- Common Locations And Causes For Slip And Falls
- Prevalent Injuries From Slip And Falls
- Legal Information Regarding Premises Liability And Slip And Fall Accidents
- Procedure After A Slip And Fall
- Value Of A Slip And Fall Lawsuit
- Slip and Fall Case Verdicts
- Statute Of Limitations For Slip And Fall Lawsuits
Falls are some of the most potentially dangerous incidents that can happen to you. Despite many children and young people being able to fall over while playing sports or tripping while running, they are usually able to bounce right back up and continue on. It becomes more dangerous when you are not expecting the possibility of a fall, such as in a store or in your home. It also becomes more dangerous the older you get, as statistics have shown that elderly individuals suffer more falls and injuries from falls than any other group of people.
According to the National Floor Safety Institute, falls account for over 8 million hospital visits per year. Slip and falls comprise over 1 million of those visits, with fractures being the most prevalent of injuries, occurring in 5% of victims. Individuals over the age of 65 have a 33% chance of suffering fall, with many of them being repeat incidents. For those aged 65 to 84, falls are the second most common cause of death – and in those over the age of 85, falls become the leading cause.
Causes of slip and falls are most commonly linked to floors and flooring materials, or negligence concerning them. They are directly responsible for over 2 million of the falls per year. These issues can be present in any location, whether it is a store or your job. In fact, slip and falls have a profound effect on victims’ abilities to work. 22% of victims wind up having to take more than 31 days away from work to care for their injuries or receive treatment. They may also not be able to complete the same duties at their jobs as before.
Common Locations And Causes For Slip And Falls
A slip and fall can happen virtually anywhere. There have been numerous tales of individuals falling at grocery stores, in their own bathtubs at home, on sidewalks in their neighborhoods, and more. At times, the individual can be blamed for the fall. He may not have been looking where he was going, or he may have been wearing ripped shoes or too-long pants. He may have been running or hurrying along and lost his footing. Falls that occur because of your own negligent action are generally not compensable.
The grocery store is stocked with many items, ranging from food to towels to drinks to grilling equipment. It is also a bustling place that can have dozens of shoppers inside, some of whom may not practice adequate care with the items and leave them scattered around. They may drop containers or spill drinks only to not notify any workers. The spills are extremely common causes of accidents in grocery stores. Oil can also be spilled, such as in the automotive section.
The store may also have leaks in the freezers and refrigerator, or the condensation can drip down and create puddles on the tiles. The tiles themselves are often sleek and can get very slick after a cleaning. Employees who clean the store may mop and put down various materials that make everything slippery. They will need to put hazard signs down warning customers of slippery surfaces and request that they exercise caution. In addition, there may be merchandise or other items present in aisles that can cause customers to slip and falls.
Restaurants often have a lot of people running around. Waiters and waitresses bring food to tables, busboys clean after parties leave, dishwashers bring glasses to the bar, and patrons are walking back and forth to cashier tables, buffet lines, or the bathroom.
Many slip and falls happen in restaurants when an item is spilled. A customer may knock a drink over or a waitress may drop an order. There is usually a very quick clean up, but not always, especially if the restaurant is particularly busy. Chairs may also be knocked over, or supplies could be left in between tables.
Parking Lots And Sidewalks
Parking lots and sidewalks are used constantly by cars and pedestrians. Due to the high amount of traffic on them, it is no surprise that they break after a while. They may flake or crack, which can lead to potholes. Those who walk in these areas may slip from the sudden change in elevation or by jamming a foot into the hole.
Sidewalks may also lead to slip and falls in certain weather conditions. It is up to the property owner to clean the sidewalk properly so that it is not dangerous for pedestrians. Many times, rain and snow will gather on the sidewalk and make it hard to walk. Afterwards, especially in cold temperatures, ice can form. If a property owner does not put down any salt or anything to help the ice melt, pedestrians can easily slip, especially if there is no indication that any shoveling has happened.
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Department stores are similar to grocery stores in the amount of people that are present and the numerous aisles with items that could pose problems. Many of the same issues are present, simply with different products. For example, a department store can have shirts or small articles of clothing fall on the ground, which may cause customers to snag their feet or slip on them.
