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.
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Articles About Slip and Fall Law
- Liability for Dog Bites in CaliforniaWith over 4.5 million dog bites a year and 800,000 medical visits annually in the United States, the potential for liability is particularly worrisome to dog owners, especially with certain breeds. It is also problematic for those of us that share the walking paths, parks or city sidewalks with these pets. Learn more about what to do if you’ve been bitten by a dog in California.
- Slip and Fall Accidents in StoresA slip and fall accident can turn an enjoyable day of shopping into a nightmare. Every year, more than one million Americans visit the emergency room with injuries they sustained in a slip and fall accident. Many of these types of accidents happen in retail stores. Store flooring is often made of laminate materials or wood, which can become very slippery when wet.
- Expert Witness Explains Hotel Liability for Negligence of FranchiseeHotel owners and franchisees have a relationship that benefits the brand behind the hotel. However, when the franchisee engages in activity that may lead to litigation, the hotel could be liable for these actions and an expert witness may be needed for the court case.
- Uber Accidents: Do You Have a Personal Injury Case?Ridesharing is a growing trend. The popularity of ridesharing networks like Uber has skyrocketed in recent years. In fact, Uber’s services are now available in 50 countries, with 8.1 million Uber users and more than 50,000 new drivers added monthly.
- I Was Hurt on Private Property, What Are My Legal Options?If a person is injured on the private property that belongs to another, he or she may be able to sue the property owner. Find in the article some of the most likely scenarios to answer the question of who is responsible for the medical bills associated with an injury on another person’s property.
- Premises Liability at GymsAlthough the gym represents health and fitness for many, in some cases, it can also be a hazard to health. Faulty equipment, slippery floors, and other dangers can result in a variety of injuries, from cuts and bruises to sprains and broken bones.
- Grounds for a Personal Injury CaseSlip and fall accidents are not uncommon. Most of the time, these types of accidents are minor and cause nothing more than a bruised ego.
- Liability for Trampoline AccidentsTrampolines are a great way for kids to be active and have fun during the warm months. They can also be dangerous. Trampolines on unsteady or slanted ground, poorly-constructed trampolines, those with rusted springs or compromised bouncing surfaces, and those without adequate safety nets can pose hazards to children and adults alike.
- 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.
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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.