Personal injuries can come on all shapes and sizes. While car accidents get the most attention, the second most common type of personal injury claim is the slip and fall accident. Also referred to as “trip and fall” accidents, slips and falls fall under the umbrella of premise liability claims.
Considering how common slips and falls are, it’s surprising how poorly they’re understood. For this reason, Negretti & Associates would like to answer the most common slip and fall accident questions. We hope that people might gain a better understanding of what they are, what to do if you think that you have been injured in a slip and fall, and how a law firm can help pursue such an accident case. If you have additional questions, we’d be happy to hear from you.
What Are Slip and Fall Accidents?
Slip and fall accidents occur when a person slips and falls on someone else’s property and gets injured. While this might seem like an obvious way to define an accident, the second and third elements of this definition are vitally important.
A slip and fall accident must happen on someone else’s property. In a very rare situation, a slip and fall accident could occur on your own property. But this is the exception, not the rule.
Additionally, there needs to be an injury. This, too, might sound obvious, but our law firm has received many calls from people who have slipped and fallen, but didn’t actually get hurt. We typically tell them that they are among the fortunate ones and send them on their way. Put simply, if there’s no injury, there is no slip and fall accident claim.
What Should You Do If You Are Involved in a Slip and Fall Accident?
What should you be thinking about if you are involved in a slip and fall accident? This is perhaps the most common of all slip and fall accident questions.
First, get the medical attention you need. A medical doctor can evaluate your injuries, so that you can begin your healing process. What’s more, a doctor will create a medical record that documents the severity of your injuries — evidence that can be used in your case.
Second, turn yourself into a private investigator. Think about what you would want to see if you were on a jury for a slip and fall accident case.
- You would probably want to see photos or videos of the condition of the area where you fell.
- You would want to know what substance or object caused the slip and fall.
- You would want to know whether other customers had slipped and fallen in this same area of the business — or on the same substance or object that caused your slip and fall.
- You would want to talk to any witnesses that may have seen the slip and fall accident and get their statements.
- You would want to know if the business had any policies or procedures in place to avoid slips and falls on their property. This investigation could be done by you, a family or friend, or even with the assistance of your attorney.
Third, don’t “do nothing.” So-called “he-said-she-said” claims never turn out in your favor and won’t go very far. If you are involved in a slip and fall accident and don’t have any evidence — as outlined above — you are going to have a tough time proving that the business did something wrong.
What Are Some “Real-World” Examples of Slip and Fall Accidents?
Slip and fall accidents are rather unique. No one fall is like another. Negretti & Associates has handled a wide variety of slip and fall accident cases, each with their own unique slip and fall accident questions.
To illustrate some of the uniqueness inherent in slip and fall accidents, here are some examples of real claims that our firm has handled.
Customer slips and falls in front of a drink machine at a fast-casual restaurant. This client hired us to assist them in pursuing a claim that occurred at a local restaurant. The client went to the soda machine to refill their drink. As they approached, they slipped on a piece of ice and broke their hand. The restaurant did not have a slip mat in front of the soda machine and had been told by other customers that there was ice on the floor.
Customer slips and falls at an amusement park. This client was at an amusement park with their family. The client attended one of the entertainment shows that the park schedules throughout the day. The weather turned and it began to rain. As the client made their way out of the arena, the client slipped and fell on some steps. There was no handrail or slip-resistant surface to make the walkway safe.
Customer slips and falls at a grocery store. This client was headed to the checkout when they slipped and fell on a substance on the ground. This client learned that the substance was a spill — and that the store knew about the spill. In fact, the store employees were on their way to get a mop when the slip and fall accident occurred. The store had a policy in place that required one employee to stay as the spill site while another employee went to get a mop, to ensure that no customers fell. The policy was not followed properly.
Customer slips and falls on a boat ramp. This client was at a lake. When the client docked their boat, they made their way off of the boat ramp to go retrieve their vehicle. The client slipped and fell on a wet surface on the ramp. The client understood that people were using the boat ramp after coming off of the lake and that the surface of the ramp might be wet. However, the boat ramp was made of metal and was extremely slippery without any slip-resistant traction. Furthermore, the ambulance that responded to the scene said that this was the fifth time they had responded to that same boat ramp and they had informed the business to take safety precautions to avoid future incidents. The business did not do anything to prevent future slip and fall accidents.
How Are Slip and Fall Cases Resolved?
Most slip and fall accidents end up in litigation. They typically go to court. This is not to say that cases can’t be settled prior to filing a lawsuit. However, in our experience, the injured party might be taking a significant discount if they settled early. There are rare cases when the business owner or insurance company does the right thing and offers a reasonable settlement ahead of trial. But these instances are few and far between.
Keep in mind that liability — or what we all call “fault” — is never guaranteed in a slip and fall accident. For this reason, pursuing these cases can be quite tricky.
Just because you have slipped and fallen doesn’t mean you automatically have a claim or that the business where this occurred is automatically at fault for what happened.
As the plaintiff, you have the burden of proof. You have to prove that the business did something wrong. It’s not enough to simply say that you fell, and the accident should not have happened. The law requires you to prove that the business violated a standard of care or did something that caused your fall.
Fault means that someone else is responsible for your slip and fall accident. You could be partially at fault and still recover for your injuries. In other words, you could have paid better attention when you were walking to avoid the slip and fall accident. Still, you could be entitled to compensation.
- In Arizona and California, you can be up to 99% at fault and still recover for the 1% that you weren’t at fault. Your compensation would be reduced by your percentage of fault.
- In Colorado, if you are more that 50% at fault for your slip and fall accident, you cannot recover anything.
This is an important distinction in the law that should be considered. The most common defense in slip and fall accidents is something called “personal responsibility.” The defense — collectively, the business owner, insurance company, and defense attorney — will argue that you should have watched where you are going. Had you done that, the slip and fall accident would not have occurred. While this may not necessarily be true, the business will make this argument to buy down some of their responsibility in slip and fall accident claims.
How Do Slip and Fall Accidents Differ in Various States?
At Negretti & Associates, we practice in Arizona, California, and Colorado. While laws aren’t necessarily different in these three states, the types of claims that we see certainly are. For example:
- In Denver, Colorado, where it often snows, businesses are held to a certain standard to clear sidewalks from snow and ice to allow for safe passage into one’s business.
- In California, where businesses share boundaries with beaches, store owners are held to a certain standard to clear entrances and aisle ways of sand that may be tracked inside.
- In Arizona, where resorts are plentiful, pool surfaces need to be designed with traction to avoid creating a slippery surface for pool goers.
Slip and fall accidents represent a very common type of personal injury. Slip and fall accidents are very difficult to pursue. Slip and fall accidents require a very thorough investigation to prove that the business did something wrong.
If you find yourself involved in a slip and fall accident in Arizona, California, or Colorado, Negretti & Associates would be happy to discuss your slip and fall accident questions and see if we can help with your case.