In toy sections, children could be careless with the items, leaving them on the floor and out of sight. Small cars, for example, can cause someone to slip and violently fall.
As with grocery stores, though, workers must ensure that the store is free from hazards and does not pose a risk to any customers. This becomes difficult as more and more customers enter. It is important that there be no merchandise in the aisles blocking anyone’s clear path. Customers are generally focuses on the products and not on the floors; it is expected that the aisles be safe for walking.
The workplace has various ways for slip and falls to occur. The circumstances of the fall are usually relative to the type of workplace. For example, auto repair shops and garages usually have an excess of oil and grease on the floors, and there may be many tools scattered about. It is important that workers learn how to navigate a hectic job environment, but if there are hazards that are clearly causing troubles, they should be cleared before someone gets injured.
Office buildings can have torn carpeting and loose floor tiles that may cause individuals to slip or trip and fall. Injuries in offices are not uncommon, and the company can shoulder the burden and wind up paying worker’s compensation.
Common Places Where Slip and Fall Accidents Happen
In addition to the above mentioned locations, slip and falls can also happen in schools, hospitals, playgrounds, malls, barber shops, airplanes, and more. There are always certain circumstances that can potentially cause accidents. Those who enter such premises should always be extremely careful and cognizant of their surroundings.
Given the amount of slip and falls that occur in even the most innocuous of places, it is crucial that you avoid danger at all costs. Always watch where you are going and do not assume that every space is danger-free.
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Prevalent Injuries From Slip And Falls
Slip and fall injuries can range from extremely minor to fatal. As stated above, the older you get, the more likely it is for the damages to be severe. This is due to decreased reflexes to catch yourself when falling, more brittle bones, a lifetime of injuries and old damages that have affected you, and much more. Some injuries can lead to other afflictions that could last for years.
Some of the injuries that are often associated with slip and falls include:
- Broken bones
- Strained muscles
- Torn muscles
- Nerve damage
- CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome)
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Brain damage
- Closed head injuries
- Internal organ injuries
- Puncture wounds
- Knee injuries to the LCL, MCL, and ACL
- Hip damage
- Herniated, slipped, or bulging discs in the spine
- Spinal cord injuries
- Neck damages
- Quadriplegia and paraplegia
- Aggravation of previous injuries
Slip and fall injuries may prevent you from living your regular life. You may be permanently damaged in the incident. For example, there have been cases where individuals have fallen and have broken their legs, only to get inadequate medical treatment or not be able to heal properly because of the extent of the injury. There have been infections from surgeries. Fluids have filled spaces and made it difficult to move without pain. Bones may not set due to age. Amputation could be an option, and nobody wants to suffer an amputated limb because of a fall.
Legal Information Regarding Premises Liability And Slip And Fall Accidents
Victims of slip and fall accidents can take legal action against the responsible entity if it can be proven that there was negligence at play. Property owners must take ample and adequate care of their properties and not place anyone in danger if they choose to enter the premises. In most personal injury lawsuits, a victim can sue for negligence if it can be established that he was owed a duty of care that was breached by the responsible party, and the breach of duty led to an accident that caused physical injuries.
These elements are present in premises liability cases, along with some other necessities. For one, it is important to understand your status on the property. If you were in a store and you intended to make a purchase or exchange goods, you are considered an invitee. Invitees are given the highest level of care by property owners due to the fact that they are paying customers.
Licensees are slightly less privileged than invitees. Licensees are those who may enter a premises for no pay or benefit; they may be social guests or those who are going door-to-door to sell goods.
Finally, there are trespassers who have no legal right to be on the property. However, even though they are not allowed on the property, certain care must be given to them. You cannot lay traps for trespassers, for example, and if your property is commonly trespassed upon – such as a corner house that has people cut through the backyard or front yard to speed up their travels – you cannot harm the individuals if there is no aggressive action.
