Slip and fall accidents are extremely common, with most people suffering from an injury resulting from a slip or fall at some point in their lives. However, falls can be dangerous and result in severe injury, with slip and fall accidents accounting for 1 million emergency room visits each year in the United States. While these falls are often harmless, they can pose a particularly significant risk for seniors, as falls are the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims for people 55 and older.
Fortunately, if you are injured on someone else’s property and you believe that your accident was the result of another party’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. However, tort law and personal injury claims are extremely complex, and it can be difficult to determine if you have a case, who is to blame for your injuries, and how you can prove fault. To help you better understand this type of personal injury claim, here is an overview of what you need to know about slip and fall accidents.
What is a Slip and Fall Accident?
In personal injury law, slip and fall is a term used to refer to an accident in which an individual slips, or trips, and falls, injuring themselves. These accidents take place on another person’s property and are generally the result of the property owner’s negligence. Such accidents more broadly fall under a wider category of personal injury law known as premise liability. This is because these accidents occur on someone else’s property, and property owners have an obligation to keep their property safe and can be held legally responsible for accidents that occur if they do not do so.
While slip and fall is an umbrella term that is often used to describe any accident in which an individual is injured after falling on some else’s property, it is important to note that there are several types of falls that can be classified as slip and fall accidents including:
- Slip and fall: These accidents occur when a slippery, wet surface causes an individual to slip and fall. For instance, this can occur when a spill is not cleaned up properly.
- Trip and fall: Alternatively, trip and fall accidents occur when a person trips over an object or an uneven surface. These accidents are often caused by objects left in pathways or due to a raised crack in a sidewalk.
- Step and fall: The least common type of fall injury, step and fall injuries occur when a fall is the result of a hole or a low spot in a person’s path. A missing step in a staircase or a pothole are common causes for this type of accident.
If you are injured on someone else’s property, whether a slip and fall or trip and fall it is important that you know what type of fall accident took place should you attempt to file a personal injury claim.
What Are The Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
While we discussed previously a few common scenarios that can lead to a slip and fall injury, the fact is that there are countless ways in which a property owner’s negligence can lead to an accident. Additional common causes of slip and fall accidents include:
- Debris on the floor
- Exposed wiring
- Uneven stairs
- Poor lighting
- Cracked or raised pavement
- Uneven flooring
- Wet floors
- A lack of handrails
- Inadequate signage (such as those indicating wet or uneven surfaces)
- Worn carpet
There are various scenarios in which a property owner’s negligence can lead to a slip and fall injury. Thusly, if you have been injured on someone else’s property, it is important that you do not hesitate to contact an attorney if you are unsure whether you have a valid personal injury case. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you to determine if another party may be liable for your injuries.
Determining Slip and Fall Accident Liability
If you sustained a slip and fall injury on another person’s property and believe that another party’s negligence was to blame, the first thing that you will need to do is determine liability. In many cases, the property owner of the location where the accident occurred will be liable. However, in some cases, a third party may be responsible for your injuries such as an employee or the company responsible for maintaining the property.
In order for a property owner to be legally responsible for your injuries, you must be able to prove that one of the following is true:
- The property owner or an employee caused the spill, damage, or other dangerous condition that led to your fall.
- The property owner knew about dangerous conditions on their property and did nothing about it.
- The owner of the premises or an employee should have known of the hazard because a “reasonable” person maintaining the property would have noticed the hazard and remedied the situation.
However, it is important to note that not all slip and fall injuries are the result of another person’s negligence. The fact is that we all share a responsibility for our own safety and have a duty to watch where we are going. Unless you can prove that the conditions created by the property owner were unreasonably dangerous, you may be found at least partially responsible for your injuries depending on your state’s comparative negligence laws.
Comparative Negligence in Slip and Fall Cases
If you are unfamiliar with comparative negligence, this is the legal term that is used when trying to determine if a person who was injured in an accident may have been partially, or completely, at fault for their own injuries. Different states have different comparative negligence laws, and it may be that your settlement will be reduced if you are found to be partially at fault for the accident. For instance, in Florida, an injured person’s compensation is reduced by a percentage equal to the part of the accident that was their fault if they are found to be partially liable. This means that if you are found to be 40% responsible for your injuries, you would only receive 60% of your settlement.
Important Steps to Take Following a Slip and Fall Accident
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident and you believe that the property owner is to blame for your injuries, it is important that you take certain steps immediately in order to build your case. While it may seem obvious to you that the property owner was negligent and should be liable for your injuries, the fact is that the burden of proof lies on you to prove the other party was at fault. Taking these steps following your accident can help to ensure that you have clear evidence that negligence led to your accident.
Pictures of the scene of the accident can be your most valuable evidence when trying to prove liability for your injuries. If possible, take pictures to document the scene of the accident immediately following your accident. Make sure to take pictures of the conditions in the area where your fall took place, making sure to document any spills, objects, hazards, or property damage that may have contributed to your fall. If you are too injured to take pictures, try to get someone else to take them for you before the property owner has a chance to remove the hazards that caused your injuries.
Gather Witness Information
If anyone nearby saw your fall, make sure to get their name and contact information. As you build your case against the property owner or another liable party, witness testimony can prove pivotal to your claim by helping to corroborate your story.
File a Report, and Get a Copy
At most large stores and businesses, an accident report will be filed in accordance with company policy. Thusly, if your accident took place on commercial property, make sure to report the accident and request a copy of the accident report. You have a right to see this information, and it could prove useful as you continue to gather evidence for your case.
However, it is important to remember that you are not required to sign anything so say anything after the accident. In fact, it is best that you do and say as little as possible until you have had a chance to speak with a slip and fall attorney. Answer basic questions about the event, but do not claim any responsibility, and definitely do not sign anything, as they may be trying to get you to accept responsibility for your injuries.
Seek Medical Attention
One of the most important things that you can do after sustaining a slip and fall injury is to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Even if you do not think that you are too seriously injured, seeing a doctor is critical as you may have sustained injuries that are not immediately apparent. Additionally, seeing a doctor will provide you with records documenting the extent of your injuries, which could prove crucial as you continue to build your case.
Make Sure to Contact an Attorney
If you are considering filing a personal injury claim following your slip and fall accident, it is critical that you contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. The fact is that personal injury cases are complicated, and slip and fall cases can be particularly difficult to prove. Having an attorney by your side can be instrumental in ensuring that you have the best chances of being properly compensated for your injuries. Furthermore, an experienced attorney will support you during this difficult time, and they will guide you through the process of collecting evidence and proving the other party is liable for your injuries.
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a slip and fall accident, feel free to contact us to learn more about the importance of working with an attorney when filing a personal injury claim.