SLIPPERY WHEN WET
By: Barry L. Edzant, Esq.
Every year we receive many telephone calls from people who have been injured when they have fallen as a result of slipping on some substance on a floor in a public area. Likewise, people are frequently injured when they trip on a defective sidewalk or other surface which is in some way defective. When this happens to you, you have had what is known as a slip or trip and fall accident.
Slip/trip and fall accidents are an every day occurrence and often times cause serious injuries, especially to the elderly. However, bringing a slip/trip and fall case can be very difficult, and more often than not results in defense jury verdicts.
The slip/trip and fall accident has its roots in premises liability law. An owner of an establishment, or even a homeowner, has an absolute duty to make sure that the premises are safe for patrons or people who are known to be walking or visiting the premises. A homeowner must make sure that all walking surfaces on the property are free from debris, slippery substances, abnormal surfaces, and the like.
To prove a slip/trip and fall case, the plaintiff must prove that: (1) The establishment’s or home owner’s property was in a dangerous condition at the time of the accident; and, (2) the establishment had notice of the dangerous condition but failed to correct it before someone was injured. These requirements imposed on the plaintiff can cause a huge hurdle.
As a defense to the plaintiff’s case, defendants always argue that the plaintiff should have seen the dangerous condition and therefore should have been more careful where he or she was walking. If the plaintiff had been watching out for dangerous conditions, the plaintiff could have avoided the condition completely, so the argument goes.
In order to pursue a slip/trip and fall claim, you must make all attempts to document the area where the accident happened and to secure any evidence which would help prove your case. If you are ever involved in a slip/trip and fall accident, the following tips will help you prevail in this type of difficult case:
- 1. After the fall, immediately contact a store employee or property owner to inform him or her of the fall and the location of the defective substance or walking surface. Be sure to get his/her name and position
- In most public establishments, the store owner or manager will take a report. Insist on a report and ask to receive a copy;
- Make sure that you can identify the substance which you slipped on ( i.e., water, food, an oily substance, etc.;)
- In addition to identifying the substance, try to analyze the condition of the area where you slipped ( i.e., footprints in the surrounding area which would evidence that the spill had been present for a while; the substance is smeared, indicating that others had stepped in it; previous repairs on a sidewalk, evidencing that someone had previously attempted to repair the problem.)
- If at all possible, take photographs of the area where the fall occurred as soon after the accident as possible.
- Identify and get names, addresses, phone numbers of all witnesses to the accident;
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible, if necessary.
Hopefully, you will never be involved in a slip/trip and fall accident. However, if you are, you will be able to have a better chance of prevailing in your case if the above steps are followed. You should also note that if you are a property owner, whether private or public, you must take proper steps to make sure the premises are safe for your patrons and visitors at all times.
Other personal injury articles that may be of interest:
What to do following an automobile accident
An accident waiting to happen