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It is also important that you understand the grounds for which you can sue a property owner if you were injured while on the property. There are generally three situations that can be proven:
- The property owner caused the hazard, whether by spilling a cooler, placing faulty carpet, breaking a sidewalk, or some other action
- The property owner knew about the hazard and chose to do nothing to repair or fix it, whether that includes correcting the issue himself, asking an employee to rectify the situation, or calling in maintenance or a third-party to clean the area
- The property owner did not know about the hazard but reasonably should have had he been meticulous or careful in his observation; managers and store owners should always have individuals available who can check on parts of the store, and anyone who owns a home or rents an apartment should be aware of the possible risks and problems present
Therefore, if you wish to file a lawsuit after suffering injuries in a slip and fall accident on a property, you must be able to show that you were not responsible and that the owner was. It can be difficult to prove this in some situations.
Procedure After A Slip And Fall
To prove that you were not responsible for your damages in a slip and fall incident, you should be sure to gather as much proof and evidence available to you. This proof will be sent to the insurance agency; the agent will consider all the fine details of the incident and then decide on an offer, if any were to come. Without ample proof, you will not be able to file a claim; your request for any compensation will be immediately thrown out.
We recommend the following procedure to get evidence for your claim:
First and foremost, get medical attention from paramedics or by going to the hospital. You should verify your injuries to ensure that you do not have any additional or hidden damages, as some injuries may not show up immediately or may take a long time to present. Some victims do not complain of any injuries the day of the fall, but will go to the emergency room later with complaints of intense pain. This is due to the adrenaline dump that happens after you have calmed down from the high-stress event.
The visit to the doctor can be emotional and nerve-wracking. You should make sure to hold on to the medical notes, hospital receipts, X-rays, and anything else that can be used to show that you were seen by a healthcare professional and that you received treatment.
You will need to show the extent of your damages, so you should take pictures and videos of your injuries. You can pair these pictures with photos of the scene of the incident, such as the wet floor or broken item that caused you to fall.
If the fall happened at a place of business, you can file an incident report with the manager to alert corporate to the issue. This will prevent the business from saying you were not present in the store at the time of the alleged incident.
To further protect your case, you should acquire surveillance footage or security videos showing what happened in the incident. It can be very difficult to acquire such footage from the business if they know it will be used against them.
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You should interview nearby eyewitnesses to get their statements about the event. These bystanders can provide additional perspectives and background for your case if you wish. They can describe the slip and fall and tell you if there has been a history of falls at that location.
You can request the insurance information and contact details from the party. You may need to speak with a homeowner’s insurance agent or you could simply reach out to a large company like Geico if they represent the place at which you slipped and fell.
In the event that you slipped and fell while you were working, you could go through necessary channels to pursue worker’s compensation. This includes going to your employer for approval of medical treatment, seeing a company-appointed doctor to determine your maximum medical improvement, applying for disability pay, and more.
Your evidence will then be gathered into a package to be delivered to the insurance company, along with a demand letter requesting compensation for specific damages. The insurance agent will take a few weeks to go through the package before additional communication is made. The amount of time an agent spends on a case can vary depending on the amount of evidence you have provided and the reluctance from the agency and the party to cooperate or reach an agreement.
Value Of A Slip And Fall Lawsuit
Many individuals elect not to pursue personal injury claims after slip and fall incidents because they are unsure of how much money they can win and if it will be too costly if they lose. This is a fair fear; victims often do not have any legal experience and filing a civil claim can be confusing. Some individuals may ask for more compensation than they can realistically receive, while others may not pursue nearly enough damages.
The value of your claim will be dependent on a few factors. For one, the injuries you suffered will primarily be used to come up with a number. If your injuries were severe, long-lasting, and extensive, your case value would likely be fairly high compared to if you only suffered a sprain and some bruising. Further, the impact that your injuries had on your career and life will also be judged.
In addition, the insurance agent will look at your job type and your age, though not as importantly as the damages you suffered. He will, however, place a certain amount of emphasis on the level of negligence you displayed in the incident. It is rare for a slip and fall case to have strict liability for the defendant; if you could have avoided the incident in some way, or if you contributed to the hazard or accident, you may be held partially responsible. This partial responsibility could negatively impact the value of your case and you would receive a reduced settlement.
