The internet has a handful of stories of injured individuals who recovered a million dollars or more from a slip and fall case. But slip-and-fall cases are still looked down upon as lesser lawsuits. A plaintiff slipping on a banana peel in the supermarket comes to mind, but slip-and-fall cases are usually much more serious and important than they sound. I am one of the few lawyers who has twice successfully recovered settlements of one million dollars for a client on a “slip-and-fall” case. This article explains why slip-and-fall cases are important and should not be dismissed as lesser claims.
Slip-and-fall is a common term generally used to refer to the area of law more technically known as premises liability or defective premises cases. Defective premises such as hidden holes, stairs that break, defective railings that cause falls, construction defects, falling objects in home improvement stores, and, yes, slippery floors injure thousands of people in America each year, and holding property owners responsible for unsafe conditions is important to everyone’s safety. What does it take to make a slip-and-fall case worth a million dollars in damage?
First, the way the client was injured must be taken seriously. Often, the condition of the property that caused the injury was created on purpose by the owner, or the condition had existed for years without being fixed. It is much more worthy of blame to allow a rusted-out grate, broken stair, or defective railing to exist than it is to have a car accident. Property owners often know of a danger for years and have multiple people injured prior to spending a small amount of money or time to fix a problem. In one of my million-dollar cases, the property was not fixed until well after our lawsuit was settled. Part of making the claim is pointing out the extreme negligence of property owners in such a case, or pointing out that fixing the problem only requires a small effort or expense to prevent a giant injury.
Second, the injuries can be terrible. The most common injury from a slip and fall is a leg fracture, often a double lower leg tibia and fibula fracture, but breaks and fractures of other bones – such as the hips – often occur as well. Many of these injuries require the placement of surgical plates and screws to repair the broken bones and a second surgery to remove the hardware. The injury may require extensive rehabilitation and therapy. Clients most likely to fall and get hurt badly are the elderly, who heal more slowly. Even if most function is regained, they suffer some disability for the rest of their lives. Younger clients often have large lost wage claims. Anyone with a manual labor job typically has a large lost wage claim if they need leg surgery.
Third, and most importantly, almost all slip-and-fall claims are defendable in that a defendant will always claim that the plaintiff should have been watching where or how she was walking. A good lawyer takes that defense head-on and refutes it. We do not always watch where we place every step, and it is not reasonable to expect that people do so. Defendants, usually corporate property owners, try to hold plaintiffs to a standard far higher than any standard that they live up to themselves. A good lawyer points out the hypocrisy of a careless defendant that fails to fix a simple problem on their property but still claims that a plaintiff should be perfect with every step.