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
- Residents of Philadelphia: Know the Rules for Proper Snow RemovalMany Philadelphia residents are unaware of the local city rules regarding snow removal on their property.
- Icy Winter Conditions Create Fall HazardsWhile the winter of 2014 will be remembered for its significant snowfall, the winter of 2015 looks like it will be remembered as an icy one.
- Icy Fall AccidentsNew Jersey’s winter weather often involves thawing and freezing cycles which lead to dangerous icy surfaces.
- Can Someone Who Trespasses on My Land Sue Me?While it may defy common sense, a trespasser who is injured on a property owner’s land may be able to successfully sue a property owner. Fortunately for homeowners, this is not always the case. Additionally, several nuances can tilt a case one way or the other.
- Beware of Ice and SnowThe winter months are here, and that means there’s going to be ice and snow all around you.
- Does Hiring a Slip and Fall Attorney Help?Have you or a loved one suffered a fall and consequent injury? Is the insurance company denying your claim? A slip and fall attorney can help.
- Increased Accident Risk during Winter StormsWinter weather is expected to impact the Philadelphia area this week. Snow, sleet, and ice may make it difficult and dangerous to get around. Philadelphia winter storms are often followed by a brief thawing and then refreezing which creates icy roads, sidewalks, and parking lots if they are not properly treated.
- Philadelphia Workers' Compensation for Psychological InjuriesThe Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act provides for different standards and evidence required to prove psychological injuries, as compared to physical injuries. The most common type of work injury claim involves a physical to part of the body, caused by a physical event – such as by falling or lifting something.
- Trip-and-Fall Accidents in Grocery StoresIf you've shopped in one of many grocery stores and markets, you've likely seen the types of hazards that lead to serious injury trip-and-fall accidents. For example, employees stocking shelves may leave cereal boxes or other items on the floor. Some stores may have cracks on the floor or uneven floors or carpeting in areas that may pose a trip-and-fall hazard.
- Can I Sue if I Am Injured on Private Property?If a person is injured on the private property that belongs to another, he or she may be able to sue for the damages that he or she sustained. The ability to recover will depend on state laws regarding premises liability and the relative duty of the host and guest.
- All Tort and Personal Injury Articles
Slip and Fall Law - US
- Liability for Slip and Fall Accidents - United States
Information and regulations regarding slip and fall accidents from the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., the world’s largest library.
- 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.
- Slip and Fall Injuries - Property Owner Liability
Major Injury Law discusses how slip and fall accidents happen, methods for calculating damages, and the steps a victim should take after getting hurt.