A slip and fall case is a type of personal injury case that can happen just about anywhere—in a store, a restaurant, at work, or even within the common areas of the apartment complex where you live. The key to a slip and fall case is that you are on property owned by someone else and you slip, trip, or otherwise fall and injure yourself because of some dangerous condition that is on the property.
Perhaps you are shopping in a supermarket and you turn the corner into an aisle. As you’re looking at your grocery list, you step on something slippery. Your foot goes out from under you, and you fall right into a large puddle of water that is all over the tiled floor. You’ve landed on your hip, injuring yourself. There’s no sign posted that would have warned you about the puddle of water and no way you could have seen it as you turned the corner into the aisle. Later, when the store checks the security footage, they realize that the puddle of water had been there for almost four hours and no one had cleaned it up.
Under these facts, the store owner is likely liable to you for your injuries and related expenses. Why? Because the owner was at fault for the dangerous condition that caused your fall and you hadn’t done anything that contributed to your fall and your resulting injuries.
How to Prove a Property Owner Was at Fault?
Proving fault in a slip and fall case is not always straightforward. To hold the property owner responsible for your injuries, you will have to demonstrate that:
- The property owner acted negligently
- The property owner’s negligence was the cause of your slip and fall
- You were not being careless
A Property Owner’s Negligence
To prove that the property owner was negligent, you will need to prove that there was a “dangerous condition” that the property owner knew about and did nothing to fix.
To prove that there was a dangerous condition, you must show that:
- Something created an unreasonable risk of harm to someone on the property
- The property owner knew about the unreasonable risk of harm
To prove that the property owner knew that the dangerous condition existed, you can show that:
- The property owner created the condition
- The property owner knew that the dangerous condition existed and failed to correct it
- The condition existed for a long enough period of time that the property owner should have known about the dangerous condition and corrected it before the accident
Consider the supermarket example, with the puddle of water on the floor. If the property owner spilled the water and left it there, then he or she created the condition and is likely liable for your slip and fall. Likewise, if the property owner saw someone else spill the water and didn’t make sure that the water got cleaned up, then he or she is likely liable in that scenario as well because they knew of the dangerous condition and failed to correct it. But even if the property owner had no actual knowledge of the water spilled on the floor, the property owner still could be liable if the water had been there for so long that they would have seen it if they had been making reasonable efforts to keep their store clean and safe.
A property owner has a duty to make their property safe for people who legally come on to the property. A failure to meet that duty makes the property owner responsible for the injuries they caused.
The property owner’s negligence must have been the reason that you slipped and fell. This may seem obvious, but causation is an important component of a slip and fall case. If our supermarket owner has left puddles of water all over the floor of the store but you slip and fall because you tripped on your own shoelace, the supermarket owner may have been negligent, but their negligence wasn’t the cause of your fall. In that case, even though the store owner was negligent, he or she isn’t liable to you for your injuries because your injuries aren’t the result of the storeowner’s negligence.
The supermarket owner also may not be liable for your injuries if you were being careless when you slipped and fell. For instance, if you saw the puddle of water on the floor but you chose to walk right through it anyway, your carelessness might mean that the supermarket owner isn’t responsible. In that case, you knew that the water was there and that walking over wet tile might make you slip. Therefore, it was your responsibility to avoid that danger by walking around the puddle instead of straight through it. Knowing about the danger and not avoiding it might relieve the supermarket owner of liability.
What Documentation Do I Need for a Slip and Fall?
When you suffer injury from a slip and fall case, it is important to gather documentation of the incident and your injury to put yourself in the best possible position to be compensated. Here are some things you should do after a slip and fall:
- Make sure that you don’t leave the scene of the incident without filing an incident report. When you file the incident report, request a copy of it for your own records.
- If anyone witnessed your slip and fall, ask them to stay while you’re filing your report and provide a witness statement. You also can record your own copy of their witness statement on your phone or get it in writing.
- Take photographs of the scene of the incident, capturing the dangerous condition that caused your fall and any other relevant parts of the scene. Ask if there is security footage that would show how the fall occurred.
- Document your injuries as thoroughly as possible by taking photographs of the injuries and keeping all medical records related to your treatment.
Taking these steps will help you build your case against the property owner and will be essential to getting the compensation you’re seeking.
How Do I Get Compensated?
There are two primary ways to be compensated after a slip and fall case:
- File an insurance claim
- File a lawsuit
If you slip and fall in a store, restaurant, or the common area of your apartment complex, it is likely that the property owner has some kind of insurance. You can inform the property owner that you slipped and fell on their property and that you want compensation for your injuries. It’s possible that the property owner will cooperate and provide insurance information that will allow you to get started with filing a claim.
Even in that best-case scenario, however, the insurance company is going to try to settle your claim for the least amount of money possible. An insurance company may offer you a settlement that fails to take into account the full extent of your injuries, such as the time you missed from work or the pain and suffering you experienced as a result of your fall. You can try to negotiate with the insurance company for a larger settlement on your own, but the best thing you can do is consult with an experienced slip and fall attorney about your options. The attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC, have years of experience in slip and fall cases and know how to handle insurance companies that try to negotiate a settlement for less than you deserve.
The insurance company may not be willing to give you a settlement that you find acceptable. In that case, your only option is to file a lawsuit against the property owner to try to get the compensation you deserve.
The attorneys at Foster and Wallace, LLC, will be able to help you review the facts of your case under the laws in your jurisdiction to determine how to proceed with your lawsuit. If you proceed with a lawsuit, you will file a complaint alleging that:
- The property owner was negligent
- The property owner’s negligence was the cause of your injury
- You were not careless
After you file your complaint, the property owner will have an opportunity to respond. The property owner might respond and deny the allegations in your complaint. If that is the case, then the lawsuit will proceed to the discovery and trial phase. If the court determines that the property owner was negligent and caused your injuries, the court will rule in your case and award appropriate damages.
However, it is always possible that the property owner will decide to settle your claim. This can happen at any point in the litigation, and you will have the opportunity to review all settlement offers and decide whether you want to accept a settlement or proceed to trial. Either way, the attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC, will be with you every step of the way and will fight for the compensation you need.
Contact Top Slip and Fall Attorneys Today
If you slip and fall, you could suffer mild or serious injuries. Either way, you may be entitled to compensation if you fall as the result of a dangerous condition on someone else’s property and the property owner knew or should have known about the condition and fixed it. If you slip and fall, be sure you document as much of the incident and your subsequent medical expenses as possible. This documentation will help you hold the property owner accountable either through an insurance claim or a lawsuit. Whether you pursue an insurance claim or a lawsuit, it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced attorney to make sure you obtain the most compensation available.
If you've experienced a Kansas City personal injury, you should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.249.2101 to schedule your free consultation.