How to Document a Slip and Fall Case

Chances 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.

However, there are 8.9 million incidents that end as more than just a “close call.” That’s the annual number of emergency room visits that occur as a result of someone slipping and falling. Adults 55 and older are atparticularly high risk for suffering a slip and fall accident and have more difficulty recovering than younger people.

In your own home, you can help prevent slip and fall accidents by:

• Moving electrical cords out of areas where people walk
• Removing clutter from stairs and hallways
• Cleaning up spills immediately after they occur
• Removing small throw rugs or investing in non-skid mats
• Avoid standing on a chair, table, or other unstable surface

Of course, slip and fall accidents don’t always happen in your own home. They’re the second leading cause of workplace injuries, and they can also occur anywhere from a shopping mall to a landlord’s icy driveway.

So what happens if you slip and fall on another person’s property, as a result of another person’s negligence, and are faced with steep medical bills for your resulting injuries? If someone else is responsible for your accident, they should compensate you for your medical expenses. But in order to get that compensation, you have to first prove their responsibility.

Details Matter in Slip and Fall Cases

When trying to prove liability in a slip and fall case, there are essentially two points that you have to make. First, you have to show that the property owner’s negligence created an unsafe environment, and second, that the unsafe conditions caused your injury.

There are a few different ways that the property may have been negligent. One of the most obvious ways is if they’re the one who created the unsafe area by spilling something, wearing out the surface, leaving out a tripping hazard that was hard to see, or otherwise making a surface slippery or dangerous. In other cases, the property owner may have known about the dangerous area but not done anything about it (a store owner may have seen a spill in the evening but left it there even after the store opened in the morning, for example). In yet another scenario, the property owner may not have known about the dangerous area at all, but they should have known about it because a “reasonable person” taking care of the property would have been aware of it.

Although it may not be the first thing on your mind after suffering a slip and fall accident, the best thing you can do to help prove the liability of the property owner is to take a picture of the dangerous area. It’s hard to dispute photographic evidence of, say, a large spill in a department area or the uneven pathway leading up to a restaurant.

You will also need to prove that the property owner had a “duty of care” for the area in which you were injured. This may be as straightforward as looking at your landlord’s responsibilities spelled out in your lease, but in other situations it may be slightly more difficult to prove. A good personal injury attorney can help you come up with concrete evidence to show the property owner’s responsibility.

In order to prove that you were seriously injured by a slip and fall accident, you may need to have your doctor or another medical professional present evidence. To prove that the injury was caused by a slip and fall accident and not some unrelated event, you may also need to call in an expert witness, such as a tribologist (someone who studies the science of rubbing surfaces).

Finally, you may need to prove that your negligence was not a major factor in the accident. For example, if there was no good reason for you to be on the property when you were injured, it may be hard for you to present a strong case. However, if you truly believe that it was a property owner’s negligence and not your own that caused the accident, talk with a professional to figure out how to carefully explain the details of your case in order to prove fault.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steven Slootsky
Steven Slootsky is a 1985 graduate of Nova Law School, which means he’s been a practicing Fort Lauderdale injury lawyer for more than 2 decades. He founded the Law Offices of Slootsky, Perez & Braxton in 1991. The Fort Lauderdale-based accident attorney is a member of the Florida Bar, as well as the Federal Bar for the Southern District for the U.S. District Court. During his career as a personal injury lawyer/auto accident compensation attorney, Steven has served as the co-chair of the Workers' Compensation section for Broward County, Florida. He is also a Bronze member of the Florida Workers Advocates, a former member of the board, and serves as an “Eagle” member of the Florida Academy of Trial Lawyers.

Copyright The Injury Law Firm of South Florida

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws they may affect a case. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

Find a Lawyer