Personal Injury 101: A Guide to Slip and Fall Cases
The phrase “personal injury” refers to a broad area of law encompassing several different types of cases, including motor vehicle crashes, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and more. Today, we will focus on a specific subset of the personal injury space that is commonly referred to as “premises liability,” or simply “slip and fall” cases. Our post begins with a brief explanation of what type of conduct usually falls under this category, and then offers a case study to show how dangerous slip and fall cases can be. Finally, the blog concludes with a set of tips for readers on what steps to take following a slip and fall injury that occurs on the property of another person or entity.
Background on Slip and Fall Cases
As its name would suggest, a slip and fall case simply refers to an incident in which a person falls on another party’s property. A fall in this context is usually caused by property issues such as floor cracks, wet surfaces, or torn carpeting. Since the key aspect of a slip and fall case is the fact that the site of the accident is someone else’s property, these cases are part of a larger area of law called “premises liability.” While the majority of premises liability cases are of the slip and fall variety, other types of incidents that fall under this category include elevator/escalator accidents, amusement park incidents, inadequate building maintenance/security issues, and more.
The determinative issue in a premises liability case is proving that the property owner was at fault for the “dangerous condition” leading to the accident, and thus caused the plaintiff’s injury. Specifically, plaintiffs is such cases are usually trying to show that the property owner knew about the dangerous condition on their property and failed to correct it. For example, Illinois courts require plaintiffs in premises liability actions to prove that: “(1) a condition on the property presented an unreasonable risk of harm to people on the property; (2) the defendant knew or…should have known of both the condition and the risk; (3) the defendant could reasonably expect that people on the property would not discover or realize the danger…; (4) the defendant was negligent in one or more ways; (5) the plaintiff was injured; and (6) the defendant’s negligence was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury.” Hope v. Hope, 398 Ill. App. 3d 216, 219 (2010).
Case Study on the Dangers of Slip and Fall Incidents
A recent jury verdict out of Ohio helps to demonstrates how dangerous slip and fall incidents can be, as well as how much liability can result from these high-stakes cases. In Sadowski v. Jack Cincinnati Casino LLC, No. A-1800226 (Hamilton Co., OH Ct. of Common Pleas), the plaintiff – 69-year-old Lynda Lee Sadowski – sued Jack Casino after tripping over a fallen “Wet Floor” sign in 2016. Specifically, Sadowski emphasized that the defendant owed a duty of care to all patrons of its casino, and by failing to pick up the fallen sign, the defendant breached this duty. As a result of her fall, Sadowski suffered a knee fracture, was forced to have surgery, and has since dealt with additional mobility issues.
The case proceeded to trial, and after listening to each party’s arguments, the jury ruled in Sadowski’s favor by awarding her $3 million. The jury found the casino “100% negligent” in failing to remedy an “open and obvious” danger, thus agreeing with Sadowski that the defendant breached its duty of care. Additionally, the jury relied on security video showing that the fallen sign was not easily visible to casino patrons. In an interview of Sadowski’s counsel by Law360, her attorneys also highlighted the fact that the defendant employed over 1,000 people and hosted more than 50,000 customers per week, yet still maintained no policies regarding floor safety or inspections.
What Should I Do After a Slip and Fall?
In the event of a slip and fall, it can be helpful to know a few basic tips about what actions to take after the accident to maximize the potential of your legal claim. While the time immediately following an accident can be understandably hectic and traumatic, the truth is that these moments can be pivotal to a victim’s chances of recovering damages in the future. Here are a few tips for slip and fall victims on how to act in the moments after the accident:
- Seek medical attention. Your health is the top priority, so seeking medical attention should always be the first step after a slip and fall. Obtaining the appropriate medical treatment for injuries is also an essential component of a personal injury case. Therefore, it is important to not only seek immediate medical treatment after the incident, but also to follow your doctor’s advice and attend as many medical appointments as necessary.
- Take pictures and videos. Images of the accident scene can be a very helpful piece of evidence for almost all personal injury cases, and premises liability is no exception. If possible, you should take pictures and videos of all relevant surroundings near the scene of the fall. Pertinent visuals could include your injuries, the “dangerous condition” leading to the fall, or the area nearby the accident. Moreover, if your accident occurred on a commercial property, there is also possibly some surveillance footage that could aid your case.
- Prepare an accident report. You should, as soon as possible, report your accident to the highest-ranking representative of the property on which you suffered the fall. If the accident site is a commercial property, a representative of the business should fill out an accident report documenting your fall and provide you with a copy upon your request. Additionally, if the police are called to the scene, you should also complete a police report and secure a copy of that report at a later date.
- Collect witness information. Witness testimony confirming your account of the incident can be a valuable component of any personal injury case. Therefore, you should try to write down the names and contact information of anyone who witnessed the fall. If they had a clear view of the accident, these witnesses may end up providing key statements for your case.
- Preserve key evidence. As the case progresses, you should keep copies all of accident-related documents. Examples of such documents could include accident reports, witness statements, medical records, or any notes taken regarding the fall. Moreover, it is integral that you keep the clothes and shoes that you wore on the day of the fall in the same condition that they were in that day. This means that these clothes and shoes should not be cleaned, as they may contain key evidence for the case.
- Consult an attorney. Contacting an experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand the nuances and scope of your potential claim. Attorneys with knowledge and first-hand experience working on slip and fall cases – such as the personal injury experts at Coffman Law – can typically provide a free consultation to discuss the potential of your case.
If any readers have suffered any injury due to a dangerous condition on another party’s property, do not hesitate to reach out to Coffman Law. Owner and Founding Partner Brian Coffman has handled a number of high-profile premises liability matters, and through his experience seeking justice for injury victims for over 10 years, Brian has also come to understand the strategies typically employed by defendants in these types of cases. Click HERE to contact our office for a free consultation.
About Coffman Law Offices, P.C.
Coffman Law is Chicago’s leading personal injury law firm and is committed to providing superb legal representation for people who are suffering from severe personal injuries or are dealing with the loss of a loved one due to negligence or misconduct. Coffman Law is a results-driven law firm focused on ensuring that clients receive the compassion, attention, and consideration that they need to seek adequate compensation for injuries or loss. The firm is led by Owner and Founding Partner Brian Coffman, who has dedicated his career to helping accident victims navigate the legal system and obtain compensation for their injuries. If you have been injured or lost a loved one, contact Coffman Law today for a free consultation.