Slip and Fall FAQs
Slip and fall cases have a reputation of being hard to win. Read our "Slip and Fall Frequently Asked Questions" for information on what you should do if you have been injured.
1. Are slip and fall cases hard to win?
Slip and fall cases have a reputation of being hard to win because the injured person has to prove that the defendant:
- Owed them a duty of care (negligence) or similar legal obligation (premises liability);
- Acted in a way that breached that duty or obligation; and
- That breach caused the injured person’s injury/loss/damage.
If any of these elements are missing, the injured person will not win in a court of law. However, many personal injury cases are settled before they ever make it to the courtroom. If the facts of the case show that the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries, the plaintiff has a very strong case whether in settlement negotiations or in court.
2. Who is responsible for a slip and fall accident if the property is rented?
Liability for a slip and fall accident in a rental property can depend on a number of factors including:
- Who was injured?
- Why was the injured person on the property?
- What caused the accident?
- Did the accident occur inside a tenant’s apartment or in a common area?
- Was the landlord notified of the dangerous condition?
- Is there a contract or lease that places a duty on a certain party?
A landlord has a legal obligation to keep rental property habitable and free from dangerous conditions. The landlord is responsible for inspecting and maintaining common areas. However, a landlord is not expected to know about a dangerous condition inside a tenant’s apartment unless he has been notified of it. Liability for a slip and fall inside a tenant’s apartment is very dependent on the specific circumstances of that case.
3. What is a premises liability cause of action?
A premises liability cause of action is a legal claim that arises when someone suffers damages as a result of a dangerous condition on another person’s property. A property owner has a duty to take reasonable care to keep their property safe for people who come onto it, and to conduct reasonable and prudent inspections of their property for hazards. Each state has different rules about the extent of a property owner’s duty depending on why the injured person was on the property. Typically, a property owner will have a greater obligation to their invited guests than to trespassers.
4. What should I do after a slip and fall accident or sustaining an injury?
When you have had a slip and fall accident, you should:
- Get medical attention.
- Report the incident immediately to the property owner/manager, and keep a copy of the report.
- Document the scene by taking photos or videos.
- Get the names and phone numbers of any witnesses to the fall itself or the condition causing the fall.
- Do not say or do anything to accept blame.
- Stay off social media - your social media activity will be reviewed by an opposing lawyer.
- Keep a copy of all letters, emails, medical bills, and other related documents together in a file.
- Contact a personal injury lawyer - any initial case evaluation should be free.
5. What if my slip and fall accident made a preexisting injury worse?
In a slip and fall accident, a defendant can be liable for the worsening of preexisting conditions. A defendant will not be liable for any prior injuries or conditions but they can be liable for injuries caused, or made worse, by the accident.
6. I fell on a friend’s property, and I don’t want to sue them, but my bills are piling up -- what should I do?
If you are injured in a slip and fall accident on a friend’s property, you should still consider bringing a personal injury action to compensate you for your injuries and cover your medical bills. Most people have homeowner’s insurance that will be responsible for defending the claim and covering the cost of legal fees and damages (within individual policy limits). This is the purpose of homeowner’s insurance just as people have car insurance to cover such costs in an accident.
7. I slipped on ice on my way into the office, what should I do?
If you slip and fall on your way into work, you may be entitled to compensation for your injury or medical bills by an action in negligence, premises liability, or workers’ compensation, depending on the circumstances of the accident.
A claim in negligence will depend on whether or not someone, other than your employer, owed you a duty of care, was negligent in causing the ice build up, and that caused your fall and injury.
A premises liability claim may be brought against the owner or occupier of the property on which you slipped or against another party responsible for maintaining the area such as a snow removal contractor.
With very limited exception, you cannot bring a negligence claim against your employer. If you slip and fall in the parking lot at work or at your place of business, you will likely have a worker’s compensation claim against your employer. If there was another entity responsible for maintaining the area where you slipped and fell such as a snow removal contractor or a janitorial service, you may also have a negligence claim against that entity.
8. What questions will I be asked in a slip and fall deposition?
At a slip and fall deposition, you will be asked detailed questions about how the fall happened, your injury and loss, your medical history before the incident, and your medical issues and activity after the incident. Common questions include:
- When did the fall happen?
- Why were you there?
- What were you wearing?
- How fast were you walking?
- What was the weather like?
- What were you looking at while you were walking?
- Did you see the ice?
- Which foot slipped?
- Which part of your body hit the ground first?
- What were your injuries?
- What were your symptoms?
- How did your symptoms change over time?
- Did you see a doctor?
- How long did it take for you to recover?
- What activities were you unable to do after the fall?
- Are you able to do all your normal activities now?
- How long were you out of work?
9. Can I sue the city/town/borough if I slipped and fell on a broken piece of sidewalk?
Whether or not you can sue the local authority depends on the state and local laws. In Delaware, most municipalities are protected from being sued for personal injuries by municipal immunity. However, sometimes another person is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk or preventing the conditions that made the sidewalk unsafe. You should consult with a personal injury lawyer to find out your options. An initial case evaluation should be free.
10. What duties do property owners have regarding ice and snow removal?
The laws on ice and snow removal vary by state. In Delaware, a property owner/manager must maintain their property in a safe condition for business or personal visitors and the general public. Commercial property owners have a duty to remove snow or ice that has accumulated on their property. Landlords must maintain common areas in a safe condition for tenants. When removing snow, property owners must be careful not to create a dangerous condition by poor snow clearing, which could also give rise to a claim in negligence.
