Slip and fall accidents injure many people each year. A large percentage of these injuries are as a result of a defect that could have been prevented by ordinary or reasonable care. Unfortunately, these cases are often very challenging cases to win. As a result they are undervalued and hard fought by defendants and many Plaintiff attorneys refuse to handle the claims, especially in certain jurisdictions. A careful analysis of the following factors is important if a claim is to be successful:
- The plaintiff - The credibility of the injured person is crucial since most of these cases are not witnessed. It is important that an attorney have an opportunity to speak to the Plaintiff while memories are fresh and all details can be recalled. Furthermore, the Plaintiff must not have contributed to the accident. In other words, was the Plaintiff taking reasonable care considering the circumstances (appropriate foot wear for the weather conditions, watching where they were going, etc.)
- The defect - What caused the Plaintiff to fall? If it was not an object, was it the design of the area? Did the Plaintiff's age, dress, or physical condition, play a role?
- The injury - Is the injury consistent with the description of the accident?
- Causation - Was the Cause of the injury within the control of the Defendant. For example, if the Plaintiff slipped on water, was the wet condition caused by the defendant or was it caused by another customer a few seconds earlier of which Defendant was unaware.
- Notice - This is usually the most difficult area. A Plaintiff must prove that the Defendant knew or should have known of the dangerous condition in order to be successful. For example, if a store employee failed to mop up a spill that he knew about, that would be considered “notice” of the dangerous condition. Similarly, if the store does not have a policy of checking the aisles every hour that may be considered “constructive” notice. Furthermore, if the area was designed in a way that is defective (improper height of step or no handrail) that may be considered sufficient notice of a defect.
- Duty of the defendant - The defendant has different standards of care depending on the status of the Plaintiff. If the Plaintiff has come to a store to purchase goods then the Defendant has a much higher duty to the Plaintiff than if the Plaintiff is a trespasser.
After careful consideration of all of the above factors, we can determine the next steps to take. Where appropriate and possible, pictures and diagrams of the accident scene can be helpful. Often an expert witness may be required to prove the negligence (defect which caused the injury) of the defendant.