Complicated Slip and Fall Claims: What You Need To Win Your Case

Complicated trip and fall claims can be hard to win on your own. Find out when you’ll need help to get fair injury compensation.

Trip or slip and fall accidents sent approximately 9.2 million injured people to the emergency room for treatment in one year alone.¹

Falls can lead to steep medical bills, disability, and even death. When someone else’s negligence causes a fall incident, the victim is entitled to financial recovery.

Some slip and fall accident claims are simple to handle, and an injured victim can receive a fair settlement without much time and effort. Others can pose several hurdles before a victim can receive the compensation they deserve.

Difficulties often arise in slip and fall cases when multiple people or entities cause an accident, when there’s a lack of evidence to prove someone caused an accident, and when a case involves extensive damages or losses.

When these complexities arise, it’s a good idea for slip and fall victims to contact an experienced attorney for help.

Negligence in a Slip and Fall Claim

To succeed in a slip and fall injury claim, accident victims must show that the person or entity that caused the accident was negligent.

The four elements of negligence are:

  1. Duty: The at-fault party owed the injured party a duty of care, such as providing a safe staircase in a public building.
  2. Breach of duty: The at-fault party didn’t uphold their duty. For example, a business didn’t repair a broken stair.
  3. Causation: The at-fault party’s breach of duty caused the other party to trip and fall and sustain injuries.
  4. Verifiable damages: As a result of their injuries, the victim suffered damages such as pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost wages.

In addition to the above, injury victims must also prove that a property owner, their agent, or employee knew or should have reasonably known that a hazard existed before a slip and fall event.

If an owner couldn’t possibly have known about the potential for an accident, it’s unlikely that an injured person can prove they were liable for any resulting injuries.

Negligence is often more difficult to prove in slip and fall accidents when compared to other personal injury cases.

Example: Proving Negligence in a Slip and Fall Case

Dylan and his family moved into a rental home. Upon getting settled, Dylan immediately noticed that the steps leading from the upper-level deck into the backyard seemed wobbly. He reported his observation to the landlord, and the landlord told him he would “look into it.”

Several weeks later, Dylan was walking down the stairs to water his garden. He lost his balance and fell down the remaining stairs. He broke his wrist and an ankle. His wrist required a cast for several weeks and Dylan underwent surgery to repair his ankle.

Dylan soon contacted a slip and fall attorney for help. The attorney sent a certified inspector to the rental property. The inspector determined that the stairs were dangerous, and not built to code. The inspector also discovered that the landlord never filed a permit to add the property’s deck and stairs.

Dylan’s attorney used the inspector’s findings to show that the landlord was negligent. The landlord failed to uphold his duty to provide a safe staircase.

The lawyer then negotiated a $180,000 settlement with the landlord’s insurance company.

Without the evidence that the attorney’s investigator uncovered, the landlord would likely blame Dylan for his injuries, and the insurance company would have paid little, if anything, for Dylan’s damages. 

Building code violations are only one example of complications that can arise in a trip and fall injury claim.

Slip and Fall Cases with Shared Fault

Sometimes more than one party is responsible for causing a slip and fall accident.

Fault is sometimes shared between a victim and a property owner, and in other cases, two people or entities may share the fault in causing the victim’s slip and fall accident.

When the Victim is Partially to Blame

Comparative negligence is a type of defense that a property owner or other liable party can use in personal injury cases. In the context of a slip and fall case, an owner can assert that you helped cause your accident, or that you were comparatively negligent for it.

If the defense works, and you were partly to blame for your fall, most states will still allow you to receive compensation for your injuries. However, the amount you recover is reduced proportionally based on your degree of fault.

For instance, if you were in the grocery store talking on the phone when you slipped on a pool of liquid and fell, the store will say you have some fault for the accident because you weren’t watching where you were going. If an insurance adjuster thinks you were 10 percent to blame for the accident, you might receive a settlement offer for $9,000 instead of $10,000.

A victim might share fault for their damages if they were:

  • Distracted or otherwise not paying attention
  • Running
  • Wearing inappropriate footwear
  • Ignoring warning or caution signs

Insurance adjusters will always look for reasons to blame the victim for their injuries.

You don’t have to accept the adjuster’s determination of fault. Talk to a personal injury attorney to find out how much, if any, blame you share for your slip and fall damages.

When Multiple Parties Cause Your Trip and Fall

Some of the most complicated injury claims involve a perfectly innocent slip and fall victim and two or more-at-fault parties. Without an attorney, your injury claim could drag on for years, with each party blaming the other.

Keep in mind that every state has a statute of limitations for injury claims, meaning if you haven’t settled your claim or filed a lawsuit before the statutory deadline, you could forfeit your right to any compensation.

Slip and fall claims with more than one at-fault party often end up in court to sort out how much compensation you should get, and who should pay.

Joint and Several Liability: Deciding Who Pays and How Much

Joint and several liability is a legal doctrine that comes into play in personal injury cases where more than one party is to blame for causing a victim’s injuries.

