Slip and fall accidents occur when a person, invited to be on someone else’s property, slips or trips on that property and sustains a bodily injury. These types of injuries can occur in a home (other than the home of the injured person; you cannot make a claim for a slip and fall injury at your own home, on your own homeowner’s insurance policy) or at a business or a location open to the public, like a wedding venue or an amusement park, for instance. Besides getting immediate and consistent treatment for your injuries, caused by the slip and fall accident, the most important actions to take, when you are involved in a slip and fall accident are to report the accident to the property owner, immediately, or as soon as possible, and to gather all slip and fall evidence. It is very difficult to prove the elements of a slip and fall claim and that is why it is so crucial to obtain the initial evidence immediately.
Important evidence gathering steps to take after a slip and fall accident injury are as follows:
1. If you are on commercial property, make a report to the manager and get a copy of the report. Most commercial properties should have their own form that you will need to complete.
2. If you are on private property, make a report to the property owner, in writing, and make sure to get a copy of the report. You will most likely just need to write important facts, like your name, property owner’s name, address, date, time, brief description of how the injury occurred, injuries, etc., then sign the paper and if possible, have the property owner sign it as well.
3. Take photographs of the dangerous condition that caused your slip and fall accident, as well as photographs of the land, for points of reference, as to where your slip and fall accident happened.
4. If there is a video recording of the slip and fall accident:
a. Request that the video evidence not be destroyed; and
b. Request a copy of the video.
5. Get written and/or digitally recorded statements, with contact information, from every witness, to the slip and fall accident and to the dangerous condition. If you have a phone with a video camera on it, you can just take the witness’s recorded statement right on your phone.
6. Take photographs of your injuries, from the very beginning, until they have completely healed or if there is scarring, until the scarring has stopped changing.
A broader category that slip and fall accidents fall under is called premises liability. The broader term, premises liability, covers injuries on property, like slip and fall accidents, but it also covers other accidents on property, like falling objects, swimming pool accidents, and dog bites.
One interesting note, in order to be protected by premises liability laws, in most states, the injured party must not be a trespasser (on the property illegally). The injured party must have been invited, individually, or through public invitations (advertising, being open for business to the public, etc.), to be on to the property where the slip and fall accident injury occurred.
Slip and fall accidents can be the result of many different types of property owner negligence. Examples of issues that cause slip and fall accident injuries are OSHA and building code violations, greasy/slippery floors, inadequate lighting, poorly maintained buildings, inadequate security, unmaintained grounds, unidentified or hidden changes in land elevation, among many other dangerous conditions.
Some common locations where slip and fall accidents occur include:
· Grocery store
· Movie theater
· Amusement park
· Sporting event
· Home of another
· Job site
· Car wash.
Injuries from slip and fall accidents vary greatly, in severity and location, as far as what part of the body, but some of the more common slip and fall injuries include:
· Traumatic brain injury, or lesser included head injury, like a concussion
· Broken hip
· Spinal cord injuries
· Shoulder injuries
· Sprained ankles or wrists
· Knee injuries
In a slip and fall accident case, once liability has been accepted, the property owner is responsible for dangerous property conditions and if those dangerous conditions cause injuries, in a slip and fall accident, the property owner may also be responsible for those injuries. In Texas, the injured party must prove both that the owner of the property was in some way negligent and that the negligence caused the slip and fall accident. This is a higher standard than other states. When the injured party is able to provide evidence that the dangerous condition, on the property, was not obvious or openly visible, he or she may have a better chance of successful claim resolution. To make a successful claim, when injured by a hidden danger, the injured party must typically prove (1) the knowledge of the property owner and (2) at least 48 hours to rid the property of the dangerous condition. If there have been other slip and fall accident injuries, in the same location, these injuries would be a great indication that the property owner had prior notice.
The injured party needs to be prepared for the property owner to claim that the injured party holds some portion of responsibility for the slip and fall accident. Some potential proportionate responsibility arguments include, (1) the injured party was on a part of the property that people do not normally go to, (2) the injured party was not paying attention (using a cell phone or some other distraction), (3) the injured party was not wearing appropriate or safe shoes or foot coverings, for the property where the slip and fall accident occurred; (4) the dangerous condition was made obvious by warning signs, cones, or some other obvious notification, but the injured party chose to ignore those warnings, and (5) the dangerous condition was so obvious, that the injured party should have been aware and avoided it. This is not a complete list of proportionate responsibility claims, but it gives the injured party a good idea of what attacks to be prepared to disprove.
Again, proving slip and fall accident claims is very difficult. It is imperative to gather the necessary evidence and contact the property owner, immediately, to have any chance at a successful recovery. Contact your witnesses and get their statements immediately. Communicate thoroughly with your doctors and make sure they note in your records that your injuries came from a slip and fall accident.