Slip & Fall Accidents
Slip and fall accidents can occur at any time and any place and range from falling in a store on food products or unknown liquids to falls from potholes in parking lots. If you fell on someone else’s property, you’ve been involved in a “slip and fall” accident. These types of accidents have also been called, trip and fall accidents, stump and fall accidents, and step and fall accidents. For the more precise, the most correct term to describe these accidents would be “premises liability claims.” It’s safe to say, whatever you wish to call them, these types of accidents are an everyday occurrence in Georgia.
The first question people usually ask is, “Who is at fault or who is responsible in a situation like this?”
To some degree both the property owner and the injured party may be at fault or responsible. As property owner one has a responsibility to keep their property safe for those they invite onto their property. And, each person who enters the property of another has the duty to watch where they are going, as well as realize that occasionally things fall from shelves or spill onto walking surfaces before the property owner has an opportunity to clear the hazard or warn the visitor of the dangerous condition.
One important element to determining responsibility in this type of claim is whether the property owner had sufficient time to correct the dangerous situation prior to the fall. If another visitor drops a carton of milk on the floor and within seconds you come along and slip in it, the property owner probably didn’t have sufficient time to correct the situation and would most likely not be held responsible for your fall.
If the property owner knows or should have known of the dangerous condition, it is his duty to warn visitors of the dangerous condition, especially, if the condition is not readily evident to the visitor. As in the spilled milk scenario noted above, if it were the property owner or one of his employees that spilled the milk on the floor and failed to clean it up or warn visitors of the hazard, then the property owner would be held responsible for your fall. The property owner would also be held responsible if the owner or his employees were informed of the hazard prior to the fall and they failed to rectify the situation. The point here is that you as the injured party have to “prove” that the owner or his employees knew or should have known of the dangerous situation for you to win a slip and fall claim.
Checking the property on a regular basis and warning visitors of hazards establishes that the property owner exercised reasonable care in the maintenance of the premises.
Many property owners and their insurers will take care of your medical bills and maybe add a little something extra for your pain and suffering, but will not offer much else beyond that.
1. “There was nothing dangerous or any defective conditions on the premises.”
2. “Even if there was a dangerous or a defective condition, we didn’t have time to take action to remedy the situation.”
3. “We just did a safety check of that area and didn’t see any dangerous or defective conditions.”
4. “The injured party was careless or negligent in failing to observe the dangerous or defective condition” (loose carpet, clear liquids on floor, rotting wood, loose threshold door plates.)
5. “The fall didn’t cause any new injuries nor aggravate any preexisting conditions or diseases.”
1. If you have witnesses, get their names and addresses; including the names of store employees that were witnesses and that helped you after the fall.
2. Have the store/property owner make a report of the incident and obtain a copy of the report.
3. If possible, and within as short a time frame as possible from the time of the incident, take photographs of the area where you fell. (If you can get pictures of the actual substance or hazard that created the fall it would be excellent evidence for your claim, but these types of pictures are usually very hard, if not impossible, to obtain.)
4. Contact the property owner and get their insurance company’s liability insurance contact information.
5. When you contact the insurer, ask specifically about no-fault medical payments assistance, which can get your bills paid initially. Sometimes insurers’ have a medical payments limit, like payments up to $5,000, and will only cover medical expenses up to that amount. Accepting medical payments coverage will not jeopardize your claim.
Insurance representatives of the property owner are trained to be extremely nice and pleasant with you. Don’t put too much faith in their niceties. The representative’s mission is to save as much money as they can for the insurer by not paying you as much or nearly anything for your claim. It is also their mission to gather as much information as they can to use against you in the claim. If you say too much to the insurance representative it could jeopardize your potential claim merely by providing some tidbit of information that benefits the insurer in the situation.
Insurance representatives may tell you that they don’t know about the legal side of slip & fall claims, but that statement may not be true. As stated previously, insurance representative are well trained and their training includes legal principles and the defenses they can utilize for their purposes.
Be extremely cautious of giving the insurance representative an interview or recorded statement about your accident or your injuries without first consulting with an experienced attorney.
Do NOT rely on the property owner or their employees to do the right thing. As stated with the insurance representatives, their interests are not your own and their objective is not to help you.
Contact: Kathleen S. Grantham, Esq.
The information obtained from this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. Always consult with an attorney for advice pertaining to your individualized case.
Grantham Law Office
403½ S. Pleasant Hill Rd.
Warner Robins, Georgia 31088