How to Prove a Slip and Fall Accident?
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Did you slip or trip and fall while on someone else’s property? Suffering an injury due to a hazard on another party’s premises may entitle you to recover compensation from a negligent property owner or other liable parties. However, not every slip-and-fall accident occurs because of a property or business owner’s negligence. Injured victims must prove their right to compensation after suffering a slip and fall.
The stakes are high, so you need to familiarize yourself with your legal options for financial recovery and what you need to do to prove liability for the slip and fall accident. A slip-and-fall accident lawyer can help you understand your rights to compensation and prepare an effective and persuasive legal case to pursue accountability and justice from those at fault for your injuries.
Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
Some of the most common causes of slip and fall or trip and fall accidents include:
- Snow and ice buildup
- Recently mopped or waxed floors
- Spilled food and beverage
- Leaking pipes or refrigerators/freezers
- Water mud, or plant debris
- Uneven flooring
- Abrupt transitions between flooring surfaces
- Loose or torn carpeting or mats
- Lack of anti-skid or moisture-absorbing mats
- Loose or broken hardwood or tile flooring
- Potholes or broken pavement
- Loose wires or cords strewn across the ground
- Trash or debris
- Broken or missing steps or handrails
- Open cabinet doors or drawers
- Inadequate lighting
- Lack of warning signs
Injuries Caused by Slip and Fall Accidents
Depending on the circumstances, slip and fall accidents can easily cause injuries far more serious than just cuts and bruises. Falling from heights or down the stairs or hitting an object or hard ground on the way down can lead to serious physical harm.
Injuries that victims of slip or trip and fall accidents can suffer include:
- Lacerations, abrasions, and contusions
- Dislocated joints
- Ligament sprains
- Muscle/tendon strains
- Soft tissue tears
- Herniated disc injuries
- Broken bones
- Head and facial injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Internal organ injuries and internal bleeding
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
Where Do Slip and Fall Accidents Happen?
Slip/trip and fall accidents often occur in heavily trafficked public places such as:
- Supermarkets and grocery stores
- Bars and restaurants
- Malls and shopping centers
- Home improvement stores and garden centers
- Department stores
- Hospitals and medical centers
- Office buildings
- Apartment and townhome complexes
- Gyms and fitness facilities
- Public parks and recreational facilities
- Amusement parks
- Parking lots and garages
Who Can You Hold Liable for a Slip and Fall Accident?
Multiple parties can have liability for injuries stemming from a slip and fall accident. In many cases, a property owner is responsible for compensating the victim of a slip-and-fall accident on their premises. Property owners must maintain their premises and remedy hazardous conditions that could injure visitors.
However, you could potentially hold other parties responsible for your slip and fall injuries, such as:
- Residential tenants, who are liable for slip and fall accidents that occur within their leased premises
- Commercial tenants and businesses
- Landlords, who have a responsibility to maintain common areas
- Property management companies
- Third-party maintenance companies, including snow and ice removal companies or janitorial services companies
What Steps Should You Take After a Slip and Fall Accident?
What you do after a slip and fall can affect your ability to pursue compensation from the liable party.
Following these steps can protect your well-being and your legal options:
- Report the accident to the property or business owner. Ask the owner to preserve any surveillance footage of the accident and for a copy of any accident/incident reports.
- Take cell phone photos and videos of the accident scene, including what caused you to fall, the lighting conditions, the presence of any warning signs, and any visible injuries you suffered.
- Seek immediate medical attention to have a doctor diagnose injuries and provide a treatment plan. Follow your doctor’s treatment instructions.
- Keep copies of bills and invoices from your medical treatment and other expenses you incur due to your injuries.
- Gather your pay stubs or income statements to calculate your lost wages if you miss time from work during your recovery or due to permanent disabilities.
- Keep a journal to document the pain and physical difficulties you experience due to your injuries and medical recovery.
Speak with a slip-and-fall accident lawyer about your legal options for pursuing the compensation you need for your recovery.
What Evidence Might You Need for a Slip and Fall Accident Claim?
Some evidence that could help prove your right to financial recovery after a slip and fall include:
- Accident scene photos and videos
- Surveillance video footage
- Eyewitness testimony
- Accident/incident reports
- Reports from accident reconstruction or engineering experts
- The business’s operational manuals
- Copies of property leases
- Property management or third-party maintenance contracts
- Medical reports from your treatment
Proving Your Right to Financial Recovery After a Slip and Fall Accident
Successfully recovering compensation through a slip and fall accident claim requires proving that the property or business owner’s negligence caused the accident. The duty an owner or manager owes to a visitor depends on whether the visitor’s status.
An invitee is on the premises for the owner’s benefit, such as a customer. A licensee can enter the property solely for the visitor’s benefit, such as a salesperson or social guest. Someone who does not have permission to be on the property but is there regardless is a trespasser.
Property owners owe invitees a duty to use reasonable efforts to discover and remedy hazardous conditions. Owners owe permittees a duty to fix all known hazards and to warn permittees of any hidden dangers on the property. The only duty they owe trespassers is not to deliberately harm them.
