Slip and Fall FAQs | Morris James LLP
1. Are slip and fall cases hard to win?
Slip and fall cases have a reputation of being hard to win because the injured person has to prove that the defendant:
- Owed them a duty of care (negligence) or similar legal obligation (premises liability);
- Acted in a way that breached that duty or obligation; and
- That breach caused the injured person’s injury/loss/damage.
If any of these elements are missing, the injured person will not win in a court of law. However, many personal injury cases are settled before they ever make it to the courtroom. If the facts of the case show that the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries, the plaintiff has a very strong case whether in settlement negotiations or in court.
2. Who is responsible for a slip and fall accident if the property is rented?
Liability for a slip and fall accident in a rental property can depend on a number of factors including:
- Who was injured?
- Why was the injured person on the property?
- What caused the accident?
- Did the accident occur inside a tenant’s apartment or in a common area?
- Was the landlord notified of the dangerous condition?
- Is there a contract or lease that places a duty on a certain party?
A landlord has a legal obligation to keep rental property habitable and free from dangerous conditions. The landlord is responsible for inspecting and maintaining common areas. However, a landlord is not expected to know about a dangerous condition inside a tenant’s apartment unless he has been notified of it. Liability for a slip and fall inside a tenant’s apartment is very dependent on the specific circumstances of that case.
3. What is a premises liability cause of action?
A premises liability cause of action is a legal claim that arises when someone suffers damages as a result of a dangerous condition on another person’s property. A property owner has a duty to take reasonable care to keep their property safe for people who come onto it, and to conduct reasonable and prudent inspections of their property for hazards. Each state has different rules about the extent of a property owner’s duty depending on why the injured person was on the property. Typically, a property owner will have a greater obligation to their invited guests than to trespassers.
4. What should I do after a slip and fall accident or sustaining an injury?
When you have had a slip and fall accident, you should:
- Get medical attention.
- Report the incident immediately to the property owner/manager, and keep a copy of the report.
- Document the scene by taking photos or videos.
- Get the names and phone numbers of any witnesses to the fall itself or the condition causing the fall.
- Do not say or do anything to accept blame.
- Stay off social media – your social media activity will be reviewed by an opposing lawyer.
- Keep a copy of all letters, emails, medical bills, and other related documents together in a file.
- Contact a personal injury lawyer – any initial case evaluation should be free.
5. What if my slip and fall accident made a preexisting injury worse?
In a slip and fall accident, a defendant can be liable for the worsening of preexisting conditions. A defendant will not be liable for any prior injuries or conditions but they can be liable for injuries caused, or made worse, by the accident.
6. I fell on a friend’s property, and I don’t want to sue them, but my bills are piling up — what should I do?
If you are injured in a slip and fall accident on a friend’s property, you should still consider bringing a personal injury action to compensate you for your injuries and cover your medical bills. Most people have homeowner’s insurance that will be responsible for defending the claim and covering the cost of legal fees and damages (within individual policy limits). This is the purpose of homeowner’s insurance just as people have car insurance to cover such costs in an accident.
7. I slipped on ice on my way into the office, what should I do?
If you slip and fall on your way into work, you may be entitled to compensation for your injury or medical bills by an action in negligence, premises liability, or workers’ compensation, depending on the circumstances of the accident.
A claim in negligence will depend on whether or not someone, other than your employer, owed you a duty of care, was negligent in causing the ice build up, and that caused your fall and injury.
A premises liability claim may be brought against the owner or occupier of the property on which you slipped or against another party responsible for maintaining the area such as a snow removal contractor.
With very limited exception, you cannot bring a negligence claim against your employer. If you slip and fall in the parking lot at work or at your place of business, you will likely have a worker’s compensation claim against your employer. If there was another entity responsible for maintaining the area where you slipped and fell such as a snow removal contractor or a janitorial service, you may also have a negligence claim against that entity.
8. What questions will I be asked in a slip and fall deposition?
At a slip and fall deposition, you will be asked detailed questions about how the fall happened, your injury and loss, your medical history before the incident, and your medical issues and activity after the incident. Common questions include:
- When did the fall happen?
- Why were you there?
- What were you wearing?
- How fast were you walking?
- What was the weather like?
- What were you looking at while you were walking?
- Did you see the ice?
- Which foot slipped?
- Which part of your body hit the ground first?
- What were your injuries?
- What were your symptoms?
- How did your symptoms change over time?
- Did you see a doctor?
- How long did it take for you to recover?
- What activities were you unable to do after the fall?
- Are you able to do all your normal activities now?
- How long were you out of work?
9. Can I sue the city/town/borough if I slipped and fell on a broken piece of sidewalk?
Whether or not you can sue the local authority depends on the state and local laws. In Delaware, most municipalities are protected from being sued for personal injuries by municipal immunity. However, sometimes another person is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk or preventing the conditions that made the sidewalk unsafe. You should consult with a personal injury lawyer to find out your options. An initial case evaluation should be free.
10. What duties do property owners have regarding ice and snow removal?
The laws on ice and snow removal vary by state. In Delaware, a property owner/manager must maintain their property in a safe condition for business or personal visitors and the general public. Commercial property owners have a duty to remove snow or ice that has accumulated on their property. Landlords must maintain common areas in a safe condition for tenants. When removing snow, property owners must be careful not to create a dangerous condition by poor snow clearing, which could also give rise to a claim in negligence.
Local ordinances may also mandate more specific rules about snow removal, such as removal of snow from the walkway in front of your property within 24 hrs of the end of the storm.