Thompson believed to have had control of the pavers and footpath, she received word that the claim would not be answered by the city – not because the city didn’t believe her claim, but because the city asserts that it is not responsible for the section of footpath which Thompson claims to have been walking over when she tripped and fell. In fact, the city states, the section where Thompson sustained her injuries is owned and maintained by either the Aliso Viejo Community Association or the Town Center Shopping Center, an adjacent property.
Better Have All Ducks in a Row
Before filing any kind of slip and fall or trip and fall type claim, it is always a good idea to ensure the right party is being sued. Just because an area, walkway, or footpath appears to be under city control, it may not always be the case, as Cheri Thompson from the story above learned the hard way.
According to the facts, the reason for the discrepancy and not knowing exactly who is responsible for the area of land where Thompson was injured is because, the Aliso Viejo City Council claimed, Thompson was vague as to the actual location where the injury occurred. This proves another important point that should be heeded before filing a personal injury claim – claimants should ensure that the exact location where their injuries occurred is accurately and precisely recorded.
Time is of the Essence
Not only is it inconvenient to learn that one has sued the wrong party in a trip and fall case, it can also have dire consequences on the ability of the victim to collect what he or she is entitled to under the law. Statutes of limitations prevent injury victims from bringing civil charges against potential defendants after a certain amount of time has passed, and the fact that charges have been brought against the wrong party doesn’t reset the clock. If a person ends up suing the wrong party and learning of the mistake after the statute of limitations has expired, the injury victim will be completely barred from bringing their charges against the party that was actually responsible.
Experienced Attorneys Prevent Mistakes
Before bringing civil charges against a person or entity, it is best for injury victims to have their claims heard and evaluated by a credentialed and experienced trip / slip and fall attorney. An attorney will be able to review the facts of a particular case to determine whether or not a valid claim exists and, if so, against whom damages should be sought. As described in the slip and fall complaint process (the same applies to tripping and falling), the first step is to identified correct parties involved.