People are injured daily by slip and fall accidents on someone else’s property. Here’s how to win a premises liability claim and get fair compensation.
Premises liability is the body of law that makes a property owner responsible for injuries on their property.
The property may be owned by a homeowner, business, government agency, or an agent representing the owner, such as a property management company.
Property owners and managers have a duty of care to keep visitors safe from harm, but are not always liable when someone gets hurt.
To win a slip and fall claim, you must show:
- The property owner knew or should have known of the danger
- The owner did not take reasonable actions to remove the danger or protect you from harm
- Due to the property owner’s negligence, you suffered real injuries
Knowing what to do – and the mistakes to avoid – after a slip and fall can dramatically affect the success of a personal injury claim. This guide covers every aspect of a typical slip and fall claim, so you know how to protect your rights and get fair compensation.
What to Do After a Slip and Fall Accident
You can learn how to file a successful slip and fall claim and boost your chances of getting fair compensation. Here are positive actions to take and mistakes to avoid at the scene of a slip or trip and fall accident.
1. Report the Incident – No Excuses
What you do in the first minutes after a fall can make or break your injury claim. Immediately report the incident to the property owner or staff. If physical injuries prevent this from happening, inform the owner as soon as practically possible.
Don’t make excuses for your fall, or dust yourself off and limp away. What you say at the scene can be used against you, so don’t joke that “Only my pride was hurt” or, “These darn shoes!”
You must establish the date and time of your fall, or the insurance company will dispute that you were hurt on the insured’s property.
Most businesses have an incident report form that is filled out when a customer is injured. The manager usually isn’t allowed to give you a copy, but it’s still vital to have your fall on record.
2. Get Prompt Medical Treatment
Get immediate medical attention after a fall. It’s important to establish a link between your injuries and the slip and fall.
Allow the manager or a bystander to call 911 if you hit your head, might have a broken bone, or can’t get up from the floor. Never refuse medical care at the scene. If paramedics want to transport you to the hospital emergency department, let them.
Refusing or delaying medical care after a slip and fall gives the insurance company a handy excuse to deny your injury claim.
If an ambulance isn’t called to the scene, go to an urgent care clinic or see your family doctor that same day. Tell your medical provider exactly when, where, and how you were injured.
3. Start Collecting Evidence
Begin gathering evidence immediately after your slip and fall accident, and continue throughout the life of your injury claim.
If you’re injuries allow, begin by taking pictures and videos of the area where you fell and your injuries. Get close-up pictures of the hazard that caused you to slip or trip.
Get the names and contact information of any witnesses to your fall. Also get the names of any employees who were at the scene, or who came to help you afterward.
Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean the store or location where you fell doesn’t have a surveillance video system. Later, you’ll send a spoliation letter that formally asks the store to preserve video footage and any other evidence relevant to your claim.
Save the clothes you were wearing when you fell. Your clothes may serve as evidence to help prove the severity of your injuries. Place them in a bag without washing them.
If your injuries prevented you from collecting evidence right after your accident, try to return to the scene as soon as possible or send a friend to take pictures.
4. Open a Slip and Fall Injury Claim
Within the first few days of your accident, send a notification letter to the property owner stating your intent to seek compensation for your injuries. Your letter will instruct the owner to preserve potential evidence and will ask for their insurance information.
Once you have the property owner’s insurance details, send a notification to their insurance company. The company should then officially open your slip and fall claim.
Don’t be surprised to get a call from an insurance adjuster asking you to provide a recorded statement. Politely decline. Adjusters are trained to get you to say things they can use against you. You are not obligated to provide a recorded statement at all, and should never give a statement before you’re ready.
Do You Need a Slip and Fall Attorney?
Some slip and fall claims you can handle on your own, others require an attorney. It’s always smart to get professional legal advice if you or a loved one were injured by someone else’s negligence. Most reputable slip and fall lawyers offer a free case evaluation.
Key Points to Consider:
- If you suffered serious injuries, liability is disputed, or your slip and fall case is complicated, you’ll need an experienced attorney to get anywhere near the full value of your claim.
- You don’t have to decide to file a personal injury lawsuit before meeting with an attorney. In fact, most personal injury cases settle outside the courtroom. With an attorney on board to negotiate on your behalf, the adjuster is more likely to offer a higher settlement to avoid a trial.
