A simple slip and fall might not seem like a big deal, but it could lead to severe injuries.
The Centers for Disease Control lists slips and falls as the second cause of unintentional Injury Deaths and the number one leading cause of unintentional non-fatal injury in the US.
However, you can be eligible for compensation if you or your loved one fell and suffered significant damage due to the property owner's negligence.
By filing a slip-and-fall lawsuit, you can hold them accountable for their negligence and get the compensation they deserve.
In this guide, you will learn the basics of slip-and-fall lawsuits, including the following:
- What is a Slip and Fall Lawsuit?
- How to File a Slip and Fall Lawsuit
- How to Pick the Best Lawyer to Represent a Slip and Fall Lawsuit
- How Much Is a Slip and Fall Lawsuit Worth or Payout
- Slip and Fall Lawsuit Examples
Let's get into it.
What is a Slip and Fall Lawsuit?
Slip and fall lawsuit is a colloquial term for a premises liability case where someone trips or slips and gets hurt on someone else's property because of unsafe or hazardous conditions.
In premise liability laws, a property owner may be held accountable for any incidents resulting from negligence on their personal or business property.
Among the hazardous conditions that cause slips and falls are the following:
- Slippery floors due to liquid spill o grease
- Uneven or damaged pavements or other walking places
- Sleet and snow on sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots
- Poor lighting conditions
- Battered or broken staircases
You might consider a few elements if you are unsure whether the property owner is negligent and liable for your incurred damages.
Element to Consider in a Slip and Fall Lawsuit
Slip and fall lawsuits are personal injury cases. A victim must prove to a judge or jury that their injury directly resulted from the property owner's negligence.
Here are some essential factors that need to be considered:
Status of Visitor
In general, the state recognizes only four labels on the status of the visitor to the property: social guest, invitee, licensee, and trespasser:
- Licensee - Someone who is invited to a property for leisure or pleasure. For example, a friend asked you to come for a dinner. In this case, homeowners don't have to examine every room for hazards, but they still owe their visitors a duty of care.
- Invitee - Someone invited to the property for business transactions. For example, a guest in a restaurant. This invitation to the property means that the property owner has taken reasonable steps to assure the safety of the premises.
- Trespasser - Someone who is uninvited and enters the property without permission. Property owners generally do not owe any duty of care to trespassers.
If the property owner acted negligently, considering their legal duty of care to invitees, licensees, and children, the injured person might have a valid premises liability case.
In contrast, the property owner is not responsible for any damages you might incur on their property if you trespass on the property.
Location of the Slip and Fall
The place where you slip and fall is also crucial in the lawsuit. Specific laws are applied to certain places, such as:
- Government Property: If you slip and fall on government property and can establish negligence, you can sue. However, case procedures vary. Formal notice of your slip and fall is required within a limited timeframe.
- Stores or Companies: Businesses invite customers onto their premises to transact business. They must keep clients safe, and they must exercise a necessary duty of care or be negligent.
Property Condition and Owner/Visitor Action
In states that evaluate property conditions and owner and visitor activities, invitees and licensees are held to the same standard of care. Visitors, except trespassers, must be protected by reasonable care for their safety.
Several things must be considered to figure out if an owner has met the standard of fairness toward licensees (and in some states, both licensees and invitees), such as:
- Conditions under which the visitor entered the property
- How the property is being utilized
- How likely it was that an accident or injury would happen,
- How hard the owner or person in charge tries to fix a dangerous situation or tell visitors about it.
Booby Trapping Trespasser
Property owners are required by law to warn the trespassers that they have added booby traps which are likely to hurt or kill someone on their property. But almost every time, courts have said that booby traps are against the law.
In the case of Katko vs. Briney, two homeowners (Edward and Bertha Briney) were held responsible for the injuries caused to a trespasser (Marvin Katko) who set off a spring gun set as a booby trap in the homeowners' property.
Children on Property
Certain exceptions are granted to trespassing children under the attractive nuisance doctrine. Landowners are responsible for children who could be injured on their property.
If a property owner/possessor knows (or should know) that children will be on the premises and that a dangerous condition will cause significant physical damage or death, they must give a warning.
When an Accident Results From Both the Owner's and Visitor's Fault
Another limitation to liabilities of a property owner is the comparative negligence or the degree of fault, the visitor has contributed to the accident.
Visitors are also required to take appropriate precautions for their safety. When such care is not exercised appropriately, the plaintiff's recovery may be restricted or diminished due to their carelessness.
For instance, if the victim is found to have contributed 25% of the fault and the total losses were $10,000, the court will only ask the property owner to pay $7,500.