In some states, the doctrine is designed to assist injured people by making it possible for them to recover the full amount of their damages from any party who is partially responsible for those damages.

Let’s say you are badly injured by tripping over extension cords stretched across the floor in a hotel conference room. If the extension cords were placed there by a tech company renting the conference space, both the hotel and the tech company could be equally (50 percent) liable for your trip and fall damages.

Depending on the state, joint and several liability laws would allow you could collect 100 percent of your damages from just the hotel and leave them to seek reimbursement from the tech company for their share.

In other states, joint and several liability laws say that each at-fault party is only liable for their percentage of fault for the injury. In the hotel example, these states would only require the hotel to pay 50% of your total compensation award, rather than the full amount.

In any event, claims involving more than one at-fault party are frequently more complicated as each party tries to push more blame onto the other.

Case Summary: $1 Million Award for Slip and Fall with Two At-Fault Parties

In 2017, Lisa Ruede fell on a wet staircase at the Metro Café Diner in downtown Atlanta’s Peachtree Center. The stairs were slippery and in disrepair.

She suffered a head injury causing her to briefly lose consciousness. She also received a shoulder injury that required surgery with a large surgical incision.

Spring Street Restaurant Group, LLC owns the Metro Café, and ACP Peachtree owns the building that the cafe is located in. Both were at-fault parties to the lawsuit.

The facts of the case showed that the stairs were slippery due to leaking water from the Metro’s air conditioning system. As a result, ACP Peachtree blamed Spring Street for the accident and otherwise tried to avoid any fault.

Ruede’s attorneys, however, gathered evidence that revealed ACP had a long history of servicing the air conditioner in question. Spring Street then, tried to shift full blame for the incident onto the shoulders of ACP. The court eventually found both parties at fault.

In December 2019, the court awarded Rueda $1,171,441, assigning ACP Peachtree 85 percent of the liability and 15 percent to Spring Street Restaurant Group.

Here, having two at-fault parties blaming each other for the conditions that caused the slip and fall made this case very complex. However, Ruede’s attorneys were still able to obtain a fair settlement for her claim.

Cases Complicated by Lack of Evidence

Insurance companies and courts require accident victims to provide proof of the slip and fall event, in addition to proof linking their injuries to the fall. Without evidence, anyone could say that they suffered an injury due to a property owner’s negligence.

Evidence is vital because it backs up the victim’s story and protects the property owner from unfounded claims.

In some personal injury cases, such as car accident cases, the necessary evidence isn’t hard to come by. For example, there are other passengers, drivers, and bystanders to serve as witnesses. Trained police investigate traffic accidents and submit crash reports, proving the accident happened and its severity.

Evidence isn’t always as readily available in trip or slip and fall cases. There may not be witnesses or cameras. Aside from your injuries, tangible evidence in your claim may not exist.

In trip and fall cases, it can come down to your story versus the property owner’s story. Merely arguing that you fell and sustained injuries, unfortunately, won’t do.

As the party bringing the claim, the burden is on you to prove what happened. If you can’t prove it with convincing evidence, they’ll say it didn’t happen.

Without evidence, you’ll have a hard time proving: 

  • The property owner or employee knew or should have known about a danger
  • You fell on their property
  • Your injuries are directly connected to your fall

Evidence in a trip or slip and fall claim can vary depending upon where the fall occurred, who was in the area at the time, and if other people have fallen there before.

Ideally, slip and fall victims will have: 

  • Testimony from eyewitnesses
  • Security camera footage
  • Documented complaints made by others who fell or reported a hazard

You might have a valid trip and fall injury claim, with no idea how to get the evidence you need to satisfy the insurance company or a jury. That’s where an experienced personal injury attorney can save your claim. Your attorney will likely know where some evidence lies when it’s otherwise hard to uncover.

Case Summary: Jury Awards More Than $2 Million Despite Missing Evidence 

Craig Walters was shopping in a Kroger grocery store located in Douglasville, GA. While near the store’s deli area, Walters slipped on some crushed fruit on the floor and fell on his back. He suffered a spinal injury that required back-fusion surgery and the placement of rods and screws to help stabilize his spine.

Walters had almost $135,000 in medical expenses and couldn’t work.

Through his attorney, Walters filed a lawsuit against Kroger. During the discovery phase of the case, Walters’ lawyer asked Kroger for video footage of the accident scene. A surveillance camera was located inside Kroger near the deli area.

The attorney made the request in the hopes of gathering evidence to show that Kroger knew of the fruit hazard, yet failed to correct it.

Kroger said that it didn’t save the video footage because it didn’t show the area of the store where Walters slipped. In time, though, the grocer did hand over a sample of the footage, but the sample supported Kroger’s position. The footage that was handed over did not capture the area where Walters fell.

With no other evidence to help show that Kroger caused the accident, Walters’ case looked doomed.

