Proving Liability in a Slip and Fall Case

Life is unpredictable. One minute you’re picking through the vegetables at Sherm’s Thunderbird in Klamath Falls, and the next minute you’re flat on your back, under a pile of tomatoes, staring up at the ceiling.

A slip and fall can happen anywhere. And when it does, you need to know a few things.

What Caused It.

As we said, a slip and fall can occur anywhere, at any time. Sometimes people just trip over their own feet. But at other times, there is a condition on the property (water, a banana peel, snow, ice, etc.) that caused or contributed to it.

While property owners have a duty to keep their property in good repair so that others do not get hurt, not every condition will make the property owner liable for injuries sustained on the premises due to a slip and fall.  Generally, the owner’s liability will depend on whether or not he or she knew of the dangerous condition, took appropriate actions to maintain the property in a safe condition, or to warn people of potential dangers.  

Proving Liability for a Slip and Fall.

A “slip-and-fall” is a type of personal injury case. Slip and fall cases generally come under the broader category of “premises liability” actions.

In the world of personal injury actions, slip and fall cases can be some of the most difficult to prove.

Why?

Because there is a tension in the law when it comes to premises liability. While a property owner has a duty to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition, those entering on another’s property have their own duties as well. Each person assumes normal risks and every person is expected to be aware of, and avoid, dangerous conditions. A dangerous condition is one which presents an unreasonable risk to the person entering the property, and it must be one which the injured person could not have anticipated.

In a slip and fall case like the one we pose above, to prevail at trial, you must prove that the property owner knew a dangerous condition existed and that:

  • The owner (or possessor)  knew the condition existed yet negligently failed to correct it or warn guests about it; or
  • The condition existed for so long that the owner (or possessor) should have known about it and corrected it before the accident occurred.

For a property owner or possessor to be held liable, it must have been foreseeable that his negligence would create the danger at issue.

Many factors go into proving a slip and fall case.

Don’t Go It Alone!

If you or someone you love has been injured in a slip and fall case, we can advise you as to your case. We provide free consultations and we have offices in Klamath Falls, Salem, Albany, Bend, Tigard and a number of other cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. Contact us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568

What is the Statute of Limitations on Filing my Personal Injury Lawsuit?

What is the Statute of Limitations on Filing my Personal Injury Lawsuit?Every state has its own deadline for filing personal injury lawsuits; this deadline is referred to as the “statute of limitations.” This means that a lawsuit must be filed within a certain time limit from the accident or injury, or else the injured party’s legal claim will be barred and they will forever lose the right to sue over that claim. In other words, the clock starts running on the statute of limitations on the day that you were injured. Depending on the state, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases ranges from one to six years. It’s important that, in the event you have an accident or slip and fall case, you are aware of the applicable statute of limitations to ensure that you don’t file your claim too late.

In some states, the type of personal injury claim can affect the time limit the injured party has to file a claim. For example, some kinds of defamation cases and claims involving persons under 18 may be granted longer time limits, while medical malpractice claims might get a reduced time limit. Most states have an exception to the standard statute of limitations time limits known as the “discovery rule” (or “discovery of harm” rule). The discovery rule exception extends the filing deadline in cases where the injured party was unaware of either: the injury, or the fact that the defendant’s actions may have caused the injury.

An example of the discovery rule in action is a medical malpractice claim where a surgeon left a temporary bandage in a patient’s abdomen, but the mistake was not discovered until years later. In this case, the statute of limitations would probably not start to run until the mistake was discovered. However, for this exception to apply, the delay in discovery must be reasonable. For example, if the patient experienced abdominal pain for years after the mistake but refused to seek treatment, the discovery rule exception might not apply.

What Are the Most Common Slip and Fall Accidents?

How Can I Prove a Slip and Fall Accident?Slip and fall accidents result in thousands of traumatic injuries every year. Here are some of the most common types of slip and falls, and somethings you can watch out for.

  1. Wet and Uneven Surface

This type of accident accounts for 55% of slip and falls every year. When you’re walking anywhere watch out for the following (particularly if you’re in unfamiliar surroundings):

  • Loose floorboards
  • Defective sidewalks
  • Parking lot potholes
  • Cluttered floors
  • Torn carpeting
  • Recently mopped or waxed areas
  • Loose mats
  • Any place where water or other liquid has accumulated
  • Rundown or poorly constructed stairways
  1. Adverse Weather Conditions

Bad weather causes a significant number of slip and fall accidents every year. While winter weather isn’t the only culprit, it does present the most common hazards. Watch for patches of ice, sidewalks and staircases that haven’t been shoveled or salted, and black ice on the pavement.

