The Anatomy Of A Slip & Fall Accident
If you have been injured in a slip-and-fall-type injury, there are some things that you need to know in order to be compensated for the damages you have suffered. Personal injury law is a complicated subject with a simple goal, make those who were negligent pay for the damages they caused an unsuspecting other.
The purpose of this blog post is to provide you with components of a slip-and-fall accident, the various types of slip-and-fall accidents, what you should do if you are injured, and how to proceed with collecting damages so you are not stuck with a debt you do not owe.
Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
Debris on floors or walkways
Debris on stairs
Stray electrical cord or wiring
Loose or damaged floorboards
Wet or icy flooring
Snow or icy on the sidewalk
Lack of handrails
Holes in flooring
Poorly placed fixtures
Inadequate warning signage
Spilled food or drink
Broken floor tiles
Common Injuries Caused by a Slip and Fall Accident
According to the National Safety Council, in 2019, accidents in which a person either slips or trips while walking resulted in almost 9 million hospital emergency room visits. Most people would assume that these accidents only result in minor injuries like a little bruising or scraping. However, serious injuries can occur due to the way the human body falls and the unexpected and surprising nature of the accident. Often, it is the suddenness of the incident that allows so much room for injury, since the body has little time to prepare itself.
Common injuries from slip- or trip-and-falls include:
Bruises, Cuts, and Scrapes
A slip and fall accident is not always a serious or life-threatening events. Often, the most common injuries from the resulting fall are bruising, scrapes, and/or cuts that can range from mild to major, but they almost always are completely recoverable.
Sprains and Strains
The second most common injury from falling is an injury to the muscles, ligaments, and bones. In many cases, these parts of the body absorb most of the impact and take most of the falling pressure. For example, slipping or tripping can cause a person to twist their ankle, spraining the connective ligaments.
Some sprains and twists are caused by the body’s natural reaction to trying to catch itself, but other injuries are caused by the impact itself. For example, the impact of landing on the ground can fracture or break bones. The most common fractures resulting from falls are to the hand, wrist, upper arm, spine, hip, pelvis, leg, and ankle; whichever is the first point of contact.
As a person slips and falls, it is not uncommon for them to land on their shoulder directly, or for it to take a brunt of the impact through the hand and arm. These injuries could be minor, like sprains or bruising, or more serious like the dislocation of the shoulder—known as a brachial plexus injury. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves connecting the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm, and hand. The injuries tend to be common in slip and falls and are extremely painful. They are, however, considered highly treatable.
The younger and older population are most at risk of slipping and falling. The younger population is limber and more prone to healing. However, the older population is more fragile and heals more slowly. Elderly people, in addition to being prone to falling, are more likely to be injured when they do fall and thus are considered to be a high risk of being seriously injured by these slip and fall types of incidents. One of the most dangerous injuries resulting from a fall is a fractured hip. More than 95% of broken hips are suffered from falls. One in five hip fracture patients dies within a year of their injury. This is because hip fractures in elderly people often require long periods of hospitalization, bed rest, and long-term care. Once this cycle begins, it is often hard to break out and make a full recovery.
Head and Brain Injuries
Traumatic Brain Injury, which is also known as a TBI, is often caused as a result of a fall. As mentioned above, slip and fall type injuries often cause a person’s head to go speeding towards the ground, with little or no warning. These types of injuries are called “traumatic” because any damage that occurs to the brain—the body’s most important organ—is considered serious. However, TBIs run the gamut on a scale of severity. Some people may suffer a minor concussion that may heal relatively quickly, while others may receive a TBI that causes severe swelling of the brain, accompanied by seizures, mood changes, cognitive impairment, and other life-long debilitations. Slip- and trip-and-falls cause 40% of all TBIs in the United States that require emergency treatment.
Back and Spine Injuries
Next to the brain, which is required to breathe, the spine is almost equally important in maintaining life. The spine and the spinal cord are responsible for almost every movement in the human body. When a person slips and falls, they often injure their back in some way. It may be from the twisting motion, from the sudden impact of falling on their head or buttocks, or from contact with a foreign object like the corner of a step. This impact can strain the spinal muscles and ligaments, fractured vertebrae, cause spinal discs to bulge or herniate, or damage the spinal cord itself. Because of the 100 billion+ nerves, the spine is connected to, these types of injuries are almost guaranteed to be painful. An injury to the spinal cord can be very serious because it could result in temporary or permanent paralysis, varying disabilities, a lifetime of pain and suffering, or any other number of neurologic and sensory impairments.
When someone injures their neck, they’re actually injuring the upper, cervical portion of their spine. For this reason, most neck injuries are similar to back injuries in that damage can occur to the vertebra bone, the spinal cord, the spinal disc, or any of the nerves, muscles, and ligaments around it. What makes a neck injury so serious is its relation to the rest of the spine and body. Since damage to the neck occurs at the upper portion of the spine, it increases the chances of temporary or permanent disability or paralysis to more parts of the body. Basically, everything from the neck down is at risk. Neck injuries from slip and falls can be caused by the whiplash motion of the sudden fall, or from a person actually landing on their head or neck.
