Slip and Fall Case Examples

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In this second part of our series, we give extensive examples of slip and fall accident cases.

Slip and Fall Cases in Illinois

One of the most common torts or personal injury claims arises from a slip and fall accident. Whether an individual slipped and fell on liquid on the floor in a Jewel grocery store or trips on a crack on a sidewalk, slip and fall accidents are the reasons for personal injury cases that occur every day.

Each case is different and the unique set of facts will often determine whether you can recover. It is important to understand how a slip and fall personal injury case works as well as the typical cases you may encounter.

Illinois Premises Liability Act

In Illinois, the Premises Liability Act establishes a duty upon property owners of reasonable care under the circumstances regarding the state of the premises or acts done or omitted.

Generally, liability may be imposed where an individual is injured in a slip and fall when (1) it appears the property owner knew of the dangerous condition or (2) that the condition was there a sufficient length of time that the property owner should have known of the condition.

Put another way, a person who suffers a slip and fall injury is required to prove the property owner or responsible party had actual or constructive notice. You need to prove that the property owner knew or should have known.

You must also prove that the condition that caused the slip and fall injury is dangerous. Regardless, successfully navigating a premises personal injury case is often complicated and requires critical, detailed analysis to prove whether or not the property owner is responsible for the accident.

Common Examples of a Premises Liability Case

  • Slip and Fall Claim Examples
    • Leaking water from coolers or refrigerators
    • Debris or substances left on the floor
    • Failure to post warnings of a substance on the floor
    • Failure to clean substances in a timely manner
  • Trip and Fall Case Examples
    • Uneven floor surfaces leading to falls
    • Trip hazards allowed to remain in high foot traffic areas
    • Uneven sidewalks
    • Torn carpeting creating snags
  • Failure to Maintain Property Conditions Case Examples
    • Poorly maintained exits and entrances
    • Failure to follow local municipal codes during construction or repairs
    • Uneven stairs
    • Missing handrails
    • Poor lighting

Common Slip and Fall Accident Cases

It is critical to understand the legal elements necessary to prove your case and the common types of cases. Here are some of the most common slip and fall cases that we encounter.

Slip and fall accidents in a grocery store on debris in an aisle.

One of the most common causes of a fall is from debris on the ground in an aisle. In self-service stores where customer traffic is heavy and the probability of a slip and fall is therefore high, a business owner owes a duty to frequently and carefully inspect and patrol aisles. Stores owe customers a duty of reasonable care.

However, often debris, food products, produce or liquid will fall onto the floor and cause a fall.  Your attorney will attempt to establish constructive notice or that the store should have known of the condition by inspecting the aisles.

Constructive notice is established where a condition has existed for such a length of time, or was so conspicuous, that grocery store clerks exercising reasonable care and diligence might have known of the condition.

A Schaumburg slip and fall injury lawyer can obtain critical evidence to establish constructive notice through videos throughout the store which may establish how long the substance was on the floor where you slipped and fell.

Also, through discovery requests an attorney can obtain employee handbooks and training manuals. A careful review may disclose a failure to follow a store’s policies and procedures regarding safety or inspections.

Restaurants or stores fail to warn of liquid on the floor.

Another common cause of slip and fall accidents is liquid on the ground. Sometimes other customers may spill a beverage or a product will leak onto the floor.

Employees have a duty to perform inspections and walk the premises to identify dangerous conditions such as liquid. Wet floor caution signs should be displayed to warn customers of hazards.

An injured party should attempt to photograph the condition that caused the personal injury. Your attorney may be able to develop evidence that the liquid existed for sufficient length of time based upon pictures or your description.

For example, foot prints or debris in the liquid are evidence that the spill existed long enough that it should have been discovered by employees. Video or inspection logs may also provide critical evidence.

A landlord fails to maintain the stairway or building.

Landlords are often found responsible when individuals are injured as a result of poor maintenance and upkeep. Building owners have a duty of reasonable care and to maintain property up to local building code standards.

Unfortunately, not all building owners maintain their property and this often leads to common accidents like slip and falls. Landlords will fail to properly maintain exits and entrances. Carpets and mats can become trip hazards as they wear down. Improper exterior lighting can also lead to slip and falls.

Stairways are also a common source of falls. Stairs can become uneven, worn or lack required handrails leading to falls and serious injuries. It is important to notify your landlord of any dangerous condition in writing just in case an accident occurs in the future.

Slip and fall on snow or ice.

During the winter, countless people are injured in falls due to snow and ice. Unfortunately, these cases can be difficult to prove because Illinois follows the unnatural accumulation doctrine. This means that an injured party needs to show that the snow and ice was not a natural accumulation or weather.

For example, if a snow removal company clears a parking lot and creates a pile of snow this would be an unnatural accumulation.

Another typical example may be ice accumulating on gutters or downspouts due to the building design or poor maintenance of gutters.

Essentially, an injured party must show that property owners aggravated or acted in a way to cause the natural condition to become unnatural. It is also critical to determine whether any snow removal company was responsible for clearing the premises.

Slip Fall on Ice Snow Infographic

Trip and fall on cracks in the pavement.

You can recover the compensation you deserve if you trip and fall on uneven pavement, a pothole or cracks in a sidewalk. However, if the condition is minor, you may be barred from recovery. The de minimis rule can prevent recovery for injuries by allowing a court to rule as a matter of law that a condition is not dangerous.

