Having worked on premises liability cases in Texas for almost 20 years, I’m often asked if there is a difference between a “trip and fall” and a “slip and fall” injury case. Okay, so I’ll just start with this – if you’ve fallen and been hurt, this is a distinction without a difference. You’re in pain, you hurt, and you need to get your injuries treated right away – I totally get that. Now, that being said, when it comes to proving your case and making a personal injury claim there actually is a BIG difference between these two types of claims.
Whether your fall happened because you tripped or slipped, your first priority should be getting the medical help you need, and then getting the legal help you need. While proving trip and falls can be different than proving slip and falls, the good news is that you can leave all the hard work up to a Houston premises liability attorney at Stewart J. Guss Injury Accident Lawyers.
Don’t wait a moment longer to get the help you deserve. Call our legal team for a free case evaluation!
Different Types of Premises Liability Claims
To understand the difference between these two claims, let’s begin with the “burden of proof”—that is, what you have to prove in order to recover compensation for a premises liability claim.
To win a premises liability case in Texas, you must prove three basic things:
- The party responsible for the premises knew or should have known of the dangerous condition.
- The responsible party failed to fix or warn of the dangerous condition.
- The dangerous condition caused an injury.
When discussing the difference between a “trip and fall” vs. a “slip and fall” injury claim, the first step really comes into play. Why? Let me illustrate with two scenarios:
First scenario—You are walking in the produce aisle of a grocery store and “slip and fall” on some fruit that had fallen to the floor. How do you prove how long that grape had been there? What if the store has a “cleaning log” that shows that an employee checks and sweeps the floor every half hour? As you can see, it may be difficult to meet the “knew or should have known” requirement under these circumstances.
Second scenario—You are walking toward the entrance into a restaurant. All of a sudden your foot catches and you trip and fall, ending up face down on the cement. You look back at where your foot caught and see a big gap in the expansion joint; the slabs of the sidewalk were uneven and offset from one another. In this scenario, absent an earthquake or recent construction, odds are that the defect has been there for quite some time and should have been rectified.
Both of these scenarios represent actual cases I have handled in my career. As you can imagine, we had a much easier time with the burden of proof in the second scenario because the tripping hazard was more permanent, versus the slipping hazard that was more transient.
In a “slip and fall” case, it can often be difficult to establish just how long a hazardous substance has been on the floor. This can make it very difficult to establish that the defendant knew, or should have known, about the existence of the dangerous condition. In a “trip and fall” case, it is often much easier. Many times, through depositions or discovery, we can establish that the defendant’s employees (or even management) were in the area of the defect before the trip and fall injury accident and failed to correct it.
Now for some good news! I regularly make substantial monetary recoveries for people from Houston, all around the state of Texas, and throughout the country who were injured in both types of incidents. For more information, you can view my premises liability practice page.
Have you been injured in a slip and fall or trip and fall premises liability injury claim in Houston, Katy, Spring, The Woodlands, Cypress, Tomball, or anywhere in Texas? Personal injury attorney Stewart Guss has the knowledge, skills, and experience to make recoveries even in the most difficult cases. When other Houston slip and fall lawyers are giving up, Stewart is usually just getting started. Call us today at 800-898-4877, free of charge, to talk about your slip and fall or trip and fall injury case. There is no charge for the consultation, and there is no fee unless we win your case.
Common Causes of Trips vs. Slips
Most people think tripping and slipping are pretty much the same thing—after all, the result is that you end up on the floor, possibly with injuries. However, for legal purposes, trips and slips are quite different. There can be very different causes for these two types of preventable accidents. Let’s take a closer look.
Trip and Falls
Trips and falls happen when your foot gets caught under or on something, causing you to lose your balance and fall. When you are walking in a store or another business, you don’t expect obstacles in the aisles and walkways. It is natural not to stare at the floor and check for hazards before every step you take. This is why suddenly tripping can come as such a shock, and most people don’t have time to stop the fall.
