Numerous conditions can cause someone to slip and fall and result in injury. Conditions such as uneven pavement, improperly marked steps, folded-up floor mats, potholes, bad tiles or floors, or items left on the floor are a few examples.
Slips can occur due to water on floors or ice on sidewalks or parking lots. Ice can accumulate naturally, by improper drainage from a roof or a snow pile, or when proper snow removal and salting is ignored. Water can be brought in from outside by foot or can result from someone mopping a floor and not appropriately warning with a sign.
Murphy & Prachthauser has handled falling injury cases of many types. Each case is different and has its own matters to conclude from.
Some of the ways you can help your lawyer and case are as follows:
- Take photos of the area where the fall happened. It’s helpful to have the exact area of the fall in the same condition as it was at the time of the fall. You want photos of what caused the fall. It is also helpful to have photos of the surrounding areas to give context to what is happening in the area. Note where on the property this condition exists. Is it right in front of the door, or on a far corner of a parking lot, etc.?
- Sometimes, the injuries are such that taking a photo is impossible. The next best thing is to get a friend or family member to go back and take some photos of the cause of the fall - if it is still there.
- Take photos of surrounding areas. For example, on a slip/fall on ice case, what is the surrounding areas’ condition? Are other parking lots in the area clear? Are the public roadways clear? If so, why was this area, where you fell, slippery?
- Take note of the weather. If it is clear and dry outside, how did water make its way inside of a building? If there was no precipitation for several days, then why was there still ice on a sidewalk or parking lot?
- Were there witnesses to the fall? Was there an employee, a friend or family member around? Even if they may not have seen the fall, they may be a witness to the hazard that caused the fall.
- Was there a report of the fall and injury to the business or someone connected with it? If possible, alert someone to get rid of any hazards so nobody else is hurt. You may also want to document the date, time, and condition for a party that may be potentially responsible.
- Are there any surveillance cameras in the area? These may be traffic cameras on roadways, or security cameras on businesses, or even ring cameras on homes. These videos are often overwritten in short time frames, so it is important to request that the evidence be preserved. This is where a preservation letter from an attorney can come in handy, formally requesting that the evidence will be relevant to a legal matter and that this evidence will be preserved.
- When asking for video evidence to be preserved in a fall case, many people think it is just the fall event that is important. But, in a case where a temporary condition causes a fall, it is often important to get a lengthy 24-hour period before the fall and 24 hours after. In a situation where a temporary condition exists, it’s important to know how long it existed before the fall and what they did after to remove it. This way we can determine what caused you to fall, how it got there, how long it has been there, and the ease or difficulty to remove the condition.
- Were there other people who were affected by this same condition? Many people may slip but be able to catch their balance to avoid injury. Having earlier surveillance video would document that.
- Cause of fall: on occasion, people are aware of ice in a parking lot or a wet floor and think they can traverse the area safely, but still fall. In those cases, they know exactly what caused the fall.
Most of the time, however, someone does not see a hazard and that causes the fall. The person was not aware of the hazard until they are on the ground, but a casual observation reveals the cause of the fall.
Explaining Your Slip and Fall Injury
Personal observations can be acceptable opinions on how or what caused you to fall.
People sometimes try to figure out the manner in which they fell, to explain an injury. This may be an impossible task.
When a fall occurs, the person is typically on the ground before they even know what is happening.
Because people are not expecting to fall, they don’t always know what happened during a split second, so they try to figure out exactly how they fell. In many cases, the exact way you fall may be impossible to go back and reconstruct in your head. You probably can figure out quite quickly what caused a trip or slip, and you can recall laying on the ground, but we suggest trying not to guess what happened between the trip or slip and the landing.
Noting the Environment of Your Slip and Fall
The environment in which your slip and fall happened is critical to note right away - if possible. Here are a few circumstances that you should take note of and why they matter.
- It’s important to note whether you are carrying or surrounded by anything. Grocery carts are great for carrying groceries, but they can hide dangers or liquids on the floors. If you were holding something that blocked your view or caused you to rush, those are important factors to take into account as well.
- The type of shoes you are wearing is essential to note. Some shoes are more resistant to slipping than others.
- What the lighting was like can also be important. If the slip occurred at night, was there artificial light provided for safety?
Determining the At-Fault Party
The insurance company will want to know if you did anything to play a part in the fall. Were you horsing around or running, disregarding warnings, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Your conduct will be evaluated along with those of the property owner.
Slip or trip and fall cases are subject to the same comparative fault rules that apply to other negligence cases. The fault of each party is compared, with the total fault causing an injury being 100%. A jury will then allocate fault to each party. While a business or property owner has a duty to its customers or others lawfully on their property to keep it safe, each individual has a responsibility to act with ordinary care, or in ’laypersons’ terms, to be careful.
When dealing with some types of hazards, insurance companies often point to a large number of people who may have passed through an area without injury, arguing that the victim must not have been exercising proper care like others. They may argue that the condition was open and obvious, that anyone could see it if they looked. If it was open and obvious, however, the owner should have seen and corrected it. Maybe dozens of people slipped or tripped but caught their balance and were not injured. These defenses are just factors that a jury may ultimately use in allocating fault.
Entities such as ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and the NSC (National Safety Council) are two of the many groups that address how businesses and property owners should construct and maintain their property. Many of these groups require written policies and procedures to teach employees to make a property safe. Safety experts are also familiar with general safety practices, such as pre-treating sidewalks and parking lots before snow or ice storms. These standards and procedures are all useful in proving an owner is responsible.
If the injured party’s fault exceeds the property owner’s fault or business, the claimant recovers nothing; however, most juries are not aware of this rather harsh outcome.
If the injured person is less to blame than the property owner or business, any damage award to the injured party is reduced by their allocated percentage of negligence.
In a slip fall case, if the injury happens at a public building or workplace, this involves the “safe place statute.” The Safe Place Act requires employers and public buildings owners to take all steps reasonably necessary to make an area safe. This higher burden helps the injured party considerably on the comparison questions. The business has this very high responsibility, compared with ordinary care for the customer. Therefore, it is easier to get a higher percentage of fault assigned to the business.
Who’s at Fault In Your Slip & Fall Case? Submit a Free Case Evaluation Form
If you are still looking for the right lawyer for you, consider filling out a free case evaluation and talking with a Milwaukee personal injury attorney today. You’ll see the difference when you have the opportunity to speak directly with an expert personal injury lawyer.
At Murphy & Prachthauser we are slip and fall personal injury attorneys who practice the law the way it should be practiced – motivated and equipped to do our best for you. We take pride in being good lawyers who help people.
If you have a case that you would like to speak to a personal injury lawyer about, please contact us to schedule a free consultation and get an experienced and compassionate lawyer working on your behalf.