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
- Slip and Fall Accidents More Common Than We Thought?If you presumed that only the elderly are prone to slip and fall incidents, think again. Many people just older than 24 are affected by slip and falls every day, with numbers going into the millions annually.
- 5 Little Known Facts about Slip and Fall AccidentsSlip and fall accidents are one of the quintessential personal injury claims. While many people think of the so-called 'banana peel' case when they think of a slip and fall accident, slip and fall liability – or premises liability – actually applies to a number of different situations.
- Medication May Increase Risk of Falls for Elderly PatientsWhile blood pressure medications may help prevent certain medical conditions, they can also put elderly persons at risk of other injuries. For instance, a new study revealed that older people who take blood pressure medications may be more susceptible to fall injuries than elderly persons who are not taking blood pressure medication.
- Common Workplace InjuriesWorkplace accidents and injuries can happen in any job and in any industry. But just like there are some jobs and industries are more prone to workplace accidents, certain work-related injuries occur more often than others.
- Premises Liability Claims in California: What Do You Need to Do if You Are Injured in a Retail StoreShopping in a store is usually enjoyable and fairly uneventful, but, what happens if you get hurt in a mall or box store like Home Depot? If you are injured due to a dangerous condition on the property such as a slippery floor or merchandise stacked wrong that falls down on you, there are things you should do immediately to protect any claims you may later assert for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering related to the incident.
- 5 Myths About Personal Injury LawsuitsThere is a lot of misinformation floating around on the web about certain aspects of personal injury cases. Here we will reflect upon those myths and help clear them up.
- Slip and Falls Are the Most Common Cause of Spinal Cord InjuriesSpinal cord injuries are on the rise, and slip and falls among seniors now top the list as the leading cause of spinal cord injuries. According to a new study, which was published in the January 23 issue of the Journal of Neurotrauma, falls among seniors have surpassed auto accidents as the leading cause of spinal cord injuries.
- Los Angeles Assisted Living Facility Held Responsible for Injuries of ResidentA Los Angeles County assisted living facility has been ordered by a judge to pay a woman who was injured by a fall.
- How to Document a Slip and Fall CaseChances are, you’ve slipped or tripped and started to fall but caught yourself—or maybe fell but didn’t seriously injure yourself—sometime in the last year. Everyone has those moments, and usually you can just laugh them off as a moment of clumsiness and move on.
- When Is a Restaurant Liable for Injuries or Illnesses?Every day restaurant customers and employees are injured in restaurant accidents. Injuries happen in restaurants for a number of reasons, including hazards such as food or drink spills, poor lighting, lack of or broken railings on stairways, failure to maintain the premises, burns by hot food or drink, food poisoning, sharp kitchen tools and utensils.
- 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.