Slip and Fall Law
What is Slip and Fall Law?
Slip and fall law refers to the liability rules governing cases in which an individual falls to the ground and suffers harm due to a dangerous condition on someone else’s property. As a subset of personal injury law, these cases are controlled by the basic rules of negligence. Unless an accident occurs on federal government property, state law will control. Violations of local building code ordinances can also be relevant.
Despite the reference to a “slip,” this area of the law covers any accident that results from the victim encountering an unsafe condition underfoot, whether it produces a stumble, overextension, twist, or other movement. Direct causes can include spilled liquids or food, cracked sidewalks, objects on the stairs, ice and snow, broken floor tiles, uneven steps, and potholes. Indirect causes, such as dim lighting or missing handrails, can also contribute.
At the outset of a slip and fall lawsuit, the responsible parties must be identified. While fault can usually be traced to an individual employee or tenant who caused the hazard, there will be additional parties who exercised control or ownership of the accident site. These may include the property manager, business owner, landlord, or the owner of the property. In most cases, one or more of these parties will have liability insurance covering the property.
If the identity of a responsible party cannot be immediately determined, or if there is uncertainty as to the precise name of one of the defendants, most jurisdictions allow the lawsuit to name a “John Doe” defendant. Once the responsible party has been identified, the court documents can be amended to substitute the correct name in place of John Doe. This allows a plaintiff who is still researching the case to file the claim on time.
Special considerations arise when a slip and fall accident takes place on public property. Foremost is the issue of sovereign immunity. Historically, individuals were completely barred from suing the government for negligence. In modern times this rule has been amended by statute, and the government now allows itself to be sued in limited circumstances. If an injury does qualify, victims must also comply with strict notice requirements and time limits.
Proving the Defendant is Liable
Unless it is a rare case involving intentional conduct by the defendant, a slip and fall case will require the plaintiff to prove negligence. Negligence means that the defendant failed to act in a reasonable manner under the circumstances. For example, it is reasonable to expect a store clerk will place warning signs in recently mopped areas. If this is not done, and a customer slips on the wet floor and gets hurt, the store may be liable for negligence.
Whether someone acted negligently will depend on what they knew. This is especially true in slip and fall cases, as the defendant’s knowledge of the dangerous condition will usually be determinative. The plaintiff is entitled to find out what the defendant knew through a procedure called discovery. During discovery, the defendant can be forced to turn over maintenance records, repair logs, surveillance video, and other such items.
A slip and fall victim is also permitted to gather sworn testimony regarding what happened. The plaintiff does not need to wait until trial to learn what the witnesses will say. This is accomplished by conducting depositions (recorded interviews). Subpoenas can be issued to the defendant and other parties to show up to be deposed at the office of the plaintiff’s attorney, and to answer questions about the accident on the record.
Deposition testimony is crucial in a negligence case. By securing this evidence early in the litigation, both the plaintiff and the defendant gain an understanding of the circumstances that led to the accident and the degree of fault that can be attributed the defendant. Taking into account the severity of the injury, both sides can then determine what they believe the case is worth, and settlement negotiations will ensue.
Cases that initially appear favorable to the plaintiff are often derailed once the plaintiff’s own conduct is analyzed. Defendants in slip and fall cases are sure to raise the issue of comparative fault. Also called contributory negligence, the basic idea is that the victim was careless in not avoiding the danger, and shares some or all of the blame. To avoid such a defense, slip and fall victims should retain an attorney before speaking with anyone about the incident.
Know Your Rights!
Articles About Slip and Fall Law
- What You Can Do to Prevent Slipping and Falling on a Wet SurfaceIf you do suffer an injury in a slip or fall, you can potentially recover compensation for your injury through a personal injury claim. After seeking medical attention for your injury, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your rights and legal options.
- How to Know When You Should Hire an Attorney for an Injury?Not all accident claims require the guidance of an attorney. However, sometimes, claims are complex enough, or injuries are severe enough, that hiring an attorney is the smartest thing a victim can do to protect their future and improve their chances of a fair resolution. So when is it time to hire an attorney for a personal injury claim? The answer depends on the specific circumstances of your case, but if any of the factors listed below apply, it may be time to call a lawyer.
- Hospital FallsSlips, trips and fall accidents can cause serious injury. Head trauma, cuts, lacerations, broken bones and internal injuries can result when victims fall down a stairway, slip on ice or wet surfaces, or trip over a loose carpet edge.
- Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer If I Have Minor Injuries?Learn why it is important to seek medical attention even if the injury you have suffered is not serious.
- Slip & Fall Back Injuries and Personal Injury ClaimsSlipping, tripping, and falling can lead to severe back injuries. This is especially true in the elderly, or people with preexisting conditions.
- Dunkin’ Donuts Sip and Fall SettlementAccording to a lawsuit filed in Middlesex County Superior Court, a woman who purchased multiple coffees at Dunkin’ Donuts in Highland Park, New Jersey, sustained slip and fall injuries after she tripped over an exposed spike in the parking lot of the establishment.
- Three Things You Should Never Tell Your Insurance CompanyYour insurance agent may be a friendly individual and perhaps even someone with whom you socialize on occasion. But no matter how friendly or sociable your agent is, the insurance company he or she represents can be your worst enemy following a personal injury or automobile accident. Despite popular slogans and advertisements, insurance companies will routinely attempt to settle a claim for as little money as possible. After all, it is the way they make money.
- Sidewalk Liability is Property Owner's ResponsibilityThe New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled that a condominium homeowners’ association should be held liable for injuries sustained by an individual after slipping on a sidewalk where ice had not been cleared.
- Slip and Fall Accidents in Retail StoresInjuries from slip and fall accidents in stores are very common. There are many opportunities for customers to become injured.
- Understanding How Adjusters View Your Medical RecordsLearn what you can do to strengthen your personal injury claim when working with insurance adjusters.
- All Tort and Personal Injury Articles
Slip and Fall Law - US
- Settlement Guide - Slip and Fall Accident Cases
Sample pleadings, negotiation tips, frequently asked questions, and other resources for slip and fall victims.
- Slip and Fall - Wikipedia
Wikipedia offers this discussion of slip and fall law in the United States including investigative techniques and potential defenses for property owners.
- Slip and Fall Accident Information
A general overview of slip and fall litigation, including the three most common ways for injured plaintiffs to establish liability. Useful tips, such as photographing the scene, are also discussed.