Making the Right Decisions When It Comes to Your Slip and Fall Claim
Every day, 25,000 people suffer a "slip
and fall" injury. Over a half million "slip and fall" injuries
a year require hospital care. On average, 55 people a day, die from a "slip
and fall" event. (North American statistics).
A winning "slip and fall" claim has four elements:
(1) A fall resulting in significant injuries;
(2) A dangerous condition that caused the fall;
(3) A responsible party that has substantial assets or insurance; and
(4) Economic reality.
A personal injury claim is the pursuit of a money recovery to compensate for injuries and losses that were suffered. The more serious the injury, the more money it will take to compensate the injured person. The more medical bills that were incurred and the more wages that were lost, the more it will take to compensate the injured person. The more serious the injuries and losses the more valuable the claim is.
In order to hold someone responsible for your "slip and fall" losses, there must have been a "dangerous condition" that caused your fall. The dangerous condition must be specifically identified. A reasonable person seeing the condition must judge it to be unreasonably dangerous. The condition cannot be so obvious that a reasonable person would have appreciated the condition and avoided it.
In order to collect damages for your "slip and fall" injury the responsible party will need to have the ability to pay a judgment. This usually means they have "premises liability" insurance or they have assets so substantial that they can pay the judgment themselves (like a major grocery store chain). A homeless person who creates a dangerous condition on the sidewalk that causes you a serious "slip and fall" injury is not going to compensate you for the losses you have sustained.
A personal injury claim is the pursuit of compensation for losses suffered. The value of the losses must be substantially greater than value of the time, money and emotion that will be spent in the pursuit of the compensation. Most business establishments and insurance companies fight "slip and fall" cases vigorously. They have been known to spend more to defeat a claim than they could settle it for.
California juries are generally skeptical of "slip and fall" claims. Unless the jury believes the conditions that caused the fall are truly dangerous, they aren't likely to rule in a claimant's favor. And if they do, they rarely award significant amounts unless they really believe the claimant deserves it and the defendant deserves to have to pay it.
You can expect $25,000 in costs and hundreds of hours of law firm time to take a "slip and fall" case to trial, at a minimum. It takes one to five years from filing a lawsuit to get to trial, depending upon the county where the case is filed.
For our law firm to take on a "slip and fall" case, the value of the case must exceed $100,000. There are law firms that will take smaller cases hoping to settle them without significant work or expenses. Most law firms cannot afford to take a small case to trial.
An injured person can represent himself or herself in a claim in an attempt to reach a settlement with the responsible party. They also have the option of taking their case to small claims court. Small claims court is quick and relatively easy. There are plenty of websites that will assist you in processing your small claims case.
What is A "Slip and Fall" Injury?
A "slip and fall" injury is one that is caused when a person falls down, slips, or trips due to the unsafe condition of the property owned or controlled by another individual or business. It may include a fall caused by water, ice, snow, or a foreign object. Other times, falls may be caused by slippery or uneven sidewalks or pavement. No matter what the cause of the fall, the fall must have been caused by the negligence of another in order to have a claim for which the property owner or possessor will be responsible for the damages caused by your injury from the fall.
Slip and fall is a broad category that is used to describe one of four kinds
of fall down accidents:
(1) Trip and fall, occurs when a foreign object is in the pathway
(2) Stump and fall, occurs when an impediment is on the walking surface, such as an unexpected bump
(3) Step and fall, occurs when an unexpected hole, such as an uncovered manhole, is in the walkway
(4) Slip and fall, occurs when the surface of the floor causes you to slip
A slip and fall injury is when any of the four types of situations above occurs. Some common causes of slip and fall accidents are as follows:
" Slippery or uneven sidewalks, cobblestones, or pavement
" Steeply sloping driveways
" Slippery floor surfaces or floor coverings
" Oil, grease, water, liquids, or food on the floor
" Uneven stairs or inadequate stair rails
" Mats or rugs which become unanchored or loose
" Rain, snow, or ice
" Blocked store aisles
" Bridge construction hazards, including falling debris
" Unsafe balconies or railings
" Poor lighting
If you have been injured because of one of the hazards listed above you may have a slip and fall case.
Slip and Fall Facts:
" Approximately 25,000 people a day are victims to slip and fall accidents.
" The average cost of a slip related injury exceeds $12,000.
" The average cost to defend a slip and fall lawsuit is $50,000.
" 65% of all lost workdays are due to slip and fall accidents, this results in 95 million lost workdays per year.
" The food service industry's leading cause of employee injury is slipping and falling.
" The average restaurant has 3-9 slip and fall accidents each year.
" Slips and falls are the #1 cause of accidents in hotels, restaurants, & public buildings, 70% of these accidents occur on flat / level surfaces.
" Our Nation's $494 Billion grocery store industry spends $450 million annually to defend slip and fall claims.
