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
- Fault for Stair AccidentsThousands are injured each year in slip and fall accidents, many of which occur on stairs. Premises liability laws require that the owner of a property, whether commercial, government, or private must maintain it so that people can walk safely throughout public areas.
- Should I Report a Slip and Fall Accident?A slip and fall accident should always be reported if you were hurt on another person’s property. Not only will it document the incident, but it will also allow the issue to be corrected to prevent others from repeating what just occurred.
- Expert Witness Explains Building Codes in Slip and Fall CasesGetting the building and safety codes correct in any case is vital. When the expert cites or reports the wrong codes for a litigation case, the credibility and reliability of testimony is reduced in the eyes of a judge or jury panel. This means that the case is not as strong and the chances of success are lessened.
- Landlord Liability for Slip and Fall AccidentsSlip and fall accidents are one of the more common causes for emergency room visits in the United States and can lead to a variety of long-term injuries.
- "Constructive Notice" in Slip and Fall CasesSlip and fall accidents can be caused by a number of different sources, from icy walkways to hazardous spills, but the way that these accidents are dealt with depends on whether and how the property owner was informed about their existence.
- Do Workers’ Compensation Claims Include Negligence?Many people mistakenly believe that there is a direct relationship between negligence and workers’ comp. The truth, however, is more complex—workers’ comp cases are is not like personal injury cases.
- To Uber or Not To Uber? That Is the QuestionYou’ve probably heard of Uber—the smartphone app that allows you to call a cab to your doorstep in a matter of minutes. It’s a widely adopted use of modern technology, and it’s very, very popular, especially in metropolitan areas.
- Falling in a Store – Proving LiabilityFalls, slips and other accidents that lead to injury inside a store may result in a valid legal claim when confronting the business. This often depends on the reasonable accommodations taken in preventing accidents and ensuring the safety of those of the public that enter and exit the store.
- Photographing the Scene of an Accident Can Preserve EvidenceWhen the victim of a car accident has initiated a case for compensation, he or she may be advised that it is best to ensure there is photographic evidence to strengthen the claim.
- Construction and Negligence Claims: Possible DefectsThere are various claims where construction leads to negligence and defects that may cause injuries later. In these incidents, there are often many individuals involved. However, if the situation only involves the contracted workers and the homeowner, determining who is liable for damages may be much easier to assess.
- 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.