Follow our slip and fall injury victim from the icy driveway to the courtroom. See why statements made at the scene are useful evidence.
Slip and fall accidents are common causes of personal injuries. In this case, a slip and fall on a neighbor’s icy driveway eventually resulted in a lawsuit filed by the injury victim.
This case study is for educational purposes only. It is based on actual events, although names have been changed to protect those involved. Any resemblance to real persons or entities is purely coincidental.
We’ll review how the slip and fall occurred, the victim’s injuries and damages, and litigation highlights.
Finally, we give you a list of important points about testimony and evidence in successful slip and fall cases.
How the Slip and Fall Happened
The accident occurred on a cold January morning, shortly after 6:30 a.m. For several days, the weather had been alternating between snow and rain. On this particular morning, the temperature was 32 degrees, after overnight lows in the 20’s.
Nicole Thompson left her house to take her dog, Max, for his morning walk. Their daily route took Thompson and Max directly in front of Millie and Ray Anderson’s home.
While Thompson was walking, Max slipped his leash and ran onto the Andersons’ paved driveway. Thompson hurriedly after him, calling for Max to come to her.
As she stepped onto the Andersons’ driveway, Thompson slipped and fell on a patch of ice, slamming her body down on the hard, frozen pavement.
At the time Thompson fell, Millie Anderson was in her kitchen beginning to make coffee. Anderson glanced out her kitchen window and saw the fall. She threw on her coat and ran outside to help Thompson.
As Anderson reached Thompson and tried to help her up, Anderson said, “I’m so sorry! Last night I told my husband to throw some salt on that ice.”
Thompson was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Another neighbor took charge of Max, promising to look after him while Thompson was at the hospital.
Slip and Fall Injuries and Damages
Thompson was evaluated and treated in the emergency room for a broken collar bone and broken wrist on her left side, as well as scrapes and bruises to her face.
A retired teacher, Nicole Thompson, lived alone in a modest home with her dog Max. With her left arm and wrist immobilized, she needed help with bathing, dressing, and all activities of daily living.
Thompson’s daughter was able to take a few days off work to care for her mother. During her visit, she arranged for service providers to help during her mother’s recovery.
For the next two months, Thompson relied on paid helpers for her personal care, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, snow removal, and dog walking. Friends from church drove her to medical appointments and physical therapy.
Thompson was distressed to need so much help and humiliated to rely on others for bathing and dressing.
The pain kept Thompson awake at night. When the pain eventually lessened, she was kept awake with worry about the cost of her care and replacement services.
Thompson had $2,500 in medical bills, $1,500 from physical therapy, and nearly $5,000 in costs for replacement services.
She didn’t want to upset her neighbors, but Thompson couldn’t afford to carry the costs of her injuries.
Thompson notified the Andersons’ insurance company of her intent to file an insurance claim.
The Andersons’ homeowner’s insurance company responded with a flat denial of Thompson’s claim, stating that she assumed her own risk by walking outside in winter.
Thompson hired a personal injury attorney to help her get fair compensation for her slip and fall damages.
Litigation Tactics and Final Claim Resolution
Thompson’s slip and fall lawsuit included a demand for $50,000 to cover her injury-related expenses and the extensive pain and emotional distress she endured since the accident.
During the pre-trial discovery process, Thompson was deposed by Anderson’s lawyer, meaning she was questioned under oath in the presence of her attorney.
When deposed, Thompson stated that Anderson had said: “I’m so sorry! Last night I told my husband to throw some salt on that ice.”
Anderson’s attorney was concerned that if Thompson were allowed to take the stand and testify to what Anderson had said, the jury would believe that Anderson had admitted her responsibility for Thompson’s accident.
To head off this potentially damaging testimony, Anderson’s attorney filed a Motion in Limine. If it’s granted, a Motion in Limine will exclude a topic from being discussed in front of a jury. The Motion is designed to prevent prejudicial or confusing evidence from being presented during a trial.
In the Motion, Anderson’s lawyer argued that Anderson’s statement was only Anderson’s way of saying she was sorry Thompson had fallen, and that her statement was not an admission of responsibility for the fall.
So as to not prejudice the jury, the lawyer asked that the statement not be allowed to be discussed during the trial.
After hearing arguments from both sides on the issue of the Motion in Limine, the Court decided not to grant the motion.
The ruling said, in part:
“While we understand one neighbor’s compassion for another’s plight, the issue of responsibility, in this case, is dependent on more than just Anderson’s statement that she told her husband to salt the ice.
That admission of acceptance of responsibility cannot go unnoticed, especially as there was no proof offered by Anderson that the property was anyone else’s responsibility but hers.
Therefore, the Motion in Limine filed by the Plaintiff Anderson is denied. Thompson will be entitled to ask Anderson if, at the time of Thompson’s fall, Anderson made an admission of responsibility for the icy conditions which resulted in Thompson’s fall and her resultant injuries.”
Rather than risk losing at trial, Anderson’s insurance company agreed to settle Nicole Thompson’s injury claim for $45,000.
Important Points About Injury Claim Evidence
- Statements “against interest” made by the property owner or staff at the scene of a slip and fall can be compelling evidence of fault.
- On the other hand, what you say at the scene can hurt your claim. Never make excuses like, “Stupid shoes!” or minimize your injuries after a slip and fall.
- As soon as possible after a slip and fall injury, write down everything you remember, including what was said, while it’s fresh in your mind. Your careful notes can be strong evidence in your favor.
- A personal injury attorney can gather evidence like security camera film and deposition testimony that you would have a hard time getting on your own.
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