" Slip and falls account for over 20,000 fatalities per year in North America; 55 persons per day.
" Slip and falls are the second leading cause of accidental death and disability after automobile accidents.
" Over 540,000 slip-fall injuries, requiring hospital care, occur in North America each year.
" Slip-falls account for over 300,000 disabling injuries per year in North America.
" Slip-falls kill more workers than all other combined forms of workplace accidents.
Slip and Fall Case Facts:
1. Slip and fall injuries can occur in businesses, on public property, or in
private homes: Most slip and falls occur in stores or public areas, but if you
do slip and fall in someone's house and the owner has created an unsafe condition
or allowed the continued threat of a known unsafe condition, he could be liable
for your injuries.
2. The standard for deciding whether the responsible person has breached his duty of due care for you differs depending on where you are: the duty that is owed to you varies depending on whether you are in a store, in someone's home, or you are trespassing on someone's property. The more foreseeable and invited your presence, the more active the property owner must be to keep you safe from a known or knowable dangerous condition of his property.
3. A personal injury attorney can help you bring a civil case: your personal injury attorney will help you gather the proper evidence to help you carry your heavy burden of proving liability and establishing the damages you are able to recover for your injuries, and will present your case to an insurance claims adjuster, the court, or a jury to generate compensation for your injuries.
4. It is your burden to prove negligence: If you fall or hurt yourself, the other party is liable only if you can prove that his actions were a breach of a legal duty of due care owed to you that resulted in your fall. As the plaintiff, it is your burden to prove this.
5. You will have to prove damages: You have to have suffered some type of harm that you can be compensated for.
6. Your recovery can be reduced if you contributed to your injury: In most states you can still recover damages if you were partially responsible for your injuries. Your damages will simply be reduced by the percentage of responsibility attributed to your actions.
7. Your damages will be based on the extent of your actual damages: The more severe your damages, the more money you can expect in compensation.
8. Emotional distress damages may also be possible in most cases if you have suffered physical injury: If you experienced stress or fear as a result of your slip or fall, this might be compensable as well.
9. Most slip and fall cases settle out our court: Most of the time you will not have to go to court and the defendant will offer you a lump sum payment to resolve the case.
How You Can Win Your Slip and Fall Case:
To bring your slip and fall personal injury case to a profitable end, you need to show that the property owner or tenant was negligent, meaning that some action he took or failed to take caused the fall. In order to prove that a property owner was negligent in the maintenance of his/her property you must show:
1. That he owned/leased/occupied/controlled the property;
2. That he was negligent in the use or maintenance of the property;
3. That you were harmed; and
4. That his negligent construction, repair, or maintenance of the property was the cause of your harm.
The general rule for a property owner is that he is responsible not only for his willful acts, but also for his lack of ordinary care or skill in the management of his property. The exception to this is if you have brought the injury upon yourself by your own actions or lack of ordinary care. More specifically, a person who owns, leases, occupies, or controls a property must use reasonable care to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition. He must use reasonable care to discover any unsafe conditions and to repair, replace, or give adequate warning of anything that could be expected to harm others. There are a number of factors that the court uses in order to determine if the owner used reasonable care. Among others, the court uses the following:
(1) The location of the property
(2) The likelihood that someone would come onto the property in the same manner as you did;
(3) The likelihood of harm;
(4) The probable seriousness of such harm;
(5) Whether the owner knew or should have known of the condition that created the risk of harm;
(6) The difficulty of protecting against the risk of such harm; and
(7) The extent of the owner's control over the condition that created the risk of harm.
The court may also use any other factor that it considers relevant. The main question the court will ask is if in the management of his/her property, the owner of land acted as a reasonable person would under all the circumstances. To determine if the owner acted as a reasonable person you need to ask what a normal, ordinary, prudent owner of land would do under the circumstances.
An owner must make reasonable inspections of the property to discover dangerous conditions. The court will need to decide if the condition that created your harm was the type and existed long enough so that it would have been discovered by an owner using reasonable care. If an inspection was not made within a reasonable time before the accident, this may show that the condition existed long enough so that a store owner using reasonable care would have discovered it.
An owner of land does not insure everyone's safety, but they must use reasonable care to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition and must give warning of any hidden or concealed hazards that could cause harm. If the court determines that the hazardous condition which caused you harm was so obvious that a person should reasonably be expected to observe it, then the owner does not have to warn about the dangerous condition.
What You Will Need to Prove to Win:
In order for you to prevail on your slip and fall case one of the most important things you will have to prove is that the owner of the property where you fell either created, had prior knowledge of, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have gained knowledge of the hazardous condition and the negligence of the store. These are often the most difficult things to prove as well. This is due to the fact that the evidence that you need to prove these elements will often be in control of the store and will be more accessible to them.
