Slipping and falling because of a hazardous condition on someone else's property can leave you injured. Not only might you have to contend with severe pain, expense, and inconvenience, but you may also lose your ability to work, support yourself, and enjoy your life.
It’s natural to wonder whether you can sue the party responsible for your fall. The short answer is that yes, in many cases, you can.
Below, we explore the factors affecting whether and against whom you can bring a lawsuit after getting hurt in a slip and fall accident, the monetary damages you might receive, and the role an experienced slip and fall accident attorney can play in enforcing your rights.
A Quick Primer on Slip and Falls
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls constitute one of the most common causes of accidental injury in the United States, especially among older Americans. Hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized for fall-related injuries annually, many having suffered broken bones or traumatic brain injuries.
Lawyers refer to accidental falls as slips and falls. But that name is misleading because a slip is not strictly required. Any injury-causing fall—whether preceded by slipping, tripping, misstepping, losing your balance, or any other incident—can constitute a slip and fall.
Instead, for lawyers, a slip and fall has two defining characteristics.
First, the fall usually must happen because of an unreasonably dangerous hazard on the property where it occurs, such as:
- Uncleared ice and snow on building entrances, parking lots, sidewalks, and other public areas.
- Defective stairways and steps, including crumbling cement stairs, uneven steps, and deteriorating wood stairways.
- Loose, broken, or missing handrails in areas where needed for balance.
- Water, grease, sand, and other slippery materials on the floors of restaurants, stores, and other businesses.
- Uneven, cracked, or pitted sidewalks.
- Potholes, sinkholes, heaves, and cracks in parking lots.
- Poorly maintained swimming pool decks, diving boards, and poolside features.
- Inadequate lighting in areas open for public foot traffic.
- Cords or debris in public spaces and walkways.
Second, someone other than the injured victim usually must own the property where the fall occurs. That can include a business or other commercial property, someone's residence or private property, a rental building where you are a tenant, and public property owned by the government.
- Grocery stores, malls, and other shopping centers
- Hotels and motels
- Homes and residences of friends or family
- Apartments and condominium complexes
- Movie theaters, stadiums, and other entertainment venues
- Office buildings
- Public parks
- Health clubs, gyms, and other recreational centers
- Hospitals, nursing homes, and medical buildings
- Amusement parks
- Construction sites
- Parking lots
- Airports, train stations, and bus stations
- Schools and other government-owned buildings
To be clear, you can sometimes sue for fall injuries on your own property, including in your home. Lawyers just don't normally classify those cases as slips and falls.
Overview of Your Rights After a Slip and Fall
Owners and legal occupants of any property generally must take reasonable steps to ensure your safety when you visit their premises. The failure to live up to that duty can make the owner or occupant liable for your fall-related injuries.
Reasonable Steps an Owner/Occupant Must Take to Keep you Safe
The reasonable steps an owner or occupant of a property must take to keep you safe can include:
- Cleaning up spills promptly so you do not slip on them;
- Fixing broken floorboards or cracked tiles in areas where you might walk;
- Salting and sanding sidewalks and parking lots in the winter;
- Ensuring adequate lighting in stairwells and other areas you might access;
- Inspecting and maintaining banisters and railings to ensure they’re solidly attached; and
- Posting warnings about or keeping you away from any hazards that could cause a fall.
These are only examples. Talk to a lawyer right away if you fell and got hurt because of any property condition the owner or occupant should have fixed, kept you away from, or warned you about.
Your Right to Compensation for a Slip and Fall
Generally, individuals who suffer slip and fall injuries have the right to demand payment from the owner or occupant of the property where the fall occurred. Every fall differs, but in many cases, the law entitles the injured fall victim to payment of economic and non-economic compensatory damages.
Economic damages consist of financial losses directly resulting from the fall and the injuries it caused.
They typically include:
- Past and current medical bills resulting from hospitalization, surgeries, rehabilitative therapy, doctor visits, medical prescriptions, and other medical treatments;
- Future medical care;
- Lost wages, the value of paid time off used, and reduced earning capacity;
- Domestic replacement services, including child care, grocery shopping services, and cleaning services;
- Personal property losses; and
- Other expenses the accident caused.
Non-economic damages constitute all other types of harm suffered in a fall and its aftermath, such as:
- Physical pain and health complications;
- Emotional suffering and mental health challenges;
- Scarring and disfigurement;
- Loss of consortium with a spouse or domestic partner;
- Loss of companionship of friends and family;
- Inconvenience and diminished quality of life; and
- Loss of independence.
In some instances, a slip and fall victim may also receive punitive damages—extra payments ordered by a court as punishment for a property owner/occupant’s extreme, outrageous, or intentionally harmful conduct.
It's not easy to predict the amount you could receive for a slip and fall because it depends on the individual facts and circumstances of your injuries, how they happened, and who is to blame. But the most reliable way to maximize your recovery is virtually always to hire an experienced attorney who has earned the trust of their clients and has a demonstrated track record of success in slip and fall cases.