But as the case developed, one of Walter’s attorneys asked a Kroger store manager for a live feed of the camera, for the date and time of the accident. The feed actually showed all the details concerning the accident, including when the fruit fell to the floor, how long it was there, and Walters slipping on the fruit and falling

Kroger essentially lied about the video and deliberately erased it. They also provided the lawyers with a phony sample of video footage.

A judge found that Kroger was 100 percent responsible for the accident and a jury awarded $2,365,238.40 to Walters.

The award included compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and the cost of bringing the lawsuit.

Pursuing High Non-Economic Damages

There are two general categories of slip and fall injury damages; economic damages and non-economic damages.

Economic damages are measurable losses such as medical bills, lost wages, and other out-of-pocket expenses. They have a predetermined value and are relatively straightforward. If your emergency room bill was $1,250, you should receive $1,250 in compensation for it.

Non-economic damages are those that don’t have a price tag already attached. Their value is difficult to determine and can be a sticking point in settlement negotiations.

Non-economic damages include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of a body part or function
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Disruption to the victim’s usual way of life

Some trip and fall accidents can cause traumatic injuries. In severe cases, victims might end up with traumatic brain injuries (TBI), spinal cord injuries (SCI), severe fractures, internal bleeding, organ damage, and other injuries with far-reaching and long-term consequences.

Not only do these types of injuries come with extensive medical expenses, but they also take a substantial non-economic toll on fall victims and their families.

Victims with severe injuries may not be able to take care of themselves or return to work. They might endure substantial pain or need significant rehabilitation to get back to near-normal functioning.

It’s more difficult to get a fair settlement for any non-economic personal injury damages simply because of their subjectivity. How do you put a price tag on the way an injury has changed your life forever?

In this instance, hiring a seasoned slip and fall lawyer can be the key to obtaining fair compensation.

Experienced injury attorneys prove substantial non-economic damages by hiring experts, such as those specializing in specific areas of medicine, mental health, or the long-term care of catastrophic injury patients. Their expert testimony can show just how impactful your non-economic damages are to your life and well-being.

Case Summary: Multi-Million Dollar Award for Pain and Suffering 

Kelly Hendrickson was shopping in the garden department of a Las Vegas Lowe’s store. She slipped on water, hitting her head on the concrete floor. She suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and permanently lost her senses of taste and smell.

She filed a lawsuit against Lowe’s and eventually won a $16.4 million court award.

The award included the following compensation:

  • $1,900,000 for medical expenses
  • $30,000 for lost income
  • $2,500,000 for pain and suffering
  • $12,000,000 for future pain

During the trial, Kelly’s attorney used a medical forensic neurology specialist to testify as to her lost senses of taste and smell.

In particular, the neurologist testified that her damage was so severe that Kelly often has “smell hallucinations” that causes her to smell aromas that aren’t actually present. Since the smells are coming from the brain, there’s no treatment to remove the false scent.

According to the expert, a further complication is that her loss of smell could also impact her ability to survive if there were a gas leak or a fire.

The neurologist also explained that while not being able to taste robs the victim of the pleasure of eating, it also presents a danger because it decreases the likelihood she’ll be able to tell if the food she consumes is contaminated or rotten.

The loss of certain senses involves uncommon damages that are difficult to prove. By using a medical forensic specialist, Hendrickson’s legal counsel proved why her lost and damaged senses could seriously impact the rest of her life.

Get Legal Help for Complicated Trip and Fall Claims

If you’ve recovered from minor injuries, and only want to be reimbursed for your medical costs and a few days of missed work, you can probably settle your slip and fall claim on your own.

However, if you sustained significant injuries, or your case has become complicated, you’ll need an experienced attorney to get a fair injury settlement.

An attorney will know what types of evidence you need to prove your claim, and where to obtain such evidence. Some kinds evidence, like surveillance video and incident reports, can only be obtained with a subpoena.

Established law firms know how to locate medical experts and other professionals that can help prove your injuries and damages. Some injury claims turn into a battle of experts, especially when the at-fault party disputes the severity of your injuries.

You’ll need a strong legal advocate to stand up against allegations that you share the blame for your trip and fall injuries. Your attorney can push back against accusations that you brought the accident on yourself.

Similarly, a good attorney will ensure that you aren’t caught in the middle if more than one party created the circumstances leading to your trip and fall. You want all liable parties held accountable to maximize your recovery.

You might not know the full value of your slip and fall claim when your injuries result in significant emotional distress and other non-economic losses. When you work with an attorney, they’ll know what your claim is worth and use their negotiation skills to maximize your settlement.

Most injury attorneys don’t charge injury victims for their initial consultation, and are willing to work on a contingency fee basis. With this arrangement, you won’t owe any legal fees unless the attorney settles your claim or wins your case in court.

You don’t have to settle for less. Find out what a good attorney can do for you.

Dustin Reichard, Esq. is an experienced attorney with 20 years of work in the legal field. He’s admitted to the Illinois State Bar and the Washington State Bar. Dustin has worked in the areas of medical malpractice, wrongful death, product liability, slip and falls, and general liability. Dustin began his legal career as a JAG... Read More >>