Trip and Fall Cases
Trip and Fall Injury
Trip and fall cases are very hard to win. A lot of people believe that if you were injured because you slipped and fell at a business, you are automatically entitled to recover money damages. This thinking is the farthest from the truth for Illinois cases. Statistically, trip and fall cases are won by the Defendant (owner of the property) over 50% of the time when the case proceeds to Trial. Before the case even proceeds to Trial, the Judge hearing the case throws out a trip and fall case on Summary Judgment the majority of time. The Judge reviewing the case determines that in light thus suited for the injured victim, he cannot win his case.
Some of the most common are trip and fall cases in Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Huntley and McHenry County, Illinois are as follows:
- On snow and ice
- In a retail or business store on a slippery substance on the floor, or foreign object
- Construction companies through a hole in the floor, or debris on the construction site
- On the pavement (parking lot) through a defective pavement
- On a sidewalk or walkway
- In a stairway
For the trip and fall cases that involve a substance on the floor, the injured victim must prove that the owner of the business knew or should have known about the substance on the floor. One way to prove notice of a slippery substance on the floor is that the substance was there for a sufficient amount of time prior to injury. This is called constructive notice. Constructive notice is usually proven by circumstantial evidence with testimony from the victim, witness statements and/or video surveillance footage, obtaining copies of the surveillance video tape may be crucial to the claim.
An example of actual notice is when a store owner or shop keeper may have actual notice of a slippery substance on the floor when an employee mops a section of the floor and fails to put out warning cones advising of the wet floor and a victim is injured when they slip and fall on the freshly mopped floor. In that case, the business owner had actual notice of the substance on the floor because the employee just recently mopped the same.
There are several steps you should take after a slip and fall incident regardless if it was on snow and ice, in a store, on a sidewalk, or in a stair wall to increase you chance of a favorable settlement or verdict.
- First: Get the names and addresses of all the witnesses who were at the scene. These witnesses are usually people who helped the injured victim with their injuries after the incident. If possible take pictures of the witnesses. This is made much easier with cell phone cameras.
- Second: Photograph the scene. Take several photographs at different angles on the actual substance the victim tripped or fell on, the defective stairway or sidewalk.
- Third: Photograph the area around the scene to get an idea of what the entire area looked like, this may prove helpful in putting the business owner on notice.
- Fourth: Report the trip and fall injury to the business owner or person that owns the property or area where you fell. Ask for a copy of any report that is filled out.
- Fifth: Take photographs of you injuries, if possible get photographs before and after treatment. Then take photographs of the healing process, creating a photograph history of your injury.
Slip and fall cases involving snow or ice
For the owner of the property to be liable for a trip and fall accident involving snow or ice, the snow or ice must form as an unnatural accumulation. Generally there is no liability for a slip and fall injured victim against the property owner who did not shovel their walk or parking lot. There are various exceptions to the general rule thus, if you were injured in a trip and fall incident, on snow or ice it is important to talk to an experienced personal injury attorney to determine if there is liability for your injuries. Liability sometimes may occur through a contractual relationship between the parties. The contractual relationship usually involves a contract to plow snow and salt sidewalks.
Sidewalk Defect Cases
Defects in sidewalks generally need to be over 1” in separation. Sidewalk defects that are less than 1” in height separation are usually determined to be de minimis and thus no liability to the owner of that sidewalk. Trip and fall accidents occurring on public property have a shorter statute of limitations and prompt action must be undertaken if the injured victim wants to protect his or her rights.
Examples of unsafe conditions resulting in liability of the land owner for stairway falls include:
- No hand rails
- Improper secured hand rails
- No lighting or improper lighting
- Broken stairs or loose stairs
- Torn or ripped carpeting covering the stairs
Trip and Fall Defenses
There are several defenses to trip and fall cases that land owners usually use and continually use and use successfully. In almost every trip and fall case the Defendant claims the injured victim was contributory negligent. This is where the injured trip and fall victim is determined to be more than 50% at fault for his injuries. If the Judge or Jury determine that the injured slip and fall victim is more than 50% at fault for their own injuries, they will lose the case. Not watching where you are walking or not paying attention to where you are walking, wearing bad or defective shoes are examples of common contributory negligence defenses. One example, for woman walking in high heels in winter in snow and ice conditions may also result in contributory negligence of more than 50% resulting in a bar to the case.
Open and Obvious
If the defect on the property is open and obvious, then that may be a bar to injured victim’s recovery. An open and obvious defense is that the defect in the parking lot was so large that a reasonable person could see it.
The different ways victims injure themselves in trip and fall accidents in McHenry County, Crystal Lake, Huntley or Algonquin, are unlimited. Common trip and fall injuries include knee injuries, meniscus tears and ACL tears. Shoulder injuries for trip and fall injuries include, labrium tears, rotator cuff tears and bicep tendon tears. Low back injuries are also common in trip and fall injuries, including herniated discs, bulging disc, which may require epidural steroid injections and/or surgeries including discectomy, laminectomies and lumbar fusions. If you or a loved one were injured in a trip and fall incident and believe someone else was at fault, the very best thing you can do is discuss your possible case with an experienced personal injury attorney. Since slip and fall cases are factually driven, it will take a substantial amount of time during the initial consultation to determine if you have a case. The likelihood of you having a case that you are able to prove your case increases ten-fold by taking the steps outlined in this article.
If you or a loved one were injured in a trip and fall accident, I encourage you to order my personal injury book regarding automobile crashes. Although the trip and fall injury case is different from auto accident injury cases, the way the insurance companies deal with injured victims remain constant. Remember knowledge is power!
David N. Rechenberg, an attorney at Franks & Rechenberg, P.C., has over 23 years of experience representing injured victims and has received millions of dollars in settlements for his clients. If you were injured in a trip and fall case that you think was not your fault, call David N. Rechenberg at (847) 854-7700 so he can get started working on your McHenry County slip and fall injury case today.
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