For example, some courts have maintained that a deviation between uneven slabs of pavement must be at least 2 inches high to be recoverable. The person who sustained the injury should immediately photograph or video the scene of the injury including the specific condition that caused the accident. Consider using a tape measure or other common items such as loose change to add scale. This can help your attorney to prove that the condition is dangerous and not subject to the de minimis rule.

Why is a slip and fall claim denied?

Many potential clients are unsure about what exactly makes a fall case compensable. As discussed below, there are several common defenses used by insurance companies and their defendants to argue that a given fall is not their fault and is thus not compensable. Notably, whether the accident happens inside or outside will determine what common defenses apply.

Common Defenses to Outside Slip and Fall Cases – Accidents on Snow and Ice

The main defense to falls that occur due to snow and ice is what is called the Natural Accumulation Doctrine or Natural Accumulation Defense. Clients often assume that simply falling on snow or ice in front of a property is sufficient to establish a lawsuit to receive compensation for their injuries. This is incorrect.

The snow or ice that causes a person to fall must be an unnatural accumulation. This means that snow or ice formed without the aid or intervention of the defendant is insufficient to establish a compensable claim.  See Graham v. City of Chicago, 346 Ill. 638, 641 (1931).

An unnatural accumulation is a condition that forms due to the property owner or property manager’s intervention or negligence. One of the most common examples involves how rainwater or snowmelt is diverted away from the defendant’s property.

If a drainpipe runs from a property owner’s roof and drains on a walkway, and that runoff freezes into ice, then it is an unnatural accumulation.

In this example, the owner of the property has diverted naturally occurring rain or snow melt and diverted it onto an established walkway, thus creating an unnatural condition. If that unnatural condition then causes someone to fall, the injuries resulting therefrom are compensable.

Natural Accumulation Defense

Based on the above, attorneys for property owners will always assert that the dangerous condition was a natural accumulation and that the defendant is not responsible. Relying on the above example, the defense would assert that the alleged ice was not caused by the drainpipe but was formed by natural weather phenomenon. If it were formed by natural accumulation then injuries caused by a fall would not be compensable.

An easy way to counter this argument is to go out to the property in the rain or snow and document the flow of water out of that drainpipe. Experts can also be retained to examine the property and give professional opinions on the drainage and cause of the dangerous condition.

Common Defenses to Slip and Fall Cases in Inside Fall Accidents

Natural Accumulation Extension

An important extension of the natural accumulation rule must also be noted: water or snow that is tracked into a store on customers’ shoes is considered a natural accumulation and is not compensable. See Swartz v. Sears Roebuck Co.¸264 Ill. App. 3d 254, 265 (1st Dist. 1993).

The most common example is when someone falls in the entrance way to a store because the entrance became saturated with water and snow from foot traffic. This means that a person who slips and falls in a store entrance due to tracked-in water likely does not have a compensable injury claim.

Notice – Actual Notice vs. Constructive Notice

An issue that will almost always arise in premises cases is whether the defendant knew or should have known about the defect. Actual notice exists when an employee of the defendant literally knew of the dangerous condition and did not fix it.

For example, if there is a spill in a grocery store and an employee walks past it, but chooses to ignore it, the store had actual notice of the dangerous condition.

More often, a defendant will not admit that they knew of the defect. Since actual notice is exceedingly rare, plaintiff’s need to establish constructive notice.

Constructive notice is established where a condition has existed for such a length of time, or was so conspicuous, that authorities exercising reasonable care and diligence should have known of the condition. Burke v. Grillo, 227 Ill. App. 3d 9, 18 (1992).

The usual standard in Illinois is that a dangerous condition must have been in existence for at least 15 minutes for there to be constructive notice.

Now, using the above example, if there is a spill in a grocery store aisle, and no employee sees it, but it was there for over 15 minutes, or there were employees nearby who should have seen it, then one can establish a strong argument for constructive notice.

Open and Obvious Defense

One defense to a slip and fall lawsuit that is often asserted by the defense is that the condition which caused the plaintiff to fall was “open and obvious.”

Take for example a situation where someone is exiting a box store with a large box and walks directly into a guard rail or post that is immediately in front of the doorway. Defendants will argue that because the curb or post is easy to see, it is therefore open and obvious, and any injuries resulting therefrom are not compensable.

Notably, Illinois Courts have ruled under the “K-Mart” standard that these cases are potentially compensable to the plaintiff if the “open and obvious” condition is still placed in a way that someone is foreseeably able to become injured by it. Specifically, if a person exits a box store and walks out the exit doors into a post, those posts could foreseeably cause injury as they are immediately outside of the exit doors.

Contact Chicago Slip and Fall Accident Attorneys

If you have had a slip and fall accident, you should immediately contact the experienced Chicago slip and fall personal injury attorneys at The Kryder Law Group. Typically, premises injury cases are litigated because liability is disputed. This means an attorney files a lawsuit against the responsible party. The purpose of the lawsuit is to get fair compensation for the injured party to cover expenses such as medical bills or compensation for pain and suffering.

Determining all at fault parties can be a difficult task. In litigation, your attorney will have an opportunity to develop evidence to support all necessary elements to prove your injury claim.

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries from a slip and fall accident, you should contact the experienced Chicago slip and fall law firm, The Kryder Law Group. We’re ready to answer your questions and help you get the compensation you deserve which could cover medical bills and pain and suffering. Call us for a free consultation!

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