Do You Know What to Do if You Slip and Fall in a Public Place?
September 3, 2022
Some people know what it is like to slip and fall in public. A natural human instinct is to get up quickly and brush it off as if nothing happened. However, with many slip and falls that occur in a public place, the result is more serious than mild embarrassment. Trip and fall accidents can cause a wide range of severe injuries to various parts of the body.
One of the biggest misconceptions about slip and fall accidents is that injured parties are only able to recover damages if the fall was on private property. Fortunately, that is not the case, considering slip and fall accidents most commonly occur in public places, such as parking lots, restaurants, and shopping malls. Property owners are responsible for maintaining a safe environment at all times for visitors on their premises. Trip and fall accidents happen every day in Pennsylvania due to the negligence of all kinds of property owners, including those of commercial, government, and residential properties.
It is important to know what to do if you slip and fall in a public place. Filing a claim after being injured in a public trip and fall accident can be a more complicated process, with statutes of limitations that vary depending on whom the claim is being made against. For example, the ability of a person to sue and obtain recovery for damages from a government entity is based on the duration between the time the accident occurred and the time the injured party filed legal notice, the type of injuries sustained, and the amount of money that is recoverable in the event of a legal claim. Depending on which government the claim is being made against, the amount of an award may be limited.
People often assume they do not need to seek medical care after a trip and fall accident in a public place, either because they do not think their injuries are serious enough, or they believe they cannot seek legal remedy against government or commercial entity for medical expenses. Not only may these assumptions be inaccurate, but they can also be detrimental to your safety and well-being, as well as your ability to set forth a valid legal claim. It is always crucial to get medical attention and treatment as soon as possible after any slip and fall accident.
After experiencing a trip and fall accident, it is also important to document the details of the incident with photographs, weather reports, and eyewitness accounts. Reporting the incident to someone in charge of the area is essential, as is obtaining copies of any written reports. Injured parties are more likely to have their premises liability case handled properly and in a timely manner with the guidance of an experienced premises liability lawyer.
Where Do Trip and Fall Accidents Most Commonly Occur?
Slip and fall accidents can happen in many places and for a number of reasons. Studies show that the risk for a trip and fall accident is especially great in the following locations:
- Sidewalks: Cracks in sidewalks or gaps between sidewalk blocks can make the ground uneven and lead to dangerous trip and falls.
- Parking lots: Poorly maintained parking lots with holes or in the asphalt can be hazardous to unsuspecting visitors. If the lighting is inadequate, a parking lot can become even more dangerous.
- Stairs: Stairways and steps can wear with time if not properly maintained. Worn out steps and loose or missing handrails create dangerous conditions that can cause someone to fall. Debris or spilled liquids on stairs and steps pose hazards as well.
- Escalators and elevators: When escalators and elevators are not properly inspected or maintained, they can stop or start suddenly and cause a bad fall. People can also get their fingers, feet, or clothing caught in a poorly maintained escalators, resulting in a fall and serious injuries.
- Restaurants and stores: Wet or waxed floors that are not marked with proper signage, spills that are ignored, and debris that is left scattered around can all lead to unsuspecting customers having slip and fall accidents and subsequent injuries.
How Do Slip and Fall Accidents Happen?
Slip and fall and trip and fall accidents ultimately occur due to property owners neglecting their duties to adequately maintain their property. Whether a slip and fall happens at a school, a shopping mall, or neighbor’s house, the property owner at each of these locations can be held liable for related injuries. There are many conditions that can cause a trip and fall accident, including:
- Torn carpets.
- Uneven floors.
- Broken steps.
- Accumulated ice or snow.
- Insufficient lighting.
- Wet or slick floors.
- Unnecessary debris.
What Are Common Trip and Fall Injuries?
There are many types of injuries that a person can suffer due to a slip and fall accident. The following are common of the most common slip and fall injuries:
- Soft tissue injuries: The damage from soft tissue injuries can cause chronic pain and put the person at risk for future injuries. Sprains and strains to muscles, tendons, and ligaments are examples of soft tissue injuries.