- If you decide to hire a personal injury lawyer, they will usually work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they take a percentage of your settlement or jury award as payment.
- An attorney will help your claim in many ways. They can conduct depositions to question the business owner and employees, locate other sources of compensation, negotiate forcefully on your behalf, and file subpoenas to obtain evidence you wouldn’t be able to get on your own.
- An experienced injury lawyer will protect your rights and won’t let the other side bully or trick you.
- Most injury law firms offer a free consultation to slip and fall victims. The attorney-client relationship is important. You can meet with attorneys from different offices before choosing the right attorney for you. Bring a folder with all of your accident-related documents to each meeting with an attorney.
How Much is Your Slip and Fall Claim Worth?
Monetary settlements are intended to compensate you for the damages you suffered from the slip and fall. The specific dollar amount you demand in your insurance claim depends on the facts of your case.
Important details include:
- The scope and severity of your injuries
- The degree to which the owner was responsible for your accident
- The amount of evidence that supports your case
- How much work you missed because of your injuries
- The amount of pain and suffering you endured
Each of these details will impact the overall value of your case. Because the details differ in all slip and fall claims, calculating potential compensation must be done individually.
There are two kinds of compensatory damages in a slip and fall case:
- Economic, also called special damages
- Non-economic, also called general damages or pain and suffering
In rare circumstances, an accident victim may seek punitive damages in a slip and fall lawsuit. Punitive damages typically only apply in cases involving big businesses. They’re awarded to help punish the at-fault party and deter others from behaving in similar ways in the future.
Estimating Your Claim Settlement Value:
- Estimate the value of your claim by adding up your economic damages like medical bills and lost wages, then multiply that amount by 1-5x to account for your pain and suffering. Whether you should multiply by one, five, or another number depends on the severity of your injuries and the strength of your claim.
- Claim the full cost of your medical treatment, even if most of the cost was paid by health insurance. Be sure to include your out-of-pocket costs for medicines, bandages, crutches, or other medical equipment.
- Include transportation costs to medical appointments, along with replacement services, like lawn care, that you had to hire out while you were laid up. Of course, you can claim your lost wages. Don’t forget to claim lost overtime or the value of used-up sick leave.
- You won’t have a receipt to show a dollar amount for your pain and suffering, so keep an injury diary with notes about your pain levels, your inability to hold your toddler or walk your dog, and the embarrassment of needing help to bathe or dress. The average slip and fall payout for minor to moderate injuries allows one or two times the economic losses to cover non-economic damages.
- There are many factors that determine the final settlement value of a slip and fall claim, such as the scope of injuries, lingering pain or disability, future ability to work, and even the venue. Some jurisdictions tend to award higher verdicts to injury victims, so adjusters will offer more to keep the claim out of court.
Who’s Liable for Your Slip and Fall Injury?
You will have to prove the property owner was liable for your slip and fall. Perhaps they created an unsafe condition, or knew about a hazard and didn’t take action, like not mopping up a spill.
Your “visitor” status as a customer, delivery person, or house guest, can establish your right to compensation and help sort out the property owner’s duties from the visitor’s responsibilities. The burden is on you to prove the property owner created the hazard that caused your fall.
1. Slip and Fall Victim Liability
Insurance companies look for ways to blame the injured victim after a slip and fall so they can deny or minimize the claim. Beat them to the punch by showing up front that you did nothing to cause your injuries.
If you did share some responsibility for causing your injuries, your compensation may be reduced by your share of the blame. Depending on where you were injured, various state comparative fault laws will come into play.
Shared blame will always be an issue in slip and fall claims involving alcohol.
Child Injury Victims
A property owner can still be liable even if a child entered the property without permission.
Most states have laws, like an attractive nuisance doctrine that says very young children are not at fault if the property owner has an unfenced feature on their property, like a swimming pool or open well, that a child could fall into and be injured.
2. Liability for Residential Slip and Falls
Many slip and fall accidents happen in homes and on residential property. In these circumstances, the injured victim often has a personal relationship with the homeowner.
No one wants to “sue” a friend or family member, but injured victims deserve compensation for their losses. Homeowner liability insurance is designed to protect the owner from financial loss while covering the costs of medical treatment.
You may be a homeowner with a very good homeowners insurance policy, but if you or a member of your household is injured on the property, you likely have no claim.
