The first question we usually ask is, “Where did the slip and fall accident occur?” This will help us determine whose insurance policy to make a claim against:
Your lawyer will ask about how your accident occurred. Did you see what you slipped or tripped on? Did the owner or anyone present mention a possible obstacle or hazard before you fell? What about after your fall? Were there witnesses when you fell?
These questions are essential to proving the multiple elements of negligence:
Here are some situations that we commonly see in these cases:
The fact that a floor is wet isn’t negligence in itself.
Sometimes it’s necessary to mop a floor. Sometimes people spill things.
What makes the situation negligent is that the property owner doesn’t address the situation promptly by either cleaning up/drying the spill or placing a “wet floor” sign to warn others.
To prove negligence, it’s usually necessary to determine how long the wet floor hazard existed and whether the owner/manager should have known about it. If the condition only existed briefly and the owner/manager couldn’t have reasonably been expected to know about it, they probably weren’t negligent.
For instance, let’s say you were at the bowling alley, and a customer at a nearby lane spilled their drink.
They went to the snack bar to inform an employee about the mess, and while they were gone, you turned around and headed for the restroom, unknowingly crossing over the spilled puddle. You slipped and fell.
Was the bowling alley negligent? No, the condition had only existed briefly, and they didn’t have a chance to fix it.
On the other hand, if the spilled drink was still there an hour later, and then you slipped and fell, it would be easier to make a case that the bowling alley failed to address a hazard.
Even if the customer who spilled the drink left without telling anyone, it could be argued that the bowling alley should have an employee keep an eye on the lanes, and this person should have spotted the spilled drink and reported it.
These are similar to puddles and wet floors, but the hazards are usually solid objects in this case. They can be anything from children’s toys left in a stairwell to a garden hose lying across a walkway.
We’ve also seen cases where people tripped on exposed wires, torn or bunched carpets, loose tiles, loose or damaged bricks in a walkway, damaged or uneven flooring, or even holes or cracks in the floor. The same rules apply to prove negligence.
Sometimes the problem isn’t a hazardous condition on the ground but one above your head. In a poorly-lit area, you might trip on a normal part of the walkway, such as the first step of a stairwell.
The stairs should be obvious in normal lighting conditions, but if the owner failed to replace a dead lightbulb, they may have created a situation where you couldn’t see where you were going.
These weather conditions create a hazard, and business owners are responsible for keeping their parking lots and walkways relatively clear of winter precipitation. Shoveling and applying rock salt is helpful, but with people walking in and out, melted snow from their boots may create puddles.
Ideally, the business owner should also put out a “caution” or “wet floor” sign to slow guests down.
Some hazards can’t be fixed easily or are a constant issue. For instance, a hotel with a pool will always have a potential hazard.
Although the pavers around pools are typically a non-slip material, puddles can still gather. This is why signs usually caution guests not to run near the pool to reduce the risk of slipping and falling.
If you slipped and fell in a business, we recommend speaking to an attorney before you file an insurance claim. Your lawyer will help you determine how much to seek in damages – many people overlook some of the costs of their injuries and don’t seek enough compensation.
Next, your attorney will gather evidence in your case, including video surveillance and witness statements. This will help improve the chances of your claim being successful and will be useful if you need to go to court.
Finally, they will file your claim and keep you updated as they negotiate with the insurance carrier on your behalf.
The Heavy Hitters at Tatum & Atkinson have recovered more than $100 million in compensation for people who have been injured. If you suffer the effects of a slip-and-fall accident, please call us at 800-LAW-0804 for a free consultation.
Should we take your case, you won’t pay us anything until we win or settle it.