I frequently receive inquiries from potential clients and referring attorneys concerning slip and fall accidents.
The most important advice I can give victims of slip and fall accidents is not to let evidence disappear – preserve evidence and be proactive!
So what constitutes as a slip and fall accident
A slip and fall accident is the generic term constituting any fall (including slip, trip, fall-down, or misstep) that occurs on someone else’s premise or business.
Common examples of a slip and fall are when someone:
- Slips on water, an unknown substance, or trips on an obstacle at a business such as Publix, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, or any bar or restaurant
- Slips on “wet” steps in an apartment complex or office building
- Steps into a hole in a parking lot such as Home Depot or Office Depot
- Trips due to a change in surface elevation such as raised pavement, raised weather strip, broken concrete, uneven tile, unsecured rug, or worn carpeting
Common injuries occurring from slip and falls include a torn knee, torn shoulder, broken ankle and/or a broken wrist, hand, and finger(s).
(Amazingly) the victim has the burden of proving that the business was aware of the dangerous condition
If a person slips and falls on a transitory foreign substance in a business establishment, the injured person must prove that the business establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it.
Constructive knowledge may be proven by circumstantial evidence showing that:
- The dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that, in the exercise of ordinary care, the business establishment should have known of the condition
- The condition occurred with regularity and was therefore foreseeable
What do to help prove your slip and fall case – Document the scene!
When at all possible, our personal injury attorneys strongly encourage victims of slip and falls to document the scene to determine:
- What were the circumstances that caused you to fall? (slipped on tomato sauce, tripped on weather mat, tripped on worn carpet entering a building, etc.)
- Were there any visible defects at the time? (covered hole in parking lot, leak from display case, etc.)
- Was there a dangerous condition (slippery steps, freshly painted walkway, leak from ceiling, overflowing toilet, boxes in aisle, etc.)
- Were there any warning signs to alert you of potential danger
The best way to document your case is by taking photographs of the accident scene – especially the dangerous condition.
This will help our slip and fall attorneys present evidence to the jury so they can better visualize the circumstances that led to the slip and fall AND help prove that the business had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it.
This is especially pertinent in cases involving wet or slippery floors as the evidence is typically “cleaned away” within minutes of the accident.
In addition to taking photographs, make sure you file an accident report with the owner/manager of the business.
Filing an accident report helps memorialize the date/time of the incident and closes the door on the possibility of the business playing “dumb” that they were unaware that a slip and fall occurred.
Finally, gather the names of witnesses (with contact information) and take personal notes.
An owner/manager may make a statement that indicates he/she was aware (and failed to remedy) the dangerous condition (i.e. “This is the 2nd time this month that someone slipped here”, “I told the owner to fix this”, “This has been leaking for months”, etc.). Additionally, witness(es) may help corroborate your version of the events (i.e. “The substance you tripped on had other footmarks”, “The water was “brown-ish”.)
Time is of the essence when a slip and fall occurs
As soon as a client retains our slip and fall attorneys, Lyons, Snyder & Collin immediately sends out a preservation letter placing the business on notice to retain certain items (i.e. video surveillance, floor mats, etc.) for litigation purposes.
Without a preservation letter, a business may (intentionally or accidentally) erase or throw away certain evidence that supports your claim without any consequences.
Typically video surveillance is maintained for a maximum of 14 days before being erased.
Many times, our slip and fall attorneys send out an investigator to the scene to takes pictures and uncover evidence (i.e. code violations) within hours after being retained.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a slip and fall accident, it is important to preserve evidence and immediately contact one of our experienced slip and fall attorneys. Attorneys Marc P. Lyons and Philip M. Snyder are available 24/7.
As always, the initial consultation is free.