Slip and Fall Cases: “Little” Accidents With Potentially Serious Consequences

Slip and Fall Cases

A slip-and-fall injury is one you sustain as a result of slipping, tripping or falling while on someone else’s property. These types of accidents are very common. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over 1 million Americans suffer a slip-and-fall injury each year. Of these, 20%-30% receive moderate to severe injuries and 17,000 people die from their injuries. Read more about different types of slip and fall cases, and what it will take to win yours. 

Types of Slips and Falls

You can suffer a slip-and-fall injury virtually anywhere at any time, from a just-mopped grocery store floor to an icy parking lot. Other common slips and falls include the following:

  • Tripping over an electrical extension cord that someone allowed to snake across the floor of your workplace.
  • You fall down a flight of stairs because someone negligently left a toy or other small object on one of the treads.
  • Catching the toe of your shoe on a piece of loose carpeting.
  • Falling in your hotel room’s shower because the tub had no safety strips on its bottom.
  • Your parent falls at his or her nursing home because no one gave him or her the mobility assistance he or she needs when going to the bathroom.
  • You fall out of your hospital bed because no one put up the guardrails.
  • Tripping over a crack or other defect in the sidewalk in front of a business.
  • You fall off the edge of an outdoor dance stage because you couldn’t see it in the dim lighting.

Where Slips and Falls Commonly Occur

Some of the most common places where slips and falls occur are the following:

  • Retail stores and shopping malls
  • In and around swimming pools
  • Stadiums and arenas
  • Parks
  • Business offices
  • Construction sites
  • Nursing homes
  • Sidewalks and parking lots, especially in the winter when snow and ice accumulations hide uneven surfaces, potholes, etc.

Comparative Negligence

When you sustain a slip-and-fall injury, your first thought, after obtaining the necessary medical care, may be to sue the owner of the property where your injury occurred. Slip-and-fall lawsuits are a subset of personal injury cases based on negligence. In other words, someone’s negligence, in this case the property owner’s, caused your accident and therefore your injuries.

However, while it’s true that property owners have a duty to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition, they’re not liable for the public’s safety at all times and in all situations. Most states have a comparative negligence rule. If you live in one of these states, your own actions at the time of your accident may limit the amount of damages you can collect from the property owner. Consequently, before filing a lawsuit, ask yourself these questions:

  • Were you on the property legitimately? If you were trespassing, you may not be able to recover damages at all.
  • Were you distracted at the time of your accident? If you were, for example, texting on your cell phone and consequently not paying attention to where you were walking or what hazards were in your path, your own negligence contributed to your slip, trip or fall.
  • Did you ignore a barrier or other warning that the property owner had placed near or around the hazard and simply keep walking to get where you wanted to go? In other words, did you assume your own risk?
  • Would a reasonable person have noticed and avoided the hazard that caused you to slip, trip or fall? In other words, were you yourself acting unreasonably?

In a comparative negligence state, the court will reduce the monetary award the jury gives you by the percentage of negligence it finds you responsible for. For example, if the jury decides to award you $100,000 but also determines that you were 42% responsible for your own slip, trip or fall, it will reduce your award by $42,000, leaving you with a revised damage amount of $58,000.

Proving Your Case

As in any lawsuit based on negligence, you must prove the following in slip and fall cases:

  • That the defendant, i.e., the property owner or manager, owed you a duty of care
  • That he or she breached this duty
  • That you suffered injury and consequent damages because of this breach
  • That the defendant’s breach was the proximate, i.e., main or only, cause of your injury and therefore your damages

Specifically, to win your slip-and-fall case you must prove at least one of the following:

  • That the defendant, i.e., the property owner or manager, created the hazard or dangerous condition that caused your slip, trip or fall.
  • The defendant knew about the hazard or dangerous condition and failed to take action to fix or correct it. Or attempted to fix the dangerous condition but failed to sufficiently alleviate it.
  • The hazard or dangerous condition had existed long enough that the defendant should have known about it and fixed it or warned against it.
  • It was reasonably foreseeable that the hazard or dangerous condition would pose a danger to legitimate visitors to the property.

Why You Need an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

Determining exactly who to sue and then proving causation and therefore liability in a slip-and-fall case can be a tricky proposition. This is why you need the advice, counsel and representation of a personal injury attorney experienced in slip-and-fall cases. He or she can help you sort through the possible defendants and decide which one(s) to sue. He or she can also help you gather the evidence. Like photographs of the scene, which are necessary to prove that the hazard or dangerous condition actually existed. Finally, he or she can help you determine the amount of damages you will ask for based on the severity of your injury, any lingering consequences you suffer from it, your medical and other bills to date and the amount of time you had to take off work to recover.

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