It is important after a slip and fall accident that you seek medical attention so that your injuries may be properly assessed. The failure to timely seek medical care after a slip and fall accident may make it difficult to attribute the injuries that are being claimed to the slip and fall accident and/or the defendant will argue that you were not severely injured in your slip and fall accident because you waited to seek medical care.
Who is Liable for Slip and Fall Injuries?
The most common person liable for slip and fall injuries is the property owner where the fall occurred. However, other, third-parties may be also responsible as well.
If the trip or slip and fall occurred on someone else’s property, and they were negligent toward that property, the owner of that property will most likely be held responsible. It’s also possible that the party responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of that property may also be liable for the injuries you’ve suffered. For example, a woman in New York City could have tripped and fell on a defect in the sidewalk which is owned by a property owner. However about one month prior to the woman’s slip and fall accident, that area of the sidewalk opened up and was being worked on by a vendor hired by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to work on a City owned water pipe that needed replacement. She broke her wrist as a result of her fall and needed surgery to repair the broken bone. However, not all slip and fall injuries are a result of someone’s negligence. We all have a responsibility for our own safety and to watch where we’re going.
The best way to determine who is liable is by contacting an experienced New York trip and fall attorney. Once an attorney is retained, an investigation can be carried out to look into the many different factors involved in the slip and fall accident and the coupled liability. Time is of the essence.
What is a Slip and Fall or Trip and Fall?
Slip-and-fall is a term used in personal injury law that refers to a person slipping or tripping, and as a result, falling and injuring themselves. In order for a slip-and-fall to be categorized as such, it must occur on someone else’s property.
These types of cases usually fall under the broader category of personal injury law known as premises liability. This is because these accidents usually occur on a premises (property) that is owned or maintained by someone else. Since the property owner has an obligation to keep their space safe, they may be held legally responsible for your accident and the resulting injuries.
There are also varying types of slip-and-fall injuries that are often spoken of under one umbrella term. Differentiating between the terms is important because all personal injury cases are fact-sensitive. Meaning, it best to speak about things in the most precise way possible so that what happened is clear and there is no confusion regarding the facts and circumstances pertaining to your accident. The types are:
Slip-and-fall – These accidents occur when a slippery liquid, wetness, or object causes the fall. For example, slipping on a puddle of milk not cleaned up in a convenience store; a walkway that hasn’t been de-iced; or over waxed or over buffed floor in a hallway or stairway.
Trip-and-fall – These accidents occur when a person trips over an object in their path or over an uneven surface. This usually occurs when something is left in the pathway, like a case of milk in a grocery store. Also, uneven surfaces like a raised crack in a sidewalk or an abnormally high doorjamb may cause the fall.
Step-and-fall – This is the most rarely used term in fall injury, but it is different from the others. This accident occurs when the fall is caused by a hole or a low spot in the path. For example, someone fails to fill in a pothole on the walkway in front of their business or the bottom step of a staircase is missing in an apartment building.
These different types even cause different injuries, though any injury can be caused by any fall under the right circumstances. Because of the nature of slipping, often someone’s feet with go out from under them, causing their body to go backward. Slipping victims may land on their back, head, or hip. Because of this, injuries to the spine are common in slip-and-falls. Trip and step-and-falls often cause a person’s momentum to push them forward. This usually results in a different range of injuries. As people fall forward, they often put out their arms to stop themselves. This can cause severe breaking of the hand, wrist, arm, or shoulder. The forward momentum may also result in a head injury, face injury, or damage to the knees, elbows, or pelvis.
Collecting Evidence of a Slip and Fall Accident
By their very nature, accidents like slip-and-falls are unexpected events. And although you cannot plan for such an occurrence ahead of time, there are some things you can do after the fact to ensure that you are in the best possible position for compensation if you decide to seek legal recourse for your accident and the resulting injuries. Even if you don’t feel injured or do not notice any major complications right away, it is often the case that days or, even weeks, later people begin to have problems that arise slowly. In order to protect yourself, document the accident.
Take Pictures– If possible after the fall, take pictures to document the circumstances. Most people have a smartphone these days (or at least a phone with a camera built-in), so taking pictures of the conditions is easier than ever. Be sure to document the surrounding area where the fall took place; as well as any spills, objects, or items that might have contributed to the fall. If you are too injured and not immediately able, have someone you know to take them as soon as possible.
Gather Witness Information– If anyone saw your fall, make sure you get their name and contact information in case you need to recount what they saw later. Having eyewitness testimony can be pivotal to your claim by corroborating your story.
Fill out a slip and fall accident report form– Shopping malls and other private property that is open to the public may have their own reporting procedures in place to document on-site injuries. If one is filled out, make sure you obtain a copy of the accident report. It is your right to gain the information they have gathered about your incident. You are not required to sign anything or go through a lengthy account of the events. In fact, you should not do so. Answer basic questions about the event and move on with getting help and collecting evidence.
