Slip and fall injuries most commonly occur in a home setting, but they can happen just about anyplace you can walk. We rarely think of grocery stores, hotels, workplaces, public parks, other people’s houses or apartments, or sidewalks as being potential sites for an accident. But the causes of slip and fall injuries are many and varied, from spilled liquids to poor lighting to uneven walking surfaces and beyond.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries in the U.S., and one in five falls results in serious injury, including head injuries and broken bones. While not all falls are serious, any slip and fall accident requiring medical attention or causing loss of income can be costly as well as painful. And if the accident was due to someone else’s negligence, I can review the circumstances of your case and advise you about whether your case may lead to compensation, and if so, what steps to take next.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you’ve suffered injuries in a slip and fall accident and want to pursue compensation for medical bills, wages lost from missed work, pain and suffering, or any other losses, you’ll need a personal injury lawyer experienced in these kinds of accidents. You should seek out quality legal help as quickly as possible, so your attorney can advise you in every step of your claim.
Slip and fall injury claims can often be settled without having to go to court. A settlement is usually preferable to both parties, since it avoids the expenses, in money, time, and inconvenience, of a courtroom trial. Not all cases will end with a settlement, though. If negotiations fail to satisfy both parties, the matter will end up in court. Whether your claim gets settled or ends up going through a courtroom trial, you’ll need a good attorney from the very beginning to defend your interests during the entire process.
Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
While any number of factors can cause or contribute to slip and fall accidents, the following are among the most common:
• Slippery surfaces (often caused by leaks or spilled liquids)
• Stairs or handrails not built to code or damaged and left unrepaired
• Uneven or loose flooring or carpet
• Exposed hoses, cables, or cords
• Inadequate lighting
• Failure to post warning signs in areas where hazards exist (like construction sites or mopped floors)
• Poorly constructed or damaged railings or balconies
• Uneven walking surfaces
• Objects or items left on the ground (like tools, toys, branches, etc.)
Property Owner/Manager Responsibilities in Vermont
Under Vermont law, property owners, managers, or anyone else responsible for maintaining a property have a “basic duty of care” in keeping that property safe. Findings of liability hinge on reasonability: whether or not the responsible party “used reasonable care” in preventing, discovering, or issuing warnings about conditions on the property that could cause harm or injury. If a property owner or manager knew or should have known about the hazard and did not remove it in a reasonable amount of time or post any warnings, then they will likely be found liable.
To establish the owner’s negligence, your lawyer must be able to demonstrate through evidence that the owner failed to provide a safe environment for visitors. Then they must prove that the unsafe environment led to the accident and that you were injured in that accident. Finally, there must be evidence that you sustained injuries that caused you losses of some sort as a result of the accident.
If your legal team can prove all of these points, then you’re well on your way to winning your claim.
Common Injuries Suffered in Slip and Fall Accidents
Slips and falls cause eight million emergency room visits a year. Injuries can range from minor abrasions or bruises to very serious injuries and even death. Typical injuries that result from slip and fall accidents include:
• Abrasions, cuts, and bruises
• Sprains (ankle, wrist, other joints)
• Rotator cuff damage
• Knee injuries (ACL, MCL)
• Back and spinal injuries (muscle strains, fractured vertebrae)
• Spinal cord damage
• Neck injuries
• Broken bones (arm, leg, wrist)
• Fractured hip
• Head injuries, including traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and skull fractures
Paralysis and death can also result from slips and falls, usually due to TBIs, spinal cord damage, or a fractured hip. In fatal cases where negligence is a factor, a wrongful death claim may be in order.
Compensation for Slip and Fall Accident Injuries
If your attorney can prove the negligence of the property owner, manager, or employee, you may be entitled to compensation for damages, which usually fall under one of the following categories:
• Medical bills, current and future
• Physical therapy
• Lost wages, current and future
• Pain and suffering
• Exemplary damages (if present and proven before a judge or jury)
You should be aware that the courts in Vermont may find that you share a degree of responsibility for the accident, even if the owner was negligent. The opposing legal team may claim, for instance, that you should have known your footwear was inappropriate for the setting or that you were paying too much attention to your phone.
What to Do if You’re Injured in a Slip and Fall Accident
If you’re hurt in a slip or fall, the steps you take immediately after the accident are critical. Here’s what you need to do:
• Seek immediate medical attention if the injury is severe enough to warrant it. If you don’t feel you need immediate medical help, see a doctor as soon after the accident as you can. Besides ensuring your health, it’s vital to have medical documentation of your injuries and their costs. If you’re incapacitated and can’t perform the following steps yourself, delegate them to someone you trust.
• Promptly report the incident to the owner or manager of the premises.
• Collect names and contact information from any witnesses who can support your claim.
• Document the accident. Take photos or videos of the scene immediately after the accident, and write down in detail what happened.
• Hire an experienced lawyer as soon as possible.
• In the days and weeks after the accident, follow all doctor’s orders, including physical therapy, taking medications, wound care, exercises, and attending all follow-up appointments.
• Do not discuss the accident with an opposing lawyer or insurance representative until you’ve hired and consulted with your own attorney.
Seeing to your medical needs and documenting specifics is critical not only right after the accident but throughout your recovery and the course of your claim. Hiring a slip and fall accident lawyer should be one of the first steps you take after you’ve received initial medical attention.