Special Rules for Landlords
Lessors, also known as landlords, are not liable to any physical harm brought about by the property condition if that condition occurs after granting the property to the tenant.
These special liability rules are based on the lessor's lack of control over the property after it is leased to a tenant. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule.
Now that you know the basics of a slip and fall lawsuit, it's time to learn how to file a lawsuit if you or a loved one suffered slip and fall injuries due to negligence.
How to File a Slip and Fall Lawsuit?
In a slip-and-fall case, the most important thing is to show that the property owner was careless.
To do this, you’ll need to:
- Demonstrate that the property owner caused the hazard
- Provide proof that the owner knew or should have known about it and fixed it
- Show that the hazard hurt you because of the owner's negligence
If you were trespassing, it would be more challenging to seek compensation. Also, building a case can be more complicated if there are signs of your carelessness.
Here's a step-by-step guide to filing for a slip-and-fall lawsuit:
Step 1: Seek immediate medical attention
If you have been injured by a slip-and-fall accident, you must get medical treatment immediately, even if your injuries appear minor. You can only be sure once you get examined by a medical professional.
A slip and fall claim can be supported by seeking medical attention because your medical record can prove your injuries. Even if it initially seems you have not been gravely hurt, document changes and get medical attention if things worsen.
Step 2: Report the accident to the property owner
After you get medical attention, you next must file an incident report. Whether the accident happens in a business establishment or a friend's house, filing an incident report to the establishment manager, owner, or landlord is essential.
Makes sure to have the details of the slip and fall accident in writing and request a copy of the report before you leave.
Doing this proves that your accident happened—a point that can be contested without an incident report.
Besides, the report could have important information about your accident and the contact information of the negligent party.
Step 3: Gather evidence surrounding the slip and fall incident
After filing for an incident report, conduct your investigation and gather relevant information to help with your claim.
Here are some of the relevant details that you can include in your investigation:
- Time and date
- Cause of the accident
- Witnesses and their statements
- Photos of hazardous conditions that injured you
- Medical records
- Incident report
Step 4: Consult a personal injury lawyer
After gathering evidence, you must consult a lawyer to help build your case. Talking to a lawyer can help you answer legal questions regarding your matter, understand legal difficulties, and decide if a law firm might be helpful.
Before taking your case, an attorney might:
- Interview: The attorney will interview you and ask specific questions regarding the incident to see if you have a strong claim. Prepare your documents and information for the attorney.
- Accident Evaluation: Before accepting your case, he will try to ensure you are negligence-free. For instance, if you stumbled on wet pavement in a store parking lot wearing stilettos, your odds of winning are small.
Step 5: File A Lawsuit
The last step would be to file the case, with the help of your lawyer, in the proper court and serve the property owner.
Your lawsuit must be filed within the statute of limitations or a specific time frame starting on the injury's date. You can no longer take legal action after the statute of limitation has expired.
Each state has its statute of limitations; here is an illustration that shows it:
Each slip and fall case will go differently. It's essential to have a good lawyer who can explain how slip-and-fall cases work and guide you through the legal process.
In the next section, you'll learn how to find the best lawyer to represent you on a slip-and-fall lawsuit.
How to Pick the Best Lawyer to Represent a Slip and Fall Lawsuit?
Slip-and-fall events are not something you can do on your own. Business and property owners know of fraudulent claims and will fight to disprove yours. You will need a good lawyer on your side during the court process.
Below are tips to help you to pick the best lawyer:
Ask for Referrals
Even if you've never hired a lawyer before for a slip-and-fall case, you probably have in the past for a civil one. If you liked working with them, ask if they can recommend a good personal injury lawyer.
You can also ask your family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers. You could ask them if they know a good lawyer.
Get a Lawyers With Slip and Fall Lawsuit Experience
Hiring a personal injury attorney for your slip and fall injury lawsuit is always more beneficial than handling the situation alone.
There are different types of lawyers, but you need a personal injury lawyer for a slip and case lawsuit. Make sure the lawyer you hire has dealt with cases like yours before.
For instance, if you got injured on someone else's property when you're not at work, you'll need a lawyer with experience handling premises liability law or tort law cases.
On the other hand, If you slip and fall at work, you would want to talk to a lawyer who has dealt with the state's workers' compensation system before.
It's also essential to ensure your lawyer has experience in case settlements and going to court since it's hard to know how your case will end immediately.
Find Out How The Lawyer Will Be Paid
Before you hire a lawyer, you need to know how a lawyer charges for their legal services.
Fortunately, most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means that lawyers will take a portion of the settlement or compensation as payment for their legal services.
You must inquire about what percentage of your recovery they will charge and the additional legal expenses they charge for.
