The Basics of Slip-and-Fall Law
Slip-and-fall accidents are responsible for many lawsuits each year. Learning a bit about who is responsible for injuries in these situations can help an injured person understand his or her likelihood of receiving compensation for slip-and-fall injuries.
There are four main types of slips and falls:
- Trip and fall, where there is something in the walker's path that doesn't belong there
- Stump and fall, where the walking surface itself is uneven
- Step and fall, where the walking surface breaks as the person steps on it
- Slip and fall, where something makes the surface slippery
In most states, the law requires courts to determine the comparative fault of the property owner versus the person who fell. In other words, how much responsibility does each party bear for the injury? In most cases, where a problem has been there for a while and the owner knew about it, the owner is primarily liable because he or she had ample time to fix the problem, but failed to do so, like in a step or stump and fall.
With a typical trip and fall, the question becomes, how long was the item there? Who caused it to be there? If it's something the owner had time to fix before you arrived there and fell, the owner might be liable. If the owner or the owner's employee caused the item to be there, the owner may be liable.
In a typical slip and fall, the question becomes one of reasonable expectations. If you slip on an icy sidewalk, the question may be whether you exercised enough care as you walked, given the weather conditions. Sometimes local laws address whether property owners are required to clear snow and ice from their sidewalks.
What to Do if You're Injured in a Slip and Fall
- The first thing to do, after attending to your injuries, is to file a report. This includes notifying the property owner or manager of the fact that you fell and were injured on the property. Describe exactly what you were doing, who else was there, and what comments were made by those who saw you fall or helped you immediately afterward. Make sure you keep a copy of your report and any other paperwork you receive related to your injury.
- Make sure your treating doctors, physical therapists, and others keep careful records of your injuries and their findings. If you decide to make a claim or file a lawsuit, you will need this information.
- If the property owner's insurance adjuster calls you, be aware that he or she is trying to find a reason to claim your fall was your fault, not the property owner's. You are not obligated to share any information with the insurance adjuster, and if your injuries are serious or costly, you may want to wait to speak to a personal injury lawyer.
- If you choose to speak to the insurance adjuster, be truthful, but be careful what you say. The adjuster will ask about things such as what you were doing immediately before you fell, whether you were distracted, whether you failed to notice any warning signs that may have been present, and even whether you had a good reason for being on the property at the time.
If you have serious injuries that cause you to miss work or cost you money out of pocket for your medical expenses, you should consider hiring premises liability attorneys to help you seek compensation. You may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, future anticipated medical expenses related to your injury, and pain and suffering. An attorney can deal with the insurance company on your behalf, or, if necessary, file a lawsuit, to get the maximum compensation you're entitled to.