Slip and Fall Torts: Determining Factors and What To Do

by Madeline Johnson on April 18, 2012

Below is a guest legal blog article on slip and fall torts from a US law perspective.

People fall all the time; so much in fact, that “unintentional injuries” was the leading cause of death among those between the ages of 1 and 44 and the 5th leading cause of death for all age groups in 2009.  Accidents and violence happen, but as far as U.S. law is concerned, accidents and violence fall under two different types of law.  Violence falls under criminal law.  Where accidents can fall, however, is less clear cut.  A true accident is just that, but there’s certainly a difference between an accident and an accident due to someone’s negligence; those accidents in which negligence is present fall under tort law.   Given this, what determines a slip and fall tort and what should you do if you find yourself the victim of another’s negligence?

Determining Factors

If someone is injured due to a fall on someone else’s property, five factors must be present in order to win a slip and fall case.

First, there must be proof that the person to be sued was aware of the hazard.  For instance, a shop owner is aware that a loose floor board causes shoppers to trip occasionally.

Second, there must be proof that the person to be sued was not only aware, but did not act to fix the hazard; e.g. the shop owner did not nail down or replace the loose floor board when he/she became aware of the hazard.

Third, there must be proof that the alleged hazard was unreasonably dangerous.  For example, the shop owner did not place a sign warning shoppers of the loose floor board.

Fourth, there must be proof that the alleged hazard was the sole cause of the injury/injuries sustained; e.g. if shopper tripped over the loose floor board and was injured, but wasn’t wearing his/her glasses, the chances of filing and winning a suit are very low.  However, if the shopper who tripped had no preexisting injuries or disabilities that contributed to the fall, he/she has a better chance of winning.

Fifth, there must be proof that the fall caused damages to the person filing suit.  If an injured party needed medical attention, was unable to go to work, was unable to enjoy normal life activities, etc. as a result of his/her injuries and can show documentation of those or other damages, he/she has a better chance of winning a slip and fall case.

What To Do If You’re a Victim

If you take a fall on someone else’s property and feel you may need to file a lawsuit to cover damages you’ve incurred, you should take the following steps:

First, assess your injuries and seek medical attention if you have an immediate need for it.

Second, take pictures of the hazard and the surroundings of that hazard.  In the example of a shop with a loose floor board, for instance, the injured party should take a picture of the actual loose floor board, and the walls and floors around it to demonstrate that there were no signs and that the area was not protected in such a way as to prevent a shopper from falling as a result of the board.

Third, find the owner/s of the property in which you sustained your injury/injuries.  Speak with the owner or owners and try to decipher if they knew about the hazard.  Be careful with what you say and take note of the way they answer your questions.

Fourth, if you find that the property owner was negligent, i.e. knew about the hazard and did nothing to repair it, you need to contact a slip and fall attorney to assess your case.

Madeline Johnson
Madeline Johnson is a writer and guest post author. A writer on a variety of topics, Madeline’s primary interest is the law and health industry. Much of her time is spent writing about personal injury law, specifically about how laypersons can differentiate a referral lawyer from an experienced slip and fall lawyer. In her spare time, Madeline enjoys baking and yoga.
Madeline Johnson

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