A slip and fall accident can be very painful to the victim and quite costly in medical bills. Slip and fall is a common personal injury term that is used when someone trips or slips and is injured on another person’s property. Many times these types of injuries fall under the umbrella category known as “Premises Liability.”
Slips and falls can happen just about anywhere and most of us, at one time or another, will experience that accident without it even being our own fault. If the slip and fall is not your fault and it happened on someone else’s property due to owner negligence then you may be entitled to be compensated for your suffering and pain, time missed at work and your medical debts.
When it does happen it’s important to know what to do immediately after the incident occurs. Taking the right steps after a slip and fall accident can help you build a solid legal case that will be well documented. If you are injured in a slip and fall accident you should:
- See a Doctor. This, of course, is not only documenting your injuries with a highly skilled medical professional, but it is imperative that your injuries are properly diagnosed for your own physical well-being. Your health should be the number one thing you think of after an accident.
- Report the Slip and Fall. It doesn’t matter where it happened, whether it was on the sidewalk, in a store, on someone’s property, someone’s house or on the job, a slip and fall and any other kind of accident should ALWAYS be reported to the owner, manager, landlord or whoever is in charge. Before you leave the premises to go to the doctor you should ask the owner, manager, landlord or the person in charge to make out a written report of the incident and make you a copy. It is also important to have any witnesses make statements to be put in the same report along with recording their names, addresses and phone numbers and email addresses.
- Everything Must Be Documented! If you can, take pictures of the specific accident area. If you slipped on stairs, take a picture of the staircase and also of the particular step or steps you slipped on. Same with a wet or slippery floor or whatever you slipped on. If you don’t have a phone or camera handy then ask someone who is present to take a picture and to email it to you. So many people now have phones with excellent camera capabilities it will be easy to get a photo taken and emailing it is a simple procedure. As we mentioned earlier, get the names and all pertinent contact information from ALL witnesses. Have them write down what they saw and then you write down what you remember happened. It is important to also write down the EXACT time and date of the accident.
- Don’t talk to Everybody. This is the time to be careful and thoughtful about who you talk regarding the accident. You should only talk to the owner, manager, landlord or the person in charge NOT talk to the insurance company representative until after you see a lawyer. Also, it is imperative that you post NOTHING about the incident on social media because it may come back to haunt you. In other words, if you mean one thing but say it in a way that can be construed in another way, you may lose any chance of winning your case in court. Never take the blame or responsibility or put on to someone else. That conversation should only be between you and your lawyer.
- Seek Out an Attorney. Your attorney can be your best friend and ally during the process of proving your case. You should seek out an experienced Slip and Fall attorney who will fight for you and get you the money you deserve. Since many Slip and Fall cases can be complex, they can also be hard to prove. A good, experienced slip and Fall attorney understands the intricacies of maneuvering through all the confusing legal paperwork and filing all claims before deadlines fall.
Did you know that to win a Slip and Fall case you must prove that the property owner is liable?
The words Liable and Liability mean that the person is ‘legally responsible.’ It’s a very simple definition but it takes a great deal of effort to prove that someone is legally responsible for you Slipping and Falling and injuring yourself on their property. That’s why the five points mentioned above are so important in order to maintain your case in a winning position from the earliest possible moment.
Whether you are pursuing a personal injury lawsuit or trying to get an insurance settlement, your records including medical records and on-site statements will help you win your case. If you’ve documented everything about the accident the other side will still try to prove that they had no legal responsibility regarding your injuries. They will usually try to prove the opposite, that the accident was caused by your own carelessness or that you were in a place where you shouldn’t have been.
To show that another person was responsible for your injuries in a Slip and Fall accident you must prove that the owner or their employee could have prevented the accident by first recognizing the hazardous condition that existed before the accident and not repairing it or removing it. Then the questions arise whether a REASONABLE person would have recognized the situation as dangerous and whether the owner and/or their employee had enough time and warning to remedy it before an accident could happen.
The other question is whether the owner or their employee caused the hazardous situation that led to the Slip and Fall. For example, leaving an obstacle or a slippery substance in the pathway and not resolving the hazardous situation even though a reasonable person could see that an accident would occur if nothing was changed.