In filing a personal injury lawsuit for injuries in a slip and fall accident, you will likely pursue the following types of damages:
- Compensation for your medical bills from the past and future, including surgery, hospitalization, physical therapy, medication, and more
- Reimbursement for any lost wages you suffered due to missed days of work, as well as future missed income for days you will not be able to go to your job because of recovery time or additional medical procedures
- Property damage if any of your personal items or belongings were lost or broken in the incident
- Pain and suffering damages if you were emotionally traumatized, suffered PTSD or intense fear, acquired anxiety, or felt other mental or psychological issues spring up
- Punitive damages, which are handed out in times of gross negligence or when an individual intentionally harmed you, but they are hard to win due to many judges and juries viewing them as excessive
- Wrongful death damages, which can be awarded if a family member or loved one passes away due to injuries from the slip and fall; these expenses can include funeral and burial costs, pre-death medical bills and pain and suffering, loss of consortium, loss of relations, loss of expected savings an inheritance, and more
Slip and Fall Case Verdicts
Victims of slip and fall accidents should familiarize themselves with other case verdicts to see similarities and discrepancies. It is extremely important to note, however, that case similarities do not guarantee that you will receive the same amount of compensation if you win. You may have the exact details and injuries as another individual, but your job types could be different enough that you would receive greatly disparate settlement offers.
A competent attorney can ensure that you have the best possible chance of success. Medical experts, employees, witnesses, and more will be called to testify. A weak case with little evidence is doomed to fail, but a qualified lawyer can make all the difference in the world.
A few sample cases can be found below.
Glendy M. Leslie Lewis v. Vallarta Supermarkets Inc., Daniel Food Enterprises Inc., and Gonzalez Food Enterprises Inc.
In Glendy M. Leslie Lewis v. Vallarta Supermarkets Inc., Daniel Food Enterprises Inc., and Gonzalez Food Enterprises Inc., Lewis filed a claim based on injuries she suffered after slipping and falling in a Vallarta Supermarket
Lewis was out grocery shopping with her then-husband. While she was placing an order with the worker at the Taqueria department, her husband slipped a piece of ice down her shirt. He got the ice from a soda display that was near the counter. Lewis told him off and he removed the ice, placing it back on the display. Lewis claimed that he put the ice down her shirt only one time, but securty footage showed that it happened four times.
When she walked away from the Taqueria, she slipped and hurt herself, damaging her ankle and knee.
Lewis and her attorney posited that the water that she slipped on was not caused by the ice and that the soda display’s presence was enough to show liability of the store. After it was proven that the water came about due to the couple playing around with the ice, the jury reached a decision in favor of the defense. Lewis’s request to cover a $10,000 medical lien was denied.
Athena Arnett, a minor by and through her Guardian Ad Litem, Donna Stubblefield v. Westfield LLC; Environmental Service Concepts, LLC; and Plaza West Covina LP
In Athena Arnett, a minor by and through her Guardian Ad Litem, Donna Stubblefield v. Westfield LLC; Environmental Service Concepts, LLC; and Plaza West Covina LP; a young girl hurt herself while walking in a mall in West Covina.
Athena slipped on a large ice cream spill in the food court of the mall, hurting the right side of her lower body in the incident. She complained of ongoing pain to her entire leg, including her knee, hip, foot, and ankle. She received treatment from paramedics, including X-rays, but nothing was noted. After a few months of ongoing pain, Athena went to an orthopedist; an X-ray then showed a hairline fracture on her fifth metatarsal.
The defense claimed that the ice cream that had been spilled was large enough to see and posed an open and obvious threat. The food court was continuously patrolled and had been previously patrolled shortly before the spill and ensuing incident occurred. Athena had not looked to the ground, by her own admission; she stated that the lighting was adequate, as well.
Athena’s guardian pursued $25,000 in pain and suffering with waived medical bills. The jury denied the request, stating that the premises was not liable for the injury.
Shannon Kolstad v. Thoreau Janitorial Services, Inc.; and H&H Retail Owner, LLC
In Shannon Kolstad v. Thoreau Janitorial Services, Inc.; and H&H Retail Owner, LLC; Kolstad sued for damages after falling in a store.