Domestic workers and hired help who are injured on the property can file an injury claim against the homeowner’s policy. They are likely to win if the hazard was caused by the homeowner’s negligence.
Condominiums and Apartments
Figuring out who is to blame for a slip or trip hazard in a rental property, condo, or an apartment complex can be tricky. The injured victim could be a tenant or a visitor to the property.
Potentially liable parties can include:
- The tenant who stretched an extension cord across the hallway
- The property management company or condo association that failed to have the snow shoveled from the parking lot
- The landlord who violated city building codes by not repairing the stairs
You may have grounds for a claim against more than one party. For example, if you fell and broke a hip after tripping over an extension cord in a dark hallway, you could have a claim against the tenant who placed the cord and against the landlord who failed to replace the non-working hall lights.
Depending on the facts in your situation, you may have a personal liability or premises liability case.
3. Business Liability for Injuries
Businesses have a legal duty to maintain a safe environment for customers. A business owner can be held liable for all kinds of injuries that occur on their property, inside or outside the building. This includes harm caused by a negligent employee. Injury claims are typically paid by the business’s general liability insurance policy.
You have the right to compensation for a variety of premises liability claims, not just fall injuries. People are hurt every day by infections, burns, food poisoning, and a host of other injuries that occur at businesses.
4. Government Liability for Slip and Falls
If you fell on public property, like a school, post office, correctional facility, or any other state or federal building, you’ll need to follow special claim filing rules and meet short deadlines to get compensation for your injuries.
Injuries that occur in some hospitals, nursing homes, psychiatric centers, or drug rehab centers must be handled like any other government tort claim if the facility is run by the state, county, or Veteran’s Administration.
How to Negotiate a Slip and Fall Settlement
Most slip and fall claims end in a negotiated settlement. Compensation is paid by the property owner’s insurance company. Business properties are covered by liability insurance, while homes and apartments are covered by homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.
Starting the Settlement Negotiation Process
- After you finish recovering from your injuries, submit a demand letter to the insurance company. The demand letter asks for a specific dollar amount to settle your claim. Your settlement packet will include the letter and copies of the evidence you’ve gathered to support your claim.
- The first hurdle is getting the owner’s insurance company to accept your claim. Adjusters are always on the lookout for fake slip and fall claims, especially if the property owner is disputing your allegations. Providing convincing evidence upfront sets the tone for negotiations.
- Even after accepting your claim, the insurance company won’t just hand over a check. You will have to negotiate with the adjuster, which involves a series of offers and counter-offers. Negotiating an insurance claim takes patience and know-how.
Settlement Negotiations Take Time
- Advance preparation can help you avoid costly mistakes during negotiations.
- Be prepared to justify your economic damages. The adjuster won’t blindly pay for every medical bill and wage loss you submit. It pays to be familiar with your medical records, so you can explain why the doctor ordered that MRI, or why your injury kept you out of work for two weeks.
- Negotiating your pain and suffering compensation can be challenging. If you’re handling your own claim, you are probably fully recovered from relatively minor to moderate injuries. Stay calm and use descriptive language to explain the impact your injuries had on your life as you recovered.
- Most injury claims are settled out of court. However, if settlement negotiations break down, you have options, including filing a lawsuit against the property owner.
- Lawsuits can take several months to more than a year to get through the discovery process and proceed to trial.
Where and Why Slip and Falls Happen
In a slip and fall claim, you need to prove that negligence caused the hazardous condition, meaning the property owner or manager did something wrong or failed to protect visitors.
Slip and Fall Injury Causes
Slip and fall accidents are most commonly caused by spilled substances on the floors of businesses. Other common causes of slips, trips and falls can include damaged flooring, bunched-up rugs, icy walkways, uneven sidewalks, and other dangerous conditions.
Slip and Falls at Businesses
Slip and falls and other accidents often happen at restaurants, retail stores, and other commercial businesses. These injuries must first be reported to store management and a claim filed with the business owner’s liability insurance company.
Common Types of Slip and Fall Injuries
Just about any type of injury can occur from a slip and fall. Depending on the circumstances, your injuries might heal up with a few days of rest, or leave you permanently disabled. It’s important to learn as much as you can about your injury type, and what kind of insurance settlement you can expect.
How Much is Your Injury Claim Worth?
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