Common tripping hazards can include:
- Electrical wires – Property owners should make sure they secure all wires and cords safely out of the path of visitors and customers. When wires or extension cords cross over walking areas, someone can easily get their foot stuck under a wire and trip and fall.
- Carpets and rugs – Carpets and rugs usually help provide traction for people when walking—unless they get bunched up, frayed, or are not properly adhered to the floor. You probably expect a carpet or rug to be stable, so it can be shocking when your foot catches on a rug and you fall forward.
- Flooring – Even properly-laid flooring can warp and bend over the years, causing gaps or uneven planks or tiles. Other floors simply have improper installation, with hazards present from the very start. When a business does not take the time and effort to repair flooring and make sure it is safe, you could catch your foot and trip.
- Items left on the floor – Store employees might set something down and forget about it, leaving it in the path of customers. Smaller items that might be out of the noticeable sight range are especially dangerous, as someone might have no warning before their foot runs into the object, stopping their momentum and causing them to fall forward.
- Protruding displays – Stores and businesses can have many displays, whether they are temporary shelves, sale racks, or other items and stands placed throughout the store. If these displays protrude into aisles or walkways, someone might not notice that the path is not completely clear. Not only can they catch feet on the bottom of displays, but also hips or knees, which is still considered a trip and fall.
These are—by far—not the only causes of trip and falls. No matter what you believe caused you to trip, let our Houston premises liability lawyers review what happened.
Property owners should know if something on their premises presents a tripping hazard—often because the hazard has likely existed for some time. We can help you hold owners or businesses liable for allowing hazards to persist and causing your trip and fall injuries.
Slip and Falls
As mentioned above, the causes of slip and falls are different because they are usually less permanent than trip and fall hazards. Unlike cords or flooring that rarely moves, slip and fall hazards are often transient issues like spills or leaks.
Some causes of slips and falls are:
- Substances on floors – Perhaps the most common slip and fall cause is something slippery on the floor. This could be water, spilled food or drinks, or anything else that could cause someone to slip on the substance and fall.
- Debris on floors – Someone might drop a candy wrapper in a store aisle, or a shirt might fall off the hanger in a Walmart. Any debris or items left on the floor can cause someone to step on it and slip. Think about the classic banana peel example—someone leaves the peel on the ground, and an unsuspecting person slips on it and falls feet over head. This happens with other items more often than you might think!
- Overly worn flooring or carpet – When floor materials or carpet get worn, they can become shiny and slippery. If an owner does not replace the slippery parts or put down non-slip mats, someone can suddenly hit that part of the floor and slip.
- Worn stairs – When the floor materials of stairs get worn on the edges, they can become slippery, and this is especially dangerous. When someone is going down stairs and they hit a slippery step, they might fall down the rest of the staircase, which is a very serious accident. Loose or worn railings can also cause accidents when people slip, grab them, and they give way. Instead of someone catching themselves, they fall and hurt themselves.
Sometimes, businesses can’t fix a slip and fall hazard right away. For example, imagine a jar of sauce falls and shatters in a grocery store aisle. Store employees address the hazard right away by cleaning and mopping the floor. However, the floor remains wet until it has enough time to completely dry, and the wet floor still presents a slip and fall hazard.
In this situation, the store should put up “Caution” signs letting customers know that the floor is wet. If a store fails to warn of the hazard, people might slip and fall—even though the employees tried to address the initial problem of the sauce.
If you suffered injuries and you believe a hazard like this caused your slip and fall, don’t wait to contact our Houston premises liability law firm. We want to hear your story.
What to Do After Your Fall Accident
The aftermath of an injury-causing fall can be a confusing and complicated time. Perhaps you don’t want to cause a scene. You might try to avoid embarrassment, get up, and move on with your life. However, in case of injury, this is rarely the best choice. You need to protect your legal rights and ensure that your lawyer can resolve your claim as favorably as possible. Here’s how.
File an Incident Report
The first thing you should do is report your accident to the person in charge of the property on which your accident occurred. For example, if your slip, trip, or fall took place in a grocery store, you should report it to the manager on duty.