Kolstad worked at Sephora and was in the manager’s office while a cleaning crew was in the store. Kolstad claimed that she believed the cleaning crew was cleaning the front of the store. The manager’s office was located at the rear. It turned out that the crew had gone to the rear of the store and cleaned the floor there, but had not put up any caution signs or wet floor signs. As a result, when Kolstad left the manager’s office, she slipped on the wet floor and landed hard on her right side.
After the incident, Kolstad complained of constant pain. Her damages included a contusion on her hip, a herniated disc in her lower back, and, eventually, complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS. The CRPS affected her nearly 5 years after the fall. She has been unable to work since the incident.
The defense claimed that the CRPS was mild. It further stated that the rear of the store was cleaned every morning at 8 a.m. and that Kolstad should have been aware that the crew was back there due to the scent of cleaning materials. She also had let the cleaning crew into the store at the start of her shift.
The medical experts testifying in the case disagreed with each other. The plaintiff’s said that Kolstad’s treatments were necessary and that the CRPS was likely spreading. The defense’s said that the CRPS was not spreading and that she would be able to return to work very soon, as well as have a child.
A bench trial was carried out after Kolstad waived a jury trial. The judge agreed that the crew company was negligent and that the lack of care contributed to the damages Kolstad suffered. She awarded Kolstad $7,100,000 for her injuries, medical bills, and pain and suffering.
Eddie Gale Stevens, Jr., aka Eddie Gale, and Georgette Gale Stevens v. SaveMart Supermarkets
In Eddie Gale Stevens, Jr., aka Eddie Gale, and Georgette Gale Stevens v. SaveMart Supermarkets, Gale sued the grocery store for negligence after he tripped and fell on a display.
The display was comprised of two pallets of water bottles. One of the displays was nearly empty, which was akin to an empty pallet being present directly inside the front door of the store. Gale tripped on the display as soon as he walked into the store, an event which was captured on video and showed him looking the other direction as he walked.
During the discovery process, two employees testified. One employee stated that had he known the pallet was there and empty, he would have cleared it away, as it was instructed that such things were a violation of safety. However, security video showed that he walked by the pallet without taking any action. The store manager also testified, but he claimed that he “did not worry about safety, just sales.”
Gale suffered an aggravation to his already-occurring spinal stenosis. He was afflicted with cervical myelopathy and autonomic hyperreflexia. The hyperreflexia prevented him from playing his trumpet, for which he is famous. He is a professional trumpeter, playing with many famous musicians on numerous albums. Hyperreflexia involves involuntary jerking of the body when presented with external stimuli.
The defense claimed that the pallet was not dangerous because nobody else tripped on it. A medical expert said that Gale’s damages were related to his elderly age.
In the end, the jury declared that the supermarket and its employees were primarily negligent and that their inaction was a substantial cause for the injuries Gale suffered. They awarded him $490,000 for his damages.
In some cases, the plaintiff was not given any compensation for the damages due to his or her own negligence. A jury may have felt differently if they believed that plaintiffs should exercise a lot of caution when walking around and that not enough people watch where they are going. A judge could also have ruled slightly differently if he believed a store must ensure that all customers are protected and safe, even if the customers potentially endanger themselves.
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Statute Of Limitations For Slip And Fall Lawsuits
In California, the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit against a responsible party for damages suffered in a slip and fall lawsuit is 2 years from the date of the injury. If you do not file a claim within this 2-year limit, you will not be able to pursue compensation in the future and your claim will be tossed out or prevented from advancing.
This is an important number to remember, as many individuals may report pain from the beginning of the incident but not receive a diagnosis until a year later. Their statute of limitations would already be halfway over by the time they are told what the issue is.
In some cases, though, the statute of limitations can be extended. This is possible when you are underage at the time of the incident, which would allow the statute to be extended and begin on your 18th birthday; when you are physically or mentally incapacitated after the incident, which would postpone the statute until you return to functioning health; or if the defendant leaves the state, which would prolong the statute until he returns.
If you are ever in need of an attorney to keep track of the appropriate amount of time you need to file a claim or to tell you when your deadlines are, you should consult with a law firm with experience in slip and fall lawsuits.
The Ultimate Guide of lip Trip & Fall injuries