If you’ve suffered serious injuries in a slip and fall or trip and fall accident, you’re right to wonder how much you might get in a settlement. Figuring that out is tough to do, even for a professional—which is why I work so hard to do it right for my people. In every injury case, no matter what type of accident is involved, a settlement is based on many factors.
Accidental fall cases are especially complicated. The law is challenging, and you’ve got to know it to determine whether the business or owner of the place where you fell can legally be proven at fault in causing your injuries.
From the moment you walk in our office, we’ve also got to evaluate key defenses, including whether the fall is partially your fault—which doesn’t prevent a settlement but might discount it some. You’ve also got to overcome an initial defense I call the “why didn’t you look where you were going” defense.
That’s why proving fault is often the biggest factor in determining a good settlement value for a slip or trip and fall case. Here’s how I examine fault in proving these cases to help folks like you.
The First Question in Proving Fault in a Slip or Trip and Fall Case
Whether you got hurt slipping or tripping, my first question is always: Who put it there? “It” is whatever made you fall—it could be a slippery substance on a grocery store floor or a loose step that you trip on going into a business. Who put it there is important to figure out because if the owner put it there, a key defense may be eliminated.
If the business didn’t put it there—or we can’t prove they did—that raises another fact to prove: Did the business know—or should they have known—about the danger? If they knew, they should have fixed it or warned you about it by simply placing a wet floor sign or other warning, which would have prevented the fall. That means it’s their fault.
While that can be really hard to prove, it can be done—and I’ve done it many times before. We might be able to prove it directly. That can happen through employee admissions right after the fall. That’s why it’s so important to report fall cases immediately.
I had one case where a client fell on oil in a gas station parking lot, which is a really tough case to win. But when he reported falling, an employee told him he was the second person to fall there. We used that to prove the gas station knew about the oil slick and the danger it posed but chose to do nothing to fix it or warn others.
Another direct way to prove it is through pictures. Pictures were the key to a settlement we got in a black ice case. Remember, black ice is invisible, so it’s really hard to expect a business to see it, especially in a parking lot, which has black pavement to disguise the danger further. A critical factor in our settlement was my client’s presence of mind to take pictures of the sidewalk and the parking lot. The pictures showed the business carefully cleared the sidewalk of ice but chose to do nothing to remove the danger from the parking lot or warn customers of it.
You can also indirectly prove the owner knew or should have known of the danger using evidence from the discovery process in a lawsuit. This is where we force the business to give us all evidence related to your case, including critical inspection records that can show whether the business chose to care for customers by inspecting its floors and premises. If they didn’t, didn’t do it enough, or didn’t do it right, you can prove they “should have known” but just didn’t care enough to try.
Facts That Help Us Prove the Biggest Factor
There’s a lot we’ll need to develop to fully evaluate fault in your case, and these are simple questions that lead us to it in every case:
- What was it you fell on? I’ve been blessed and lucky with a few really sharp clients who had the presence of mind to actually take pictures where they fell. Pictures can show the object or substance you fell on and its condition. These facts can really help your case, as in a case I handled involving duct tape on a hotel meeting room floor. My client attended a luncheon. As she walked to introduce herself to the speaker, her boot hit duct tape on the floor that had gotten loose. She got excellent pictures showing wear and tear on the sticky tape that caused it to rise up from the floor. Better yet, we got a witness statement from a lady who helped her and confirmed the tape was in the middle of the floor where the hotel should expect lots of foot traffic. We used this evidence to prove the hotel put the tape there and then did nothing to check it as it got worn down, dangerously lifting up from the floor to cause the trip hazard that hurt my client.
- Did the item causing your fall have a color or odor alerting you to the danger? You might get a settlement for slipping on plain yogurt on a white grocery store floor, but your case for slipping on tomato sauce will be an uphill battle.
- Was there any way to tell how long it was there? That can tell us the store or business did nothing or not enough to inspect its floors or aisles to be sure they were safe. Crusty edges of a slippery substance or dirty, raised-up edges of a floor mat can be a telltale sign.
- Was there anything to warn you of the danger? If a business finds a slipping or tripping hazard but doesn’t fix it immediately, it needs to install signs or barricades to warn customers of the danger.
- Are there any witnesses, especially employees? I spoke earlier about reporting the fall immediately. That can get key admissions by employees that can verge on the unbelievable, like “Oh yeah, we’ve been meaning to fix that, “ or “You’re the second person to fall there today.” Sometimes, it starts an investigation that can turn up witnesses who might help your case. Hopefully you got contact information from any witnesses on the scene so we can confirm what they saw.
- What was the general condition of the floor, aisle, or area where you fell? If it’s sloppy, that indirectly proves a lack of inspection to keep the floors safe.
Getting Legal Help Can Be Easier Than You Think
We know the only thing you wanted less than a fall was to get a lawyer involved. But these cases are so complicated and so hard fought they give some of the best reasons to hire a personal injury lawyer. The law is hard and complicated, and you are a wounded amateur up against a gigantic insurance company full of professionals.
We want to make answering your questions FREE and EASY. Do what makes you most comfortable: call us toll-free at 888-230-1841 or fill out a Get Help Now form. We’ll answer your questions or even schedule you for a free strategy session that we aim to make easy on you.