Of course, chances are that you’re reading this after your accident has occurred and you are home or receiving treatment for your injuries. If you did not report your accident when it happened, you may still do so, but if it is too late, you might still proceed with a claim without an incident report.
Seek Medical Attention
You should always seek medical attention after a slip and fall accident, even if you do not believe your injuries are particularly serious. Many injuries may seem mild at first but go on to cause significant issues later, so it’s always a good idea to have a doctor look at your injuries and start any treatment as soon as you can. Additionally, the insurance company is not just going to take your word for it when it comes to how bad your injuries are. They will want to see documentation regarding your injuries and your prognosis, and the best way to get this evidence is to see a physician as soon as you can after a slip and fall accident.
Follow Doctor’s Orders
While seeing a doctor is a great first step in protecting your rights, the process does not stop there. You need to follow the treatment plan your doctor prescribes as closely as you can. Doing so means filling prescriptions, attending physical therapy, and going to your follow-up appointments—even if you are feeling better! If you fail to follow your treatment plan, it can allow the insurance company to argue that you failed to mitigate your damages or that you couldn’t possibly have been as hurt as you are claiming to be.
Be Careful Online
Insurance companies are in the business of minimizing how much they pay out on every claim they receive. As a result, they will do everything they can to discredit your claim, including monitoring your social media accounts for posts that they can use as evidence against you.
For this reason, you should be extremely careful about the things you post on social media while your slip and fall claim is pending. Anything the insurer could use to prove that your injuries are not as serious as you claim could do substantial harm to your claim and may even result in a denial. Posts that could be problematic include those showing you walking your dog, going out to dinner with friends, exercising, or engaging in other normal, everyday activities. As a result, it may be safest for you to avoid social media use completely while your claim is pending.
On the other hand, be sure not to delete anything that you’ve posted up to this point. Doing so could be seen as destruction of evidence, which could result in significant harm to your claim.
Do Not Accept a Settlement Offer from Anyone
Shortly after reporting your accident, you may receive a settlement offer from the insurance company of the person or business responsible for the property where the accident took place. Never accept an offer like this before talking to a lawyer. These initial settlement offers are almost always much lower than the amount that victims deserve, and they are often made with the strategic intent to settle a case before a victim has had a chance to speak to a lawyer.
The insurance company wants to pressure you and rush you through this confusing process because they only care about their bottom line. Don’t miss out on the money you deserve.
You only have one chance to settle your slip and fall claim. Once you sign on the dotted line, it’s almost impossible to obtain more compensation for your losses, even if you settled for far less than you were entitled to. Fortunately, when you retain an attorney, they will evaluate all of your accident-related losses, including your non-economic losses like pain and suffering and lost quality of life.
Your lawyer will determine the approximate value of your claim. Armed with this knowledge, you will have a better idea of whether an offer is sufficient or not. In addition, your lawyer will represent you in settlement negotiations, improving the chances that you will get a reasonable offer and putting the insurance company on notice that you mean business.
Contact an Attorney as Soon as You Can
Finally, never wait to contact a lawyer after a slip and fall case. Since personal injury lawyers work on contingency rather than hourly, you will not end up paying more when you call an attorney immediately. If you wait, important evidence could be lost or destroyed. Additionally, while you are unrepresented, there is a chance that you could say or do something harmful to your claim!
Seek Help from a Lawyer Who Knows How to Handle Your Trip and Fall or Slip and Fall Claim
If you have suffered injuries in a slip and fall accident on someone else’s property, it’s in your best interest to contact an attorney right away. A lawyer familiar with slip and fall litigation can evaluate whether you have a claim and let you know how much compensation you may deserve.
At Stewart J. Guss Injury Accident Lawyers, our team of experienced lawyers knows how to get our clients the compensation they deserve after a slip, trip, or fall. We know all of the games that the insurance companies play to get victims to settle for less, and we will never shy away from a fight to get you the full value of your claim.
For your free case evaluation with a Houston slip and fall accident attorney, call our office today at 800-898-4877 or contact us online.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.