Recently, I met with a potential client who slipped and fell on ice and suffered a fracture. Although this person was able to make a full recovery, they missed some time from work and were forced to reschedule major life events, including a wedding. Unfortunately, I was unable to help this person. Why was I unable to help someone who had both a clear and significant injury?
There are two major assessments to be made in determining whether a person can recover for a slip and fall. First, the court will consider whether the condition causing the slip and fall was so open and obvious that a reasonable person could have observed it and avoided it. Second, the court will consider whether the owner of the property had sufficient notice of the condition and opportunity to cure the condition.
Open and Obvious Conditions
If you knowingly walk onto an ice-skating rink without the proper shoes and fall, you cannot sue the owner of the ice-skating rink for your injury. Why not? Because you assumed the risk of injuring yourself by doing something that a reasonable person would not have done. A reasonable person would know that an ice-skating rink is extremely slippery and would avoid walking onto it without the proper footwear.
Another example includes the use of a wet floor sign. If there is an observable wet floor sign in an area, it is obvious to a reasonable person that the floor is wet. Therefore, if a person goes near the wet floor sign and then slips and falls, the owner of the property cannot be held liable, as the owner made it clear that the floor was in fact wet. All the person had to do to avoid falling was read the sign and avoid the obviously wet area.
Notice and Opportunity to Cure
The next issue is whether the owner of the property had sufficient notice of the condition and adequate time to cure the condition. In the case of my potential client, the owner of the property was never made aware of the condition creating the slip and fall. When I met with the client, it had been almost a year since the fall, and the person had never contacted the owner of the property to alert them of the fall and make a claim. At the time of the slip and fall, the potential client, who was clearly in a distressed state, did what we all would do – seek medical treatment immediately. However, the owner of the property was never notified of the icy condition or the potential client’s slip and fall.
Additionally, it was determined that the icy precipitation that created the slip and fall condition had only started a little over three hours before the slip and fall and only ended less than an hour before the slip and fall. In this circumstance, even if the owner had been put on notice of the condition, most courts would find that not enough time had passed for the owner to properly rectify the condition.
Important Steps to Take After Slip and Falls
So, what can you do if you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of being the victim of a slip and fall?
- If possible, take pictures of the area where you fell while you are still at the scene. If the slip and fall was caused by a puddle of water in a store or ice in a parking lot, make sure to capture this in real-time. The condition will likely not be there if you come back later.
- Make sure to notify someone with ownership or authority of the property right away so that a statement can be given and a claim can be made. It is important that the circumstances of the slip and fall be documented right away.
- If there are witnesses, especially independent witnesses (people unrelated or not personally known to you), be sure to get their name and contact information. You may need them to speak on your behalf should you find yourself in a messy fight over liability with the property owner.
- Try to determine if there is a video recording of the slip and fall. The old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is true, but the new saying that a video is worth a million words is truer.
- Seek medical treatment immediately. The more time that passes between your slip and fall and your treatment, the more likely the insurance company will try to blame your injury on something other than their insured’s negligence.
- Lastly, seek a consultation with an attorney early. An attorney can assist you with securing video footage, taking witness statements, and ensuring that you properly report the incident. Preservation of the evidence in these cases is key.
Obviously, the best way to combat a slip and fall is to avoid it altogether. However, if it happens, the attorneys here at Allen & Allen are here to help. Give us a call or send us an email, and we can work with you to navigate your case.