Virtually Any Slip and Fall Injury Entitles You to Compensation
Falls can inflict many injuries, including:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Spinal cord injuries (SCI)
- Back injuries like herniated or ruptured discs
- Broken bones, especially hips, arms, and wrists
- Orthopedic trauma like ACL tears and dislocated shoulders
- Internal injuries and bleeding
- Facial trauma, including eye injuries
- Lacerations, abrasions, and contusions
Any of these injuries—even supposedly “minor” ones—can leave you struggling with sky-high medical bills, time away from work, pain, inconvenience, and financial hardship. Although a fall can certainly cause catastrophic and fatal trauma, you don’t need to have suffered the worst of the worst to seek compensation. You have the right to seek damages for any injury wrongfully inflicted on you in a fall.
Having Rights to Compensation Means You Can Sue
A slip and fall victim with the rights described above can usually sue to enforce them. For lawyers, suing means filing a lawsuit against the property owner or occupant in court, demanding payment for the injured fall victim's damages.
By law, a lawsuit follows a prescribed set of steps culminating in a trial. At a trial, lawyers for the injured slip and fall victim (the plaintiff) and the property owner or occupant (the defendant) present evidence and arguments to a judge or jury. The judge or jury then decides whether the plaintiff has proven the defendant's liability for damages, and if so, the amount the plaintiff should receive.
Not all lawsuits reach the trial stage, however. In fact, most slip and fall lawsuits settle long before trial. A settlement is an out-of-court agreement between the plaintiff and the defendant to resolve the slip and fall claim. In the typical settlement, the defendant (or its liability insurance carrier) pays money to the plaintiff. In exchange, the plaintiff agrees to release the defendant from further reliability and to terminate the lawsuit.
But You Might Not Have to Sue if You Have the Right Lawyer on Your Side
Just because you have the right to sue for slip and fall damages doesn't necessarily mean you will have to do so. In many slip and fall cases, a lawyer can negotiate a settlement on your behalf before filing a lawsuit. The mere possibility that you might sue can bring the property owner/occupant and their representatives to the table to discuss settling your claim.
If, that is, you have a lawyer on your side who is ready and willing to take your case to trial and has a reputation for winning in the courtroom. As the old saying goes: Speak softly and carry a big stick. Property owners/occupants and their attorneys and insurers will engage with a lawyer who speaks softly about settlement if they know the lawyer also carries the big stick of beating them soundly in the courtroom if it comes to that.
You May Face Tight Deadlines for Suing
Your right to sue for a slip and fall does not last forever. The statute of limitations sets a firm deadline for filing a slip and fall lawsuit. It can range from a few months to a few years after your fall, depending (among other factors) on the state and location where your fall happened, the nature of your injury, and who owes you damages.
Missing the deadline set by the statute of limitations usually results in the total loss of your rights to damages. So, it’s critical not to waste any time. Hiring an experienced lawyer immediately after you get hurt ensures you will not miss a deadline. It also gives the lawyer ample time to collect evidence, build a winning case, and explore the possibility of settling before suing.
Here’s What a Slip and Fall Lawyer Can Do for You
Following a slip and fall accident, you have a lot on your plate. The last thing you need is the stress of figuring out how to get paid for your injuries. But with an experienced slip and fall accident attorney on your side, there’s no reason to lose any sleep.
A skilled slip and fall attorney can:
- Meet with you free of charge for an initial case consultation.
- Review the facts and legal issues involved in your slip and fall, determine if you have a valid claim to pursue, and explain your options for seeking compensation.
- Answer your questions in plain English and advise you about how to make decisions that could affect your future.
- Investigate your fall and obtain evidence showing what happened, who is to blame, and how much you should receive as payment for your injuries.
- Explore the possibility of settling your case with or without filing a lawsuit.
- Negotiate a settlement on your behalf and advise you whether to accept or reject settlement offers.
- File a lawsuit on your behalf and take it to trial, if necessary.
- Collect your settlement, judgment, or jury award.
Even better, a slip and fall attorney will do all this work for you without charging you a dime in advance. That's because attorneys for fall victims work on a contingent fee basis. Instead of charging an upfront retainer or billing by the hour, they keep an agreed percentage of any money they succeed in securing on their clients' behalf.
In other words, your slip and fall attorney will only get paid if you get paid.
Contact an Experienced Slip and Fall Lawyer Today
No one has the right to put you in unreasonable danger when you visit their property. If you or someone you love fell and got hurt on someone else’s premises, chances are you have the right to sue for slip and fall injuries. With the right attorney on your side, you can hold the property owner or occupant financially accountable and get the money you need to pay your expenses and return to living your life.
Do not wait to start exploring your rights and options. Contact an experienced slip and fall injury attorney today for a free case evaluation.