Slipped and Fallen?
After a slip and fall injury, many people feel an overwhelming sense that the injury could have been prevented. In some cases, nothing could have been done to prevent a slip and fall. There are times when slip and fall victims simply tripped or slipped for no other reason than human error. Many times, however, slip and fall accidents can be directly attributed to negligent property upkeep, which resulted in unsafe conditions. If you believe that you or a loved one slipped and fell because of someone else’s carelessness, here are 10 things you need to know.
What is a slip and fall?
As far as lawsuits go, a slip and fall is any instance of individual injury after falling on someone else’s property. In order for a slip and fall case to hold together, there must be proof that the fall was caused by the property owner’s negligence or that the fall could have been prevented if the property owner had been more diligent with their property upkeep.
How dangerous are slip and falls?
Slip and fall injuries can have a large impact on an individual’s life. A slip and fall can result in days or weeks off of work, as well as serious injuries such as fractured or broken bones. Slips and falls are particularly dangerous for older and elderly individuals, and they account for nearly 90 percent of fractures in individuals who are more than 65 years old.
How common are slip and falls?
Each year, millions of individuals are treated in emergency rooms for slips and falls.
Factors in and examples of a slip and fall
In order to determine if your case is truly a slip and fall, it may be helpful to look at some examples of legitimate slip and falls. For example, if a property owner has not up kept their flooring, the surface may be uneven and unstable. If an individual then trips on this loose flooring and injures themselves, this may be an instance for a slip and fall lawsuit. Other examples of negligent property upkeep include unstable staircases and wet flooring. In order to prove fault with these cases, there must be evidence that the property owner knew of the situation, that the property should known of the situation, and that the injury was not the fault of the injured individual. Each of these factors will be explained more fully below.
Knowledge of the Hazard
In slip and fall cases, there must be evidence that the property owner knew about the hazard before the individual in question was injured. Sometimes, this is straightforward. If other customers or individuals have been injured because of the hazard, then it is clear that the property owner was aware of the hazard. Similarly, if other customers or individuals have complained about the hazard, even if they weren’t injured, then the property owner clearly knew about the hazard. Other times, there is no clear proof that the property owner knew about the hazard beforehand. However, if the hazard has existed for quite a while, then this may be enough to prove that the property owner should have known about the hazard.
Presumed Knowledge of the Hazard
If there is no hard evidence that the property owner was aware of the hazard, it is often enough to prove that the owner should have been aware of the hazard. Typically, this is done through showing that the hazard existed for an extended period of time. The presumption is that a diligent owner who regularly upkeeps their property would notice any dangers on his/her property. If the hazard existed for a long time and the property owner did not even notice the situation, then the owner likely was being negligent with their property.
For example, consider a case in which the injured individual slipped on a patch of wet flooring on someone else’s property. Although there may be no evidence of previous complaints about the wet flooring, upon investigation it’s clear that the wet flooring has developed mold and begun to rot. This is evidence that the flooring has been wet for quite some time, and provides proof that the owner should have been aware of the hazardous situation.
Carelessness of Injured Individual
Finally, in order to provide evidence that the property owner is at fault for the slip and fall, it must be clear that the injury was not caused by carelessness on the part of the injured individual. Even if the hazard had existed for some time and was due to the negligence of the property owner, the owner will not be held at fault if the individual had trespassed, entered a prohibited area, or otherwise knowingly exposed themselves to injury risks.
For example, consider an individual who enters a construction site that is clearly marked with signs such as “Hard Hat Area Only,” “Employees Only,” or “Restricted Site.” If the individual walked past these signs and later slipped and fell on a hazard, the property owner will likely not be at fault, because the individual had entered a prohibited area.
There are a couple of special instances of slip and fall injuries that many individuals may not recognize. The most predominant of these is a slip and fall on icy sidewalks or roads. Many individuals may not realize that, if they fall and injure themselves on ice, they may have a suitable case. In many public areas, the city or municipality is required to upkeep the sidewalks, which includes snow and ice removal. If the sidewalks are not appropriately maintained, your injury may constitute a slip and fall case against the municipality.
Filing a slip and fall case
After an individual has been injured, there is typically a two-year window in which to file a slip and fall case. After these two years have passed, a slip and fall can no longer be pursued.