The Challenges of Slip and Fall Cases
Brian White | February 17, 2021 | Slip and Fall
When it comes to slip and fall or trip and fall accidents, a case can come down to the nitpicky details. This makes it difficult to guarantee an award will be given to a plaintiff through a trial. Additionally, if the estimated reward from the case isn’t large enough to cover the cost of legal counsel, it might not be worth taking the case to court at all.
Because these cases face significant challenges in court, it is important for an attorney to get an honest account from the client about what occurred, which can then be used to create a strong case. If a client exaggerates facts to increase their potential award, the case will face a difficult uphill battle.
Slip and fall and trip and fall accidents are different. Slip and fall accidents can be even more difficult to prove than a trip and fall accident. When slipping, a person starts on a flat surface, and it might look as though they’re slipping on “nothing.” In contrast, tripping over an apparent obstacle is much easier to prove. And with slip and fall cases, the defendant might still be free from liability, depending on the timing of the accident.
For example, if a person slips on the floor of a grocery store because something leaked, it’s going to be hard to prove that it’s been there long enough for the owner or employees to have noticed and reasonably have been expected to take action, making it hard to prove negligence on their part.
In the case of slipping on ice, businesses generally have 24 hours to make their sidewalks safe for invitees before they’re considered liable.
Lastly, a slip needs to be due to a substantial defect that can be proven. A lawyer can help to decide if the cause of the slip was substantial enough to be able to bring a case before the court.
Defending a Slip and Fall
An attorney’s job is to figure out if the case will convince a potential jury or judge.
They’ll ask questions that pertain to every factor that may have led to the injury, such as:
- What shoes were you wearing when you fell?
- Do you know what you slipped on?
- Which foot did you slip on?
- Had you taken a wide or deep step?
- Were you paying attention while walking?
- What happened right after you fell?
- When did the pain set in?
When it comes to injury, especially when slipping in public, the body’s adrenaline is likely to kick in, making it possible that an injury won’t be felt right away. It’s plausible that a slip and fall accident can lead to a painful injury, dangerous brain injury, or emotional trauma that only becomes noticeable after the fact.
A Slip and Fall Injury on the Job
Even if a case seems airtight, there’s still a need for substantial evidence to support it.
In the case of Averyt vs. Wal-Mart, the plaintiff, commercial truck driver Holly Averyt, slipped on grease that had accumulated while making a delivery. She ruptured a disc in her spine and injured her shoulder and neck.
This work-related fall ended her career and caused acute emotional distress, as described by close friends and family. This seemed to be a clear slip and fall case. The injury was immediate, a doctor confirmed her injuries, and it was obviously caused by a fall that happened on the job.
However, the key component, in this case, was the reason for the plaintiff’s fall. She claimed that there was grease on the floor and that the grease had caused the fall. However, Wal-Mart claimed that there was no grease, and if there had been, there would have been a record of it. Averyt’s attorney could not locate any such records. Because of this, Averyt was on the losing side of her case.
However, Averyt’s attorney continued to look for evidence of the grease spill. During a brief recess, the attorney went down a line of contacts, leading him to reach out to the City of Greeley. He found out that the City of Greeley had issued a memorandum to Wal-Mart to clean up a grease spill before Averyt’s accident.
He was then able to bring in a truck driver who had noticed the grease spill two days before Averyt’s fall. Although Wal-Mart returned the next day and claimed that they found an assistant manager who remembered the spill and had paperwork proving the spill had been cleaned, Averyt was awarded $10 million.
Had evidence of the report not come to light, Averyt would have lost the trial. The ruling was nearly reversed, with Wal-Mart claiming that the Greeley report was an unfair surprise mid-trial. The court deemed that this would not have changed Wal-Mart’s case, and the verdict remained.
Let’s pretend that Averyt only mildly injured her shoulder and lied, perhaps citing a stain on the concrete as “grease.” While she might have won a small amount of award money for her injury, it would not have been enough to pay for the cost of going to trial, let alone coming anywhere close to the reward she would have been aiming for.
However, cases like Averyt’s do happen, and when they do, victims are entitled to substantial compensation.
Deals Outside of Court
If you are injured, be wary of “settlement mill” law firms that encourage out-of-court deals. These deals pay the firm a pretty penny for no work and leave you with less than you’d win in court. Additionally, don’t take deals that seem large at the time if your case is worth more. $100,000 dollars looks like a lot – until you’re spreading that out over five years while you recover, unable to work, with medical bills piling up.
Dedicated law firms and attorneys know where to look for evidence and how to win in tricky slip and fall cases. Not only do you want to recover the full award, but you also deserve to be compensated.