Trip and Fall vs. Slip and Fall Injuries – Is There a Difference?By Stewart J. Guss on November 17th, 2013
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.
In order to understand why there is such a difference between these two types of claims, we have to first start with what the “burden of proof” is, that is, what you have to prove in order to recover for a premises liability claim. In order to win a premises liability case in Texas, you have to be able to prove three basic things: 1) that the party responsible for the premises knew or should have known of the dangerous condition; 2) that the responsible party failed to fix or warn of the dangerous condition; and 3) that the dangerous condition caused the injury. When discussing the difference between a “trip and fall” vs. a “slip and fall” injury claim, it is this first of these that 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” and end up face down on the cement. You look back at where you foot caught and see that there was a big gap in the expansion joint, and that the slabs of the sidewalk were uneven and offset from one another. In this scenario, absent an earthquake or recent construction, the odds are that the defect has been there for quite some time.
Both of these scenarios represent actual cases that 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 in nature, vs. the slipping hazard which is more transient. In a “slip and fall” case, it can often be difficult to establish just how long that 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) had been in the area of the defect prior to the time the trip and fall injury accident occurred. Now, the good news is that I regularly make substantial money recoveries for people from Houston and around the state who have been injured in both types of incidents. For more information, you can view my premises liability practice page for more information.
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.