Reasonable is used quite a lot in Slip and Fall cases because in order for a property owner to be liable for the victim’s damages, he must first be held “negligent.” That simply means that the owner or their employee did not act as a reasonable person should have acted in the same situation that led up to the Slip and Fall. To figure out if the owner or their employee acted reasonably, the following questions should be answered:
• Did the owner or their employee have enough time to remedy the dangerous situation once it was recognized? Or did they see it and do nothing about it? Could they have set up warning signs or block the area off to traffic, but instead they did nothing?
• Was a regularly scheduled inspection for hazardous situations in place and was there a record or log showing such inspections along with times and dates? Many retail stores, office buildings and other places of employment, in order to preserve their employees’ safety and reduce accidents, maintain regular safety and cleanliness inspections throughout each day. The inspectors sign off on a log sheet at each area they inspect.
• Was there a reasonable excuse for the existence of the hazardous situation? In other words, did something spill on the floor immediately before the slip and fall accident? There might not have been enough time between the actual spill and the slip and fall for the owner or an employee to observe it and then remedy the situation.
• Was limited visibility the cause of the accident? That is, poor lighting, etc. Poor lighting is a fixable hazard.
• Could preventive measures have been taken such as moving the obstacle or hazard or installing appropriate warning signs or blocking access to the area altogether?
Once these questions are answered you may feel as though your case is already won. However, the other side rarely gives up so easily and they will still try to put all or part of the responsibility on your shoulders. That argument is called ‘Comparative Fault’ and ‘Comparative Negligence,’ which can affect whatever compensation you had hoped for. If you are found to be even partially to blame for your accident and injuries, then you could lose all or just a percentage of potential compensation.
The next questions then would be focused on you in order for the defendants, the property owner, their employee and the insurance company to find out if you had any legal responsibility or blame for your accident and injuries.
• Were you doing anything that could have prevented you from seeing the hazard before you slipped and fell? That is, were you on your phone or were you texting and not paying attention to your surroundings when a reasonable person would definitely have observed the hazard? We are definitely entrenched in the smartphone era and many of us can’t live without our phones. However, If you are not paying attention to your surroundings and you trip or slip and Fall while you are distracted, then you may be held liable for your accident and your injuries. Pay attention to what you’re doing at all times.
• Were you allowed to be in the area at the time you slipped and fell? The area where the Slip and Fall occurred may have been a restricted area and you may have needed permission to pass through it. If you did pass through a restricted area did you see signs warning you that you were not allowed to be there? Did the owner, supervisor or employee communicate to you that the area was off limits? If you knew you were not allowed in the area – how did you know? Also, if you did not know the area was restricted – why didn’t you know?
• Were there any warning signs posted that could be seen by a reasonable person? Were there safety measures that could have been utilized but were not? Safety measures could have been as simple as yellow tape closing off the hazardous site or a simple sign letting people know that there was danger ahead.
Remember: if the property owner, their employee and their insurance company can show that you were careless, negligent and/or the cause of your accident and injuries, then your case is lost. That’s why it’s extremely important to talk with an experienced personal injury lawyer. He will cut through all the obstacles for you and help bring your case to the winner’s circle.
Slip and Fall accidents can lead to long-lasting, even permanent injuries and death. OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) states that slips, trips and falls cause about 15% of all accidental deaths in our country. Fifteen percent may not seem like a high number but it is when you consider that accidental Slip and Fall deaths are second only to deaths caused by car accidents.
Slip and Fall Causes
Some of the most common causes of Slip and Fall accidents are (in no particular order):
• Electrical cords or others like them running across a walking path. We’ve all seen this and hopefully, most of us have let the person in charge know that it was a safety hazard or just fixed the problem ourselves.
• Rubble on the floor. Tripping on some unexpected object that shouldn’t have been in the middle of the walkway is a common way for people to fall. It could be something substantial or something even be as simple as a piece of paper or something even smaller than we see at the last moment and try to avoid and then it’s too late – we have fallen.
• Uneven walking surfaces. These are tricky and unexpected and that’s why people slip and fall when the surface of the walkway changes. It catches us by surprise and we just weren’t ready for it.
• Potholes in parking areas. Who hasn’t blindly walked into this common trap? Well, hopefully, not too many of us because some people who have been surprised as one foot seems to fall through the hole toward China have sustained severe injuries. Many of these victims’ backs have become permanently painful because of the abrupt and startling shock to their body as they hit the ground. Keep your eyes open as you walk from your car to your destination.