  1. Improper training in the workplace

Slip and falls are common in the workplace, particularly the construction industry; and they frequently result in litigation. When employees in high risk industries are not given proper safety training or procedures, the risk of slip and falls and other injuries goes up exponentially. Employees should make sure that they receive proper training on all equipment and tools they are expected to use.

  1. Nursing Home Neglect

Sadly, slip and fall accidents are common in nursing homes. The elderly often have an impaired sense of balance which leaves them especially vulnerable to slipping and falling. This risk is compounded by the fact that the chances of a slip and fall injury being life-threatening are also increased in the case of elderly adults. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, make sure the administrators and aides are properly assisting and monitoring their residents.

  1. Footwear

The National Floor Safety Institute has found that 24% of all slip and falls are caused by the wearing of improper footwear. The major risk factor here is when shoes or boots do not offer the right kind of traction for the conditions at hand.

How Can I Prove a Slip and Fall Accident?

How Can I Prove a Slip and Fall Accident?Thousands of people are injured in slip and fall accidents every year. These include slipping on a slick surface, falling down stairs, tripping over an object, or stepping in a hole. Proving fault in a slip and fall accident is often difficult, but if you are injured you should know how to go about making a case.

There are four basic elements that must be proven to win a slip and fall claim. Simply because you had an accident on someone else’s property is not necessarily enough to mount a strong case. It must be shown that the property owner had a responsibility to maintain the premises and address any harmful conditions (within reason). In other words, could have the property owner have prevented the accident? While property owners will not necessarily be held liable for something a reasonable person would have avoided, they are expected to take reasonable steps to keep their property free of potentially harmful or unsafe conditions. Courts will often balance the property owner’s duty to keep the premises safe against the care that the accident victim should have used.

To prevail in a slip and fall claim, you will likely have to show one of the following:

  • The property owner should have known that the dangerous condition existed, i.e. because a reasonable person in the property owner/employer’s position would have known about such a condition and addressed it.
  • The property owner did in fact know that the dangerous condition existed, but made no attempts to address it.
  • The property owner caused the dangerous condition.

The first element (whether a reasonable person would have known about the condition) is the one most often litigated, and the most difficult to prove. Here are some questions to ask when trying to assess the reasonable person question:

  • Did the dangerous condition exist long enough that a reasonable property owner could have/would have taken action to address it?
  • Did the property owner have a policy or procedures in place to routinely check for potential hazards or safety issues?
  • Was there a reasonable justification for the existence of the dangerous condition?
  • Could the dangerous condition be mitigated through preventative measures?
  • Was poor lighting or visibility a factor in the accident?

5 Things to Know About a Slip and Fall Accident

5 Things to Know About a Slip and Fall AccidentA slip and fall accident occurs when a person slips, trips, or falls on someone else’s property as a result of a dangerous or hazardous condition. It includes falls caused by water, ice, snow, uneven flooring, poor lighting, or a hidden hazard like a hole in the ground. These types of accidents can be extremely serious, resulting in back, head, and neck injuries that can produce lifelong pain and health issues. Here are five things to keep in mind if you or a love one is involved in a slip and fall accident.

  1. Immediately get help. Not only do you want to get necessary medical assistance on the scene as fast as possible, you need to let an employee or property owner know want happened so you can establish a record of the incident.
  2. Do not provide the insurance company with any kind of recorded statement. Claims adjusters often try to get the injured person to agree to a recorded question and answer session over the telephone. Do not let yourself be talked into this, as you have nothing to gain and a lot to lose by it. You probably don’t know the details or extent of your injuries yet, or even the basic facts of what happened and why. Don’t get locked into a premature statement on the record.
  3. Follow through in necessary medical treatments and follow-up visits. While some people avoid going to the doctor or physical therapist at all costs, this is emphatically not the course you want to take after a slip and fall accident. Not only do you need to make sure your injuries are properly treated for the sake of your health, not following the advice of your doctors can make the insurance company suspicious that your injuries are not as serious as you’re claiming.
  4. Make notes throughout the process. First, write down everything you can remember and learn about the injury itself. Then keep track of your physician visits and all medical treatments, and the daily status of your injuries. Also keep track of any loss of wages due to an inability to work.
  5. Stay off of social media. Thoughtless updates on Facebook or Instagram can be disastrous for personal injury litigation. Don’t do the opposing side’s job for them.