- Head injuries: During a trip and fall accident, a person can hit their head on the ground or another hard surface. Head injuries can be severe, even if not immediately apparent. Swelling, bleeding, or loss of consciousness can signify brain damage, making it imperative to see a doctor as soon as possible.
- Cuts and abrasions: Cuts and scrapes can occur from a slip and fall accident that range in severity. These injuries typically appear on the legs, arms, head, and hips, and may require cleaning or stitches.
- Spinal cord injuries: Similar to head injuries, spinal cord injuries are extremely serious and can be life-altering. Traumatic trip and fall accidents can lead to the spinal cord becoming severed, stretched, or compressed, which can result in full or partial paralysis.
- Broken bones: Several types of broken bone injuries can occur in a serious slip and fall accident, from minor fractures to severe breaks. These injuries may require surgery and a cast or a sling. Recovery time can vary and cause some injured individuals to miss time from work.
What if a Slip and Fall Accident Happens on Commercial Property?
For a commercial property owner to be held liable in a slip and fall case, the property owner must have:
- Directly caused the circumstances leading to the injury in some way;
- Known there was a hazard that could cause a trip and fall accident but took no corrective measures; or
- Been aware or should have been aware of the hazard as part of their dutiful property maintenance.
The law decides whether the property owner or occupier took preventative measures to keep the property safe and determines whether these actions were reasonable. In commercial property slip and fall matters, there are often other individuals and entities that can also be held accountable for someone’s injuries. An experienced premises liability lawyer will know to file all claims against the appropriate negligent parties.
What if You Trip and Fall on Government Property?
Certain rules apply when someone slips and falls on a property owned by a local, state, or federal government entity. Local codes and regulations often come into play in determining who is liable for the injury. Government entities can be shielded from being held liable for injuries on their property because of notice requirements and broad immunity provisions.
Whether the government entity in question is the federal government, a state government, or a local body, there are strict rules about how injured parties must notify the government entity of the accident and of any legal actions intended as a result. The first step is filing a formal notice of injury with the help of a lawyer. Generally, the notice must include the following:
- Date of the trip and fall accident.
- Name and address of the injured party.
- Summarized description of the slip and fall accident and injury, and how it occurred.
- Full details of all injuries sustained as a result of the slip and fall accident.
- Details of how the government’s negligence caused the slip and fall injury.
Depending on the specific government entity, the filing time limit for this notice can be as short as 30 days from the date of the trip and fall accident. It is also important to verify that the claim is filed against the right office or department in the government in question, which is why having a lawyer is critical.
Premises Liability Cases at Galfand Berger LLP
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident on public property, a Philadelphia premises liability lawyer at Galfand Berger LLP can help you navigate the proper claims process. Our firm has a reputation for successfully obtaining winning results for their clients in trip and fall cases:
- $400,000 settlement in slip and fall case. Our client was injured when he slipped and fell at an amusement park while attempting to exit a ride that had made an emergency stairway. While trying to access the emergency stairway, he slipped on a wet surface, causing him to aggravate injuries to his neck that would later require surgery. We were able to settle the case on behalf of our client in excess of $400,000.
- $350,000 settlement for hospital slip and fall. We also represented a client who was walking through a hospital when she slipped and fell in a pool of stripping wax that had been left near the elevator by the maintenance crew. As a result of the slip and fall accident, our client suffered a herniated disc, causing severe and debilitating back pain. Our thorough investigation revealed that the maintenance worker failed to put wet floor signs where the wax was put down, which would have prevented our client from walking into the slippery area. We successfully settled the matter for $350,000.
Philadelphia Premises Liability Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Can Help if You Have Been Injured in a Slip and Fall Accident
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident in a public place, one of our experienced Philadelphia premises liability lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP can answer your legal questions and review your case. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.