As an attorney, when we’re trying to determine if it’s a legitimate slip and fall case, obviously the first thing is I have to be absolutely convinced that the person who contacted me has been injured. As an ethical attorney, I’ve never represented anybody that was not hurt, and I of course never will. It’s not what our jury system in America is all about.
When I first evaluate a slip and fall case, all I know is simply what the person is telling me – that they were hurt. I’ll then ask from their point of view what they felt like was done wrong. For example, they may say, “I walked into the grocery store, the floors had been washed and there were no signs.” Then, although I understand what my potential client is telling me, we do an investigation. That investigation entails seeing if there were video cameras in the area, reviewing the video footage, requesting the maintenance logs and inspection logs, and we’ll see how often the inspections were done by the store owner or manager on the day of the incident. Sometimes we find there were never any inspection logs done. Sometimes an inspection may not have been done for several hours prior to the incident, which is certainly not enough when you’re having customers come into your store 24/7.
So we have to look into it that way. Then, if we discover that although the potential client was injured but that we can’t prove the case legally because we’re not able to prove one of several required factors, several of those which I noted above, then we simply have to let the client know that although we do understand they were injured, we won’t be able to prove our case legally in a court of law. At that point, we would cease representation, but of course we’re not charging for that work as that is a service that we do in helping people in determining whether or not they have a case.
The most common slip and fall cases have to do with liquids or slippery substances that are on the floor of grocery stores, as grocery stores of course are oftentimes dealing with food and liquid spills.
Another common type of slip and fall cases is what we call ‘static cases’. Static cases is where there is something that’s been built in a defective manner, such as a sidewalk that has corroded in certain places and somebody walks on that portion of the sidewalk—that is made of course for walking—and they fall due to that sidewalk being in disrepair. That’s again called a “static case”, which are quite common.
In regards to whether a slip and fall case is handled differently on a commercial property versus an individual’s property, there are some differences. One similarity, however, is the law is pretty much the same in that you have to prove the owner of the commercial building or a residence knew of the hazard and ignored it, or should have known of the hazard and ignored it.
However, regarding differences, one of the biggest concerns that we look at is, “Is there insurance available that we can attempt to recover?” because some individuals simply don’t have the type of property damage coverage on their homes that would cover a negligent act. So if someone falls in their home due to a hazard from the homeowner, the injured individual may have thousands of dollars in medical bills and lost wages, and many quality of life concerns affected by the injury. But if there’s no, or limited insurance available, then oftentimes there may not be anything to pursue against the homeowner, as opposed to commercial businesses which, for the most part, all have substantial insurance coverage for circumstances such as these.