Local ordinances may also mandate more specific rules about snow removal, such as removal of snow from the walkway in front of your property within 24 hrs of the end of the storm.
11. If a building owner is in violation of building codes, can that affect my slip and fall claim?
If you are bringing a slip and fall claim against a building owner, it may help your case if the building owner is in violation of local or state building codes. However, a violation alone is not enough to win a slip and fall case. To be successful in a slip and fall claim against a property owner, you must prove the property owner owed you a duty of care, they breached that duty, and you were injured as a result of their breach. Building codes exist for healthy and safety reasons, so their violation can be strong evidence that a property owner has breached their duty of care to the occupants of the building. However, as a plaintiff, you must also prove the breach caused your injuries.
12. My friend lives in an apartment and I fell on their steps. Who pays my bills?
If you slip and fall on the steps or in other common areas of an apartment building, the owner of the apartment building may be liable for your injuries and associated expenses, including medical bills. A property owner is responsible for maintaining the common areas of an apartment building in a safe condition for visitors to the property. If a visitor to the property is injured as a result of a hazardous condition that the property owner knew, or should have known, about, the visitor can bring a premises liability claim against the property owner. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the visitor may also have a negligence claim against other parties, such as a property management company.
13. What is an aggravated injury?
An aggravated injury is an injury or condition that a plaintiff had before an accident (a pre-existing condition) that has been made worse by the accident. Aggravating injuries can increase the pain, suffering, and recovery time of a victim. A defendant will not be liable for the pre-existing condition but will be liable for the aggravation of it.
14. What is the difference between exacerbation and aggravation?
Exacerbation and aggravation describe the worsening of a pre-existing condition as a result of an accident. Exacerbation is a temporary worsening, while aggravation is a permanent worsening of the pre-existing condition. There is no set time limit for when a condition changes from temporary to permanent. This will depend on the plaintiff’s individual circumstances.
15. What percentage of slip and fall cases go to trial?
An overwhelming majority of slip and fall cases settle out of court and never go to trial. Calculating an exact percentage can be misleading and unhelpful as the likelihood of going to trial depends on the facts of each individual case, and not on other cases with different facts and parties. In general, plaintiffs and defendants prefer to settle out of court to avoid the publicity, expense, and uncertainty of a trial. Depending on the facts of the case and the parties involved, a settlement may be agreed very early in the process or as late as at the courtroom door.
16. How do you prove a property owner was negligent?
To prove that a property owner was negligent, the plaintiff must prove all of the four elements of negligence:
- The property owner owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
- The property owner breached that duty of care.
- The plaintiff was injured or suffered loss.
- The property owner’s breach caused the plaintiff’s injury.
17. When can a property manager be liable for damages?
A property manager can be held liable for damages in a slip and fall case if they are negligent, and their negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Whether or not the property manager was negligent will depend on their duties and responsibilities as set out in the contract between the property manager and the property owner. A property manager often has some responsibility and liability in cases of failure to repair; failure to properly oversee construction or renovation;; and inadequate security.
18. What happens if you slip and fall in a retail store?
If you slip and fall in a retail store, you should notify the manager immediately, and tell them to file a report of the accident. You, or someone with you, should take photographs of the condition that caused your fall and, if possible, try to determine the source of that condition. If there were any witnesses, you should obtain their names and telephone numbers. You should seek medical care for your own health and safety, and to record your injuries. If your slip and fall may have been caused by the negligence of another person, such as the store owner or property owner, you may have a claim against them for your pain and suffering, and losses as a result of your injury, including medical expenses or lost wages.
A store owner, property owner, or insurance company may try to get you to admit some fault in the accident, or offer to pay your medical bills or other settlement amount, in order to minimize their loss. You should consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer before any such discussions to ensure that you get good legal advice and are properly compensated for your injuries.
19. Can you sue for falling in a parking lot?
If you fall in a parking lot, you may be able to sue the property owner and/or manager, or other contractors (i.e. snow removal contractor) for negligence. Property owners and operators have a legal obligation to maintain their property in a safe condition for people using it. If you are injured because the owner or manager of a parking lot has breached their duty to keep the parking lot free from hazardous conditions, you may therefore be able to sue for your injuries and related losses, such as medical expenses and lost wages.
If the parking lot is owned or operated by a government or municipal authority, the deadlines and process for filing a claim are different. In Delaware, most municipalities are protected from being sued for personal injuries by municipal immunity. You should contact an experienced lawyer to discuss your claim.
20. I had a slip and fall and now I can’t work because of my injuries. What should I do?
If your slip and fall was caused by the negligence of another person, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, including medical expenses and lost wages. You should seek medical attention and contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately. The sooner that you get good legal advice, the sooner you can begin the process of getting compensation to cover your medical expenses and lost wages. Your attorney will negotiate with the negligent person or their attorney, and their insurance company, on your behalf. Your attorney can also advise you on dealing with other parties such as your employer, your health insurance company, or your disability insurance provider, to reduce your stress and increase your compensation.
21. How do my medical bills and lost wages get paid after a slip and fall?
If you have medical bills or lost wages after a slip and fall that was caused by another person’s negligence, you are entitled to be compensated for your losses by the negligent person. In order to get the compensation, you will need to bring, and win, a legal claim against the negligent person, or reach an out of court settlement with them or their insurance company. Both of these options take time. Until you receive compensation, you will have to look to your own health insurance and disability insurance, if any, to cover your expenses.