Stephen Hasner | Premises Liability | December 21, 2020
According to CDC’s most recent data, falls are the leading cause of accidental injuries in the United States. With every decade of life, the risk of a fall grows greater. The prevalence of accidental slip, trip, and fall injuries leaves many people in need of legal assistance to recover damages.
If you’ve been injured in a fall, you’ll likely hear one of two terms to describe the incident: slip & fall or trip & fall. While the two are very similar and can both warrant a personal injury attorney, there are a few key differences that determine which category your accident falls into.
Slip vs. Trip: Why Semantics Matter Here
Slip and trip might be synonyms, but when it comes to personal injury claims, they can’t be used interchangeably. Lawyers approach slip & fall accidents differently than they approach trip & fall accidents.
Knowing the proper classification is the first step toward deciding how to gather information and approach the claim. The type of fall may also determine how much compensation the injured party qualifies for.
Slip & Fall Accidents
A slip & fall accident happens when a person falls as a result of walking on a slippery surface.
Slippery surfaces may include:
- Hard floors that are wet, perhaps as a result of mopping, spills, overflows, or condensation
- Hard floors that have been waxed
- Carpets that create little friction
- Loose rugs
- Round objects on the ground
Slippery surfaces can’t always be prevented—it’s probably a good thing that hard floors get mopped and waxed from time to time—but typically, we walk with caution when we know a slippery surface is ahead to avoid falling. A slip & fall accident usually happens when someone thinks they have more traction than they do, and their feet or shoes lose grip.
When a person slips, their foot slides forward instead of gripping the ground. This causes the rest of their weight to shift back and results in a backward fall.
The rearward nature of a slip & fall accident affects specific parts of the body and can result in any of the following injuries:
- Sprained wrists and ankles
- Shoulder dislocation
- Back injury
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spine and nerve damage
- Hip problems
Slip & fall accidents can cause external injuries depending on the situation, but almost always, the primary damage is internal.
Trip & Fall Accidents
A trip & fall accident happens when someone trips on an object and can’t bring their back leg forward quick enough to stop them from tumbling. Just about any object obstructing a walkway can cause a person to trip.
Common culprits of trip & falls include:
- Items left on the floor (e.g., boxes, toys, tools)
- Uneven sidewalks
- Unmarked steps or camouflaged changes in elevation
- Objects hidden in dim-lit areas
Tripping is a result of someone misjudging the distance between their feet and an object or failing to notice the object entirely. When a person trips, their foot gets stuck on the object in the way while their body continues moving forward. This causes the person to fall forward, not backward like with a slip & fall accident.
Forward falls trigger different reflexes and affect different areas of the body than backward falls. Common outcomes include:
- Broken fingers
- Sprained thumbs
- Broken or fractured arms
- Foot injuries
- Neck and face injuries
- Cuts and scrapes
Trip & fall accidents can be a little bit easier to form a negligence case around because generally, the property manager or owner should have been aware of the potential hazard before the incident occurred. By failing to remove the obstacle or warn people of its existence, they assume some (or all) of the blame.
What to Do After an Accidental Fall
If you find yourself a victim of a slip & fall or trip & fall accident, there are a few things you should do in order to build a strong premises liability case down the road.
1. Seek Medical Treatment
Your health is the most important matter to attend to after a slip, trip, or fall. Getting medical attention for your injuries will not only help your recovery but will create official documentation of your injuries that will come in handy for any legal action you choose to take.
2. Report the Accident
Falls can happen anywhere—at work, in the supermarket, at a friend’s place, or in a park. It’s important to identify the authority of the property where the incident occurred and report the accident. The authority might be a manager, landlord, supervisor, or property owner. Ask whoever’s in charge to put the report in writing and share a copy with you.
3. Document Everything
There’s a lot of information that can come in handy with claims involving slips, trips, and falls. These are pieces of evidence you can start to gather once you’re physically able:
- Document the date, time, and exact location of the accident.
- Write down what you were doing when you slipped or tripped while it’s fresh in your mind.
- Get a photo of the place where you fell and, if possible, any of the conditions that contributed to your injury, like ice, wet spots, or unmarked stairs.
- Collect information for anyone who witnessed the fall—that includes names, phone numbers, addresses, and emails. Their testimony may come in handy.
- Put the shoes and clothes you were wearing in a safe place. Believe it or not, what you’re wearing makes a difference.
Like with any other potential lawsuit, organized documentation and ample evidence can go a long way toward receiving compensation for damages caused.
4. Don’t Give Any Statements
Until you have legal counsel, it’s best practice to avoid giving anyone statements—especially ones that place or accept blame. Don’t talk about the incident on social media, decline to give statements to any involved insurance company, and be careful what you say to managers and landlords. An attorney will know the best way to approach the situation, and anything you say before speaking to one can potentially hurt your case.
5. Get in Touch With a Lawyer
After suffering a slip, trip, or fall, it’s important to get legal representation that knows the ins and outs of injury law. Present your documentation to an attorney that specializes in slip & fall and trip & fall litigation so that they can advise your next steps and help you get fair compensation for your injuries.