However, some lawyers charge by the hour or per assignment. Some charge a more significant percentage for certain circumstances. Ensure you know any costs and are happy with the payment arrangement.
Now that you know the tips to find the best lawyer to handle your lawsuit, keep reading to learn how much compensation or settlement you can get from a slip-and-fall lawsuit.
How Much Is a Slip and Fall Lawsuit Worth or Pay Out?
Every slip and fall claim is unique, but the average settlement account can range between $10,000 to $50,000. In general, the value of your claim depends on the severity of your injuries and the kind of damages you suffered.
Hard Injuries vs. Soft Injuries
Your injuries are the primary factor that determines how much your claim is worth. If your injuries are more severe and permanent, your claim is worth more than minor ones.
We've all had these—cuts, wounds, shattered bones, and torn ligaments. We all know these injuries are painful, debilitating, and require medical attention and recovery time. Here are examples of hard injuries:
- Head traumas
- Ligament or cartilage rips
- open wounds
- spinal disc
- vertebrae injuries.
These are injuries to the body, including muscle sprains and tendon strains, that are typically not visible. They are more challenging to describe and understand for those who haven't experienced them since they cannot be seen.
Economic Loss and Non-Economic Loss
When you file a slip and fall claim, you should demand economic and non-economic damages. These types of losses can include but are not limited to the following:
Loss of income
Ambulance and Medical Bills
Pain and Suffering
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified slips and falls as the leading cause of injury-related mortality in individuals over 65.
Suppose a family member died after falling on someone else's property. In that case, you might recover compensation for their funeral and burial.
Additionally, surviving family members typically receive hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in compensation for claims involving fatal accidents.
Keep reading to learn about a few examples of slip and fall cases with varying outcomes, settlement amounts, and impacts on rules about slip and fall cases.
Slip and Fall Lawsuit Examples
Slip-and-fall injuries can alter a victim's life. It may affect a person's capacity to work, engage in activities, or live. Slip-and-fall verdicts and settlements are crucial to compensate victims for their damages.
Here are three slip-and-fall lawsuit examples:
Rowland vs. Christian
James Rowland (the plaintiff) was a guest in the flat of Nancy Christian (the defendant). Plaintiff was using the bathroom faucet when the porcelain handle broke. He suffered severed tendons and nerves. The defendant knew about the broken outlet and told her owner about it, but she did not say to the plaintiff.
The flat owner/defendant was found to be to blame for what happened. In doing so, they decided to replace traditional categories of "invitees," "licensees," and "trespassers."
As a general rule, property owners are accountable for any hazards that may harm visitors
Interestingly, the settlement for this landmark case was under $10,000 because Rowlands's injuries had healed without permanent damage by the time the case was settled.
Holly Averyt vs. Wal-Mart
Holly Averyt fell in grease while delivering to a Greeley Wal-Mart in 2007. Averyt ruptured a disc in her spine and hurt her neck and shoulder in the accident, preventing her from working as a trucker and creating persistent discomfort.
Averyt sued Wal-Mart for negligence and premises liability after slipping and falling. The jury granted her one of the greatest slip-and-fall awards in the US.
She was awarded $15 million in compensation with the following breakdown:
- Economic damages: $4.5 million
- Non-economic damages: $5.5 million
- Physical impairment: $5 million
However, the trial court lowered the final award to $10 million because California statute limits pain and suffering awards to $366,250.
Bettie Daniels V. Sears And Sears Roebucks And Company
Bettie Daniel, who was 75 years old, went to a Sears store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 2014 to buy some clothes. After shopping for 30 minutes, she went into a changing room for women and fell to the floor as she took off her clothes.
Daniels immediately informed Sears staff of the changing room incident. Sears employees checked for floor hazards and didn't find anything. At her deposition, Daniel confirmed that she didn't notice anything that might have caused her fall.
As soon as she stepped outside the Sears shop, she noticed discomfort in her arm and went straight to the hospital. Later, she began experiencing hip and shoulder pain.
The courts ruled against Daniels after she failed to provide enough evidence to support her claim. Specifically, she was unable to prove the following:
- Existence of a duty or obligation recognized by law
- Breach of duty
- Causal connection between the breach of duty and the resulting injury;
- Actual loss or damage
The injuries and costs of slip and fall accidents can be incredibly damaging. If your accident has been brought about by negligence, you are entitled to compensation for medical expenses, economic damages, and other non-economic damages.
In pursuing a slip and fall lawsuit, a personal injury lawyer can help you with the legal process. Moreover, even though most slip-and-fall cases are settled out of court, you should be ready for anything.