Trip and Fall Injury Claims: Proving Liability and Getting Compensation

Here’s how a trip and fall differs from a slip and fall, and what that means for your personal injury case. Protect your legal rights to fair compensation.

At first glance, you might think that “slip and fall” and “trip and fall” mean the same thing. That’s not the case. In legal terms, “trip and fall” describes a different type of incident with a different type of injury.

Slip and falls are caused by slick surfaces, and victims usually fall backward.

Trip and falls are caused by obstacles that trip up a person and make them fall forward or to the side. Any good slip and fall attorney can tell you that these differences can change your legal claim.

This article looks at the causes of trip and fall injuries and who is should pay for your damages. We’ll also explore how to handle trip and fall accident claims with an insurance company and through the courts. As with all personal injury claims, the value of a trip and fall case largely depends on the specific facts of the case.

Slip and Fall vs. Trip and Fall Accidents

Slip and fall accidents usually happen when the floor or ground is made slick or slippery in some way. When you put your weight on the slick surface, your feet slide out from under you and you typically fall backward, onto your bottom or your back. These kinds of falls can result in serious injuries to your head, neck, back, and various other body parts.

Trip and fall accidents happen when there is some kind of obstruction on the floor or ground. This dangerous condition (“tripping hazard”) can catch someone’s foot or leg while they are walking or running. The momentum of a trip and fall accident usually results in the victim falling forward and suffering injury.

Trip and fall accidents tend to injure different parts of the body. Hands, arms, knees, elbows, and the face can all be potential areas for trip and fall injury claims.

Causes of Trip and Fall Injuries

Person tripping over a wire

Trip and fall injuries have different causes than slip and fall injuries. While a slip and fall may happen due to an icy sidewalk or a wet floor, trip and fall accidents are usually caused by a physical obstruction in the victim’s path.

For example, imagine a big hotel with a private, secured parking lot for guests. It’s the busy spring season, with wedding parties and business conventions booked every day. However, it was a bad winter that left several potholes throughout the parking area.

Paul’s company hosted a business conference at the hotel. One evening, Paul was carrying a box of conference materials as he headed to his car. Between the poor lighting and the box in his hands, Paul didn’t see the pothole until he tripped over the uneven pavement, slamming the right side of his head and body to the asphalt. A concussion and dislocated shoulder kept Paul out of work for several weeks.

A trip and fall accident can happen anywhere. Perhaps a crowded antique shop’s narrow aisles are strewn with merchandise that present tripping hazards. Or a rubber mat in front of a building entrance bunches up and presents a tripping hazard. Maybe a veterinarian allows unleashed animals in the office that then get tangled under guests’ feet.

Besides having different causes, trip and fall accidents can also cause different kinds of injuries. FOOSH injuries (Fallen Onto an OutStretched Hand) are common. FOOSH injuries can include broken wrists, broken arms, and ligament tears. People who trip and fall forward can suffer significant head and facial injuries.

Personal Injury Liability for Fall Accidents

Person going up the stairs

As with slip and fall cases, trip and fall injury claims are usually premises liability claims. This means that the property owner is often the main person responsible for the trip and fall injury.

That makes sense because, in most cases, the property or business owner should have control and responsibility for any tripping hazards present on the premises.

There may be other parties responsible for a trip and fall accident. For example, if the owner has leased a commercial property to someone else, that person or entity may also have responsibility for your injury. If your trip and fall was due to the intentional behavior of a third party, they may also be liable in addition to the owner of the premises or business.

Also keep in mind that trip and fall injuries may give rise to product liability cases. If a trip and fall was caused by a defective rug, for example, the manufacturer of the rug may also be liable for your injury.

Pursuing Payment for Trip and Fall Cases

Man pointing to a document on the table during a meeting

After figuring out who should pay for your trip and fall injury, the next question is how to pursue a claim to compensate you for your injury.

Decide if you can handle your own injury claim or if your claim should be handled by a personal injury attorney.

Were you hurt while patronizing a business? There is probably at least one commercial general liability insurance policy that can compensate you for damages.

If you suffered your trip and fall injury at someone else’s home, their homeowner’s insurance policy or renter’s insurance should compensate you for your injury.

Create an injury claim file for organizing your medical bills, medical records, and other evidence of how your injury has affected your life. You’ll also need evidence of the property owner’s negligence, such as photographs of the accident scene and witness statements from people who saw what happened to you.

If you handle your own claim, put together a demand letter so the insurance adjuster can see your damages and decide whether to offer you a settlement. Keep in mind that insurance companies tend to offer less money to an unrepresented claimant in the hope that you’ll take a quick settlement and go away.

If you cannot settle with the insurance company, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit. If you haven’t already consulted an experienced attorney, now is the time to get good legal advice. The evidence that you gathered for the insurance company will be useful here.

Most claims settle out of court. However, if your attorney takes your trip and fall case to trial, the jury may award a monetary judgment. For example, if you have a broken wrist FOOSH injury, you could get as much as $80,000-$120,000 from a favorable jury verdict.

Minding Your Step

It’s always important to watch where you’re walking and to be careful. But you can’t be responsible for everything, all the time. When you step onto someone else’s property or patronize their business, they need to make sure that you can safely walk through their parking lot, sidewalks, and buildings.

Never leave the scene of a trip and fall accident without notifying the property owner or manager. If you’re injured at a business location, ask the manager to fill out an incident report.

Be sure to get prompt medical attention after a trip and fall injury. You’ll need proof of the accident date and location, along with evidence of your injuries for a successful claim.

A broken wrist or a broken nose may not be fatal. But these injuries can be painful and expensive. You deserve to be compensated. If you or a loved one has suffered a trip and fall injury, contact a qualified personal injury lawyer in your state for a free consultation.

Matthew Carter, Esq. has been a licensed attorney since 2004. He’s admitted to practice law in California and Nevada, where he was awarded the Martindale.com rating of AV – Preeminent. Matthew has successfully handled a variety of personal injury and wrongful death cases, as well as trials, appeals, and evidentiary hearings throughout state and federal... Read More >>