Slip and Falls - A Primer

A slip and fall injury is a common occurrence with thousands of claims made each year. Many victims suffer serious, life-altering injuries that can even result in wrongful death. Falls down stairs, slips on ice sidewalks, and trips at construction sites can cause serious injuries.

If there has been an accident and there are serious injuries, consult an attorney to find out exactly what law applies and what kind of recovery you are entitled to.

A review of recent cases shows there are several types of slip and fall accidents including slippery surface falls, stairway accidents, fall from a terrace or balcony, parking ramp falls, sidewalk falls and bathtub and shower falls, to name a few.

A property owner has an obligation to keep their property in a safe condition for those who find themselves on the property. If it can be proven that a property owner was negligent and knew or should have known about the dangerous or defective condition that caused a slip and fall, you may be compensated for your injuries.

In New York, negligence means carelessness. In other words, was the owner careless and was it the carelessness that caused your injury. Carelessness can be the failure to shovel the driveway or change a light bulb in a dark staircase or failing to tighten the screw on a bannister on a staircase.

Fall on Ice and Snow

Property owners have an obligation to make sure their property, including parking lots and sidewalks, are maintained and that all snow and ice is removed to avoid possible safety hazards.

Property owners are allowed a "reasonable" amount of time to remove the snow and ice. For example, if you fall on a snowy sidewalk in the middle of a snowstorm, the property owner may not be held liable since the storm was in progress. However, if the snow has stopped, generally, the owner has just a few hours to shovel.

We have had cases where our client did not fall from snow that was not shoveled. Instead, we sued where snow melted from the roof, traveled down the drain, where the drain let out onto the sidewalk, refroze, and our client slipped and fell. We also had a case where the defendant shoveled snow into a pile in front of the store's entrance, it melted, then refroze, and our client fell as she entered the store.

Falls In Apartment Buildings/Homes

As slip and fall lawyers, we have many accident cases, which have occurred as a result of defective or broken stairs.

Property owners have the responsibility to make sure all steps have the same rise and depth, with visible edges. Also, stairs must be kept free of debris or other obstacles, which could cause an accident.

A property owner is also responsible for making sure all stairwells are well lit, with sturdy handrails on both sides.

We all have a responsibility to be careful and watch where we are going, however, a property owner needs to show reasonable care.

Construction Sites

Accidents at construction sites are a common occurrence, although they are easily prevented. We have found that accidents generally are the result of constructors not being neat and allowing tools and equipment and materials to be left around in areas where people are working or walking. The New York Industrial Code specifically prohibits contractors from causing tripping hazards in work areas and in walking paths. If you have been hurt at a construction site, call us today and we can help explain what rights you have.

Gathering Evidence

When possible, we recommend the following:

Photos. Take photos. As many as possible. Of everything. The more, the better. And include photos of the injuries. And, if possible, take videos as well.

Witnesses. If someone witnesses your fall, try to get their name, address and telephone number. Try taking a video of them. Try to get them to give you an interview.

Accident Report. If you suffer injuries in a store, whether a department store or grocery store, make sure you file an accident report. You can do this by asking for the manager. They will then document your version of the accident. This will prove to be valuable in representing you for your injuries. Unless you are unable, make sure you obtain a copy of the accident report before you leave. Sometimes they won't let you have the incident report. If not, take a photo of it.

Evidence. We recommend you save the item that caused your fall. For example, if you slipped on a piece of fruit or a vegetable, place the item in a plastic bag and freeze it. You may also want to safeguard the shoes you were wearing at the time of the fall. These can be placed in a plastic bag and taped shut to preserve any matter stuck to your shoe.

If you are unable to take photographs or obtain any statements, an attorney can obtain as much information as possible. However, please keep in mind, obtaining information hours, days, weeks or even months after an accident scene has been cleaned up or your injuries have healed is much more difficult. Although your medical records will document your injuries, photographs and statements will prove valuable before a jury.

As always, should you have any questions, please feel free to call or email us at StolzenbergCortelli LLP and we will be happy to answer any question you have free of charge.