• Freshly waxed or mopped surfaces. We generally see the portable warning signs in retail stores alerting customers to a freshly mopped floor. Those signs have most likely prevented thousands of accidents. It’s the stores that don’t insist on their employees putting up signs that are the ones who many times are liable for customer or employee slip and fall accidents and injuries.
• Grease or liquids on floors. Grease and liquids on floors can be caused by something falling off of a shelf or someone dropping a container that spills its contents when it hits the floor. The smart thing for someone to do to prevent a slip and fall in that hazardous area is to stand there and wait until an employee or someone else to come with a mop and a sign to clean up the mess.
• Unsalted ice in sidewalks, driveways and parking lots. Slipping on ice is not fun at all. It’s a feeling of utter powerlessness and there is usually no way to prevent a fall once the slip is in motion. Salting icy walkways is a great preventive measure that can prevent those dangerous and injury-causing accidents and salt is easy and quite affordable for a property owner or employee to implement when necessary.
• Loose rugs or mats. Many people have thrown their backs out when they slip unexpectedly on a loose mat or rug. By trying not to fall the victim overstrains the back, which can have very long-lasting and painful results.
• Little or insufficient lighting. There really is no excuse for a building or walkway to have insufficient lighting. Daily inspections by employees or property owners could prevent poor lighting along with slip and fall accidents.
• Running up stairs or walking up more than one step at a time. Kids run up the stairs and take more than one step at a time until their parents tell not to. Adults should know better. If you slip and fall while running up the stairs or using more than one step at a time, you could lose your case in a heartbeat.
• Using a stool or chair instead of a ladder. We’ve all done it and we all feel the sense of danger when we get up on that wobbly or unstable chair or stool to grab something from the top shelf or to change a light bulb. We know it’s wrong and we know it’s dangerous but we still do it. If you are at work or on someone else’s property and you injure yourself in a fall from standing on a stool or chair – you may be held liable for the accident and your own injuries. Use a ladder.
Types of Injuries
Slip and fall accidents can cause any number of different types of injuries.
Head injuries can be extremely painful and debilitating along with being potentially fatal. If you slip and fall and hit your head you should rush to the hospital. Or better yet, you need to have someone else rush you to the hospital as fast as they can. There have been several celebrities who have had head injuries while skiing and they initially had only minor headaches and refused to be taken to the hospital. Shortly after the accident, however, the headaches got worse and within a few hours, they died. Their brains swelled and internal bleeding occurred, which caused loss of consciousness and then death. Had they been in the care of medical professionals they most likely would have survived.
You should be in the hands of medical experts long before you reach the stage of losing consciousness so they can take remedial action to save your life. Seeing your doctor as soon as possible after the accident and head injury can save your life and it also increases the likelihood of your case being on the winning side.
Some Slip and Fall accidents affect the back and the spinal cord. These injuries can result in as little as bruising all the way up to the severing or compressing of the vertebrae, which can cause excruciating pain or even permanent paralysis. If the cervical area of the spine is damaged then the victim could become a quadriplegic – paralyzed from the neck down. If the lower vertebrae are severed or damaged bad enough then the victim could become a paraplegic – paralyzed from the waist down. These injuries not only cost millions of dollars in the first few years to treat but they have an enormous emotional cost to both the victim and his or her family and friends.
Broken bones are a rather common consequence of Slip and Fall accidents. Whether bones are cracked or severely broken, the victim is going to be in pain and most likely will incur high medical costs to treat the fracture. Their whole life will change because of a two-second event. They will have to miss work and lose paychecks and change the way they do things, depending on if they are on crutches, a wheelchair or have their arm in a sling. Their world will be turned upside down. Personal injury lawyers are your last stand against being wiped out financially by someone who was responsible for your injuries.
Any time a Slip and Fall accident occurs there is going to be some pain and financial responsibility involved. Employers and property owners have a responsibility to make sure that hazardous conditions do NOT exist and that their customers, employees and guests are safe at all times. Your personal injury lawyer will make sure that everything that can be done to win your case will be done and done right. There are no shortcuts to winning.
I’m Richmond slip and fall lawyer Wayne O’Bryan, a nice guy who wants to make a difference in your life.
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