What you want to show is that the store either had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition (they were told of the condition), that they had constructive knowledge (evidence that the store should have discovered the condition through reasonable care) or they created the dangerous condition. To establish constructive knowledge you want to show that the condition existed for a long enough time period where the owner or his/her employee should have known about if he/she had been acting in a reasonable manner (such as conducting timely inspections of the store).
What the Owner of the Store Will Say About Your Claim:
When the owner of the store or the owner of the land finds out about your claim
against him/her they will defend against your claim. Most likely they will assert
one of the following defenses in order to avoid or lessen their liability.
1. The condition at the time and place of your fall was not unreasonable dangerous. He might say, "There was nothing dangerous or there was not a defective condition on the premises."
2. The store had no prior knowledge of the hazardous condition that allegedly caused your injuries (or the store only had a one minute notice of the condition before you fell). They will say, "Even if there was a dangerous or defective condition, we didn't have time to take action to remedy the situation."
3. The store exercised reasonable care to protect you from injury (such as inspecting store every 20 minutes). They will say, "We just did a safety check of that area and didn't see any dangerous or defective conditions."
4. Your injuries were not a result of the slip and fall that you had in the store. They will say, "The fall didn't cause any new injuries nor aggravate any preexisting conditions."
5. Your own negligence was a contributing factor to the injuries. Basically, you have some fault as well in the slip and fall. You should have been more careful. They will say, "The injured party was careless or negligent in failing to observe the dangerous or defective condition (such as loose carpet, clear liquids on floor, rotting wood, etc.)
Tips to Follow After Your Slip and Fall
After you suffer a slip or a fall time is of the essence. Your case might be won or lost depending on how quickly you gather information that can establish proof that the owner violated their duty to keep you safe. The following are important actions you will want to take immediately after your slip or fall.
1. If there were witnesses to your slip or fall, get their names and addresses.
This includes the name and addresses of store employees that saw the slip or
2. Have the store or property owner make a report of the incident and get a copy of the report.
3. If possible, take photographs of the area where you fell, as near in time to the accident that you can. If you have a cell phone with you, take photographs immediately of the area and the substance that you slipped on. If you are in too much pain to take a photo, ask a witness or anyone at the scene to take the photos for you. Make sure to try to document in the picture the date and time of the picture, use an automatic time and date stamp if that feature is included with your camera.
4. Contact the property owner and get contact information for his insurance company claims department, the policy number and the name of the insured person or company.
5. When you contact the insurer, ask specifically about no-fault medical payments assistance, which can get your bills paid initially. Accepting medical payments will not jeopardize your claim. (Insurance representatives of the property owner are trained to be extremely nice and pleasant. Don't put too much stock in their kindness to you. Their mission is to save as much money as they can for their company by not paying you as much or anything for your claim. It is also their mission to gather as much information that they can use against you in your claim. If you say too much to the adjuster, it could jeopardize your claim. Be extremely cautious about giving the insurance representative an interview or recorded statement about your accident without first consulting an experienced slip and fall attorney.
6. Seek immediate medical help for your slip and fall injuries. In the case of a severe injury have an ambulance summoned to transport you to the hospital. It is often the case that severe injuries resulting from a slip or fall do not manifest themselves for days or weeks. This makes it all the more important to be examined promptly by a medical provider.
7. Request that the property owner keep, as evidence, any video recording of your fall. Best to confirm this request in writing.
What Damages Can I Recover From My Slip and Fall Injury?
If you can prove that your slip and fall was due to the negligence of the property
owner or his/her employee then you would be able to recover damages for:
" Pain and Suffering
" The reasonable value of Medical bills that you have incurred to treat you for the consequences of the injury caused by your fall
" Future medical care;
" Lost wages for the time you were unable to work because of your injury
" Any reduction in future earning capacity because of your injury
" Punitive damages ONLY IF it can be proven that the owner created the dangerous condition on purpose of if you can show that the owner had reckless disregard for safety (he/she egregiously ignored a known safety hazard that caused your fall).
Always Document Your Claim:
With any personal injury claim it is always important to get whatever medical care you need.
As you get your needed care, document everything through billing statements, pain diaries, and even medical records. Medical records can be obtained by contacting your physician or the hospital where you were seen. Oftentimes you can simply call the hospital or Doctor's office and ask for their medical records department. They will be able to assist you in getting all records pertaining to your injury.
It is also extremely important to document your loss of earnings and any out of pocket expenses you may have incurred. If you have missed work due to doctor's appointments, because you are in too much pain, if your ability to perform your usual duties is impaired and you cannot work or must perform modified duties, or if you have been laid off due to your injuries, keep track of the total dollar amount in earnings you have lost. These are damages you may be able to recover!
Get A Consultation
If you have a serious injury, you want to hire the best personal injury attorney you can. If your injuries are not serious and you want to handle your claim on your own, it is still a good idea to discuss your claim with a personal injury attorney. The best personal injury attorneys provide free consultations. Ask about tactics, pitfalls and the value of your claim.