Seek Medical Treatment - After being injured, it is important that you visit a hospital or doctor as soon as possible. The more time that passes between the incident and examination by a medical professional, the more difficult it will be to prove that any injuries occurred as a direct result of the fall. If possible, make note of what symptoms you are aware of and any complaints of injuries you may have. Do not wait to see if injuries will heal by themselves. Some injuries take time to show up but being examined right away can help discover unseen problems, as well as prevent worsening or unforeseen complications.
Write down everything you remember as soon as possible - Your impressions that are recorded very close to the fall may be admissible in Court. Be sure to include what you saw, how the accident occurred, and even any statements made by employees on the premises.
Contact an Attorney– Personal injury cases can be complicated and tricky. Insurance companies are for-profit businesses that want to spend less and make more. Hiring a competent personal injury attorney is empirical to making sure you get the compensation you deserve. Once hired, an experienced attorney will help gather evidence through investigators, begin compiling your case, and evaluating all the components. Be sure to give them all the information you have so diligently gathered, like photos, witnesses’ information, statements, notes, and medical bills.
What NOT to do after a slip and fall accident
Unfortunately, we have seen people undermine their own cases by doing the following:
Talking more than they need to – After an accident, it is natural to speak out of nervousness or fear and often, to say too much. Try not to babble, speculate how the accident happened, or insist that you feel fine before the pain sets in. Instead, try to be polite but reserved.
Speaking with insurance adjusters – Insurance companies will make a move immediately. Anything you say to an insurance adjuster will be used to reduce the value of your claim, and if you sign their settlement agreement, you will waive the right to pursue further damages – even if you do not know about them yet. If you instead retain a personal injury lawyer, he or she will be your official representative so you will not need to deal with high-pressure settlement tactics from insurance companies.
Proving Slip and Fall Fault
In a New York slip-and-fall case, the injured party and their attorney need to prove three things to the court:
Duty of care. The property owner or business owed a duty of care to the injured person. For example, when a store is open for business, they are inviting you to come in and shop. They are the inviter, and you are the invitee. When a business invites someone onto their property, they have an obligation to make sure the property is safe condition.
Reasonable care. You must prove that the store, business, or property owner failed to implement reasonable care in maintaining or operating the property.
Prove causation. The third component is proving that the business or property owner caused the injury because they didn’t use reasonable care to maintain their property.
Damages. You must prove that the injuries that were sustained can be attributed to your slip and fall accident.
The most difficult part of proving a slip and fall case is usually proving that the owner had prior notice of the dangerous condition because this requires establishing information that may be in the sole possession of the property owner. However, the courts will accept proof of either actual knowledge or constructive notice with regards to the dangerous condition. Actual notice is established when the property owner admits to knowing of the dangerous condition.
Constructive knowledge can be established if you can show that the property owner should have known about the dangerous condition prior to your accident and taken the appropriate measures to remediate the condition or to warn a potential plaintiff about the dangerous condition on the property owner’s property. If it can be shown that the property owner caused or created the condition, proving notice is no longer an obstacle that needs to be overcome.
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident in New York, you need to act quickly to file a complaint or a notice of claim because there may be a shortened statute of limitations. For most slip-and-fall cases in New York, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of the injury. After that time, the injured party cannot start a suit against an at-fault party. However, if the property owner is a municipal agency or a state agency, the agency is going to be subject to a shorter statute of limitations. For example, if the property owner is the City of New York, a Notice of Claim has to be filed with the City of New York within 90 days from the date of the injury and an action has to be commenced within one year and 90 days of the date of injury. It is important to contact a Slip and Fall Attorney in New York sooner rather than later in order to protect your rights.
Comparative negligence is a legal term that is used when deciding if a person who was injured in a slip-and-fall-type accident was completely, or partially, at fault for the injuries they obtained. Different states follow different rules when the claimant is deemed partially at fault for the accident. In some states, if a person if found to be 51% or greater comparatively negligent for the injuries they sustained, they are barred from obtaining any recovery. However, in New York State, the injured person’s compensation is reduced by a percentage equal to the percentage that the accident was their fault. This percentage is decided by a jury at the time of trial.
Slip and Fall Injury Damages
In the event that you are injured, someone is going to pay for the losses incurred. That person should be the party who was responsible for the accident. Some damages that can be experienced and compensated for are:
Medical bills and costs
Lost wages for time off work during the incident and in the future
Permanent disability, injury, or limitations
Emotional distress from the trauma or injury, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Other costs directly related to your injury, like loss of consortium/services.
Law Office of Dimitrios Kourouklis, Ph.D. Slip and Fall Injury Attorneys
At the Law Office of Dimitrios Kourouklis, Ph.D. in New York, New York, our team of highly skilled New York slip and fall attorneys can review your case and obtain the compensation you are entitled to. We will do everything possible to make sure you receive reimbursement for your injuries, as well as lost wages and other damages. Our experienced New York slip and fall attorneys have helped victims in the New York City area obtain the recovery they deserve for their injuries and related losses. Please call our office at (929)400-7608 or fill out a contact form online today.
Law Office of Dimitrios Kourouklis, Ph.D.
19 West 21st Street, Suite 402
New York, New York 10010