Ask A Lawyer
by Pat Nelson
Jun 30, 2014 | 912 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In May, I was shopping for groceries and fell when I slipped on some clear liquid in the floor. After I fell, I noticed that the liquid was dirty where folks had been walking through it. It was not raining that day. Should I make a claim with the store’s insurance company? They keep calling me and have offered $500 to sign a release. Sylvia L., Oakman

Sylvia, thank you for a great question. A “slip and fall” or “trip and fall” accident is within a specific area of personal injury law known as premises liability. Premises owners, landlords, property managers, and others have a duty under Alabama law to keep premises in a safe condition for business invitees/customers. A common example would be a customer of a grocery or retail store.

A slip and fall plaintiff must establish that the premises owner knew or should have known of the defective condition. In your case this means you must establish that the store knew of the slippery substance on the floor or that there is evidence to establish that they should have known of the dangerous condition. The liquid being “dirty” indicates that the problem had been there for a while and had not just occurred in the few moments before you fell.

Property owners must take reasonable measures to prevent accidents and injuries on their premises caused by slips, trips and falls. Based on our experience, we have seen slip-and-fall accidents caused by:

Wet floors – Common sources are liquids, such as water from umbrellas, leaks, ice, oil, grease, spills, and cleaning products.

Dust, debris and foreign obstacles – Dry sources can trigger harmful falls as well, ranging from sawdust or dirt on the floor to equipment that clutters a walking area.

Uneven walking surfaces – Broken or uneven pavement or stairways, holes, sudden changes in level, broken or loose tiles and defective and uneven carpet can cause falls.

Poor lighting – A person may be unable to walk safely when they cannot see because poor lighting affects their judgment.

Defective safeguards or handrails – A common construction accident is a fall from a defective scaffold. Additionally, pedestrians may suffer severe injuries when they fall due to the lack of safety features, such as a railing or handrail.

To establish liability, the victim must prove that the property owner:

Caused the unsafe condition, and

Knew about the dangerous condition but did not take steps to correct it, or

Should have known about the hazard because a reasonable person taking care of the property would have discovered and corrected the dangerous condition.

Preserving evidence is crucial. If you have been injured in a slip-and-fall accident, you should immediately:

Report your accident to the property owner. If you fall at a business, obtain a copy of any incident report that is generated.

Gather names, addresses and the numbers of any eyewitnesses.

Take pictures of where your injuries occurred before the property owner can fix the hazard. These photos can serve as evidence of the defective condition of the property. Also, photograph any injury immediately after the fall.

Save all evidence related to the fall, including the shoes and clothing you wore.

Immediately seek medical treatment for all injuries.

If you are having medical issues due the fall, I would not settle for $500 and give the insurance company a release before consulting with a personal injury attorney. Give us a call at Nelson, Bryan and Jones. There is no charge for an initial consultation!

Nelson, Bryan and Jones represents clients in the following areas: Social Security Disability, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Wrongful Death Cases, Personal Injury Actions, Defective Products, Insurance Disputes and Bad Faith, Fire Loss cases, Trucking Accidents, Worker’s Compensation, Drug Recalls, Employment Law and Property Damage Claims.

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