Proving that a property or business owner’s negligence caused your injuries may allow you to recover compensation for expenses and losses such as:
- Medical and rehabilitation expenses, including hospital bills, surgeries, doctor’s appointments, prescription pain medication, and physical therapy
- Costs of long-term care, such as home health services or housekeeping assistance to help you after suffering a permanent disability due to your injuries
- Lost income/wages from missed work or loss of future earnings and employment benefits, such as health insurance or pension benefits
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress from disabilities and scarring/disfigurement that cause reduced quality of life
How Can a Lawyer Help You With a Slip and Fall Claim?
Hiring an attorney can provide significant benefits as you pursue a slip-and-fall claim. Your lawyer’s experience can make the claims process easier and improve your chances of success. Moreover, having legal representation will allow you to focus your time and energy on recovering from your injuries.
Aspects of your slip and fall accident claim that a lawyer can help with include:
- Thoroughly investigating the accident to secure evidence for your case and identifying the parties who may have liability for your injuries and losses
- Documenting the expenses you incur and working with medical, vocational, and financial experts to calculate future losses you will incur after the resolution of your slip and fall accident case
- Discussing your legal options with you so you have the information you need to make the best decisions for your case
- Preparing and filing your insurance and legal claims and vigorously negotiating on your behalf for a full settlement of your claims
- Pursuing litigation to demand accountability and justice from those at fault for your injuries and liable for your losses
What Happens in a Slip and Fall Accident Case?
Your slip and fall accident case may involve several different steps. Although the exact timeline of your case will depend on how quickly your case resolves, it may involve:
A slip-and-fall accident claim begins with an investigation of the accident to secure the evidence you need to build your case. The investigation may include taking photos and videos of the accident scene, interviewing witnesses, and obtaining copies of accident reports or surveillance video. An investigation may also involve consulting with expert witnesses who can provide accident reconstruction, medical, and vocational reports, and testimony.
You will also need to gather documents such as medical records from the treatment of your injuries or copies of your income statements to help prove what compensation you deserve to recover.
After obtaining evidence, you or your attorney must file formal claims, including sending claims to the insurance companies or demand letters to the at-fault parties. Filing your claims will begin the process of negotiating a settlement.
Most slip and fall accident claims settle following negotiations in which the parties agree on an amount of compensation for the injured party. If you can reach a settlement, the process ends here. If you cannot, you may need to head to court.
Filing a Lawsuit
Filing a lawsuit begins with filing a complaint with the trial court and serving a copy on the opposing party or parties who can file an answer to contest the allegations in your complaint.
Once the parties submit their pleadings, they proceed to discovery, the process in which parties exchange information and evidence and depose witnesses. Discovery intends to identify outstanding disputes and narrow the issues for trial.
A lawsuit not settled by the parties or resolved by the court will eventually reach trial. At trial, the parties present their evidence and argument to a jury or a judge. The court then issues a verdict deciding the case and setting the amount of compensation awarded, if any.
Court decisions legally bind the participants. In other words, if you win, the law compels the defendant to abide by that decision. However, the same is true if you lose.
Frequently Asked Questions About Proving Slip and Fall Accident Cases
Below you will find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding slip and falls.
How Long Do I Have to File a Slip and Fall Lawsuit?
Indiana’s statute of limitations on injury claims requires you to file your lawsuit within two years of a slip- or trip-and-fall accident. Filing suit after the statute of limitations expires on your legal claim risks permanent dismissal of your case and the loss of your right to financial recovery for your injuries.
You must also comply with claim notice requirements if you slipped and fell on a state or local government property. State law requires you to provide the state with notice of your claim within 270 days of the accident. However, you usually have 180 days to provide a notice of a claim against a county or municipality.
The deadlines on your slip and fall claim make it important to begin working with a slip and fall accident attorney as soon as possible, so you don’t lose your opportunity to recover compensation.
How Long Will My Slip and Fall Accident Claim Take?
No one can predict how long any slip and fall accident claim may take to resolve. Cases can take anywhere from a few months to settle to a few years to reach trial.
Multiple factors can influence the timeline of your slip and fall accident claim, such as:
- The severity of your injuries
- Whether you suffered any permanent disability or impairment due to your injuries
- The extent of your financial losses, including lost income and future earning potential
- The number of liable parties
- The availability of insurance coverage
- Whether you share any fault for the accident
- The strength of the parties’ respective cases and the complexity of the evidence involved
- Your attorney’s skills and resources
- Whether you need to file a lawsuit and the trial court’s scheduling
Do I Need a Lawyer to Pursue a Slip and Fall Claim?
You may have concerns about the time and expense involved in retaining a lawyer to help you with your slip and fall claim. However, having experienced legal representation can give you the best chance of maximizing your compensation.
A lawyer will know how to investigate the accident to obtain evidence supporting a persuasive claim for your right to compensation.
An attorney in Indiana can also more effectively pursue the compensation you need for future expenses and losses you may incur after your case concludes. And because most slip-and-fall accident attorneys represent injured clients on a contingency fee basis, you face no financial risk by hiring a lawyer. In a contingency fee arrangement, your attorney does not get paid unless they secure compensation for you in a settlement or at trial.