The Hartman Law Firm, LCC is Charleston, South Carolina's Slip and Fall Accident Attorney
Slips and Falls
Every year, thousands of people are injured when they slip or trip and fall on a wet floor, stairs, or a rough patch of ground. Unfortunately, many of these injuries are often very serious.
Slip and fall cases fall under the legal precedents of premises liability. Premises liability is typically considered in personal injury cases where the injury was caused by an unsafe or defective condition on someone’s property. Like most personal injury cases, premises liability cases are based on negligence.
In order to win a premises liability case, the injured party must prove that the property owner was negligent about ownership or maintenance of their property.
South Carolina’s Statute of Limitations
Before you file a slip and fall lawsuit, you have to consider the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the maximum period of time that you have to file a claim.
In South Carolina, you have three years to ask the court for a civil remedy to cover personal injury or damages. If the claim is against the state, the statute may only be 2 years.
It’s very important to contact an attorney as soon as you can. If you wait too long, you won’t be able to file and may lose any chance for receiving compensation.
Slip and fall accidents can include slipping, twisting, spinning, wrenching, sliding, and any number of other movements that result in injury. Not all slip and fall accidents are created equal. In fact, such cases can be exceedingly complicated.
Injuries that you incur on someone else’s property are not necessarily the property owner’s fault. In South Carolina, the laws are very clear about what constitutes a valid slip and fall case.
To bring a viable claim, you have to show that the property owner either created a dangerous condition that led to your injury, knew about the condition that caused your injury, was notified of the danger, or should have known about it. Furthermore, they must have failed to warn you or other people on site, or to fix the issue when they should have.
Corporate Denial of Trip and Fall Cases
Often, large corporate landowners will – as a matter of course – disclaim or deny liability for most slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accidents on their property. This can represent a kind of overall cost-benefit analysis for the corporate entity – the more cases they (with their in-house litigation teams) deny (no matter the validity of the cases) the more would-be litigants they frighten off. Corporate landowners are in the business of making money and are, therefore, likely to take an aggressive stance toward slip and fall litigation to intimidate would-be litigants. This can be a corporation’s business-as-usual stance, but don’t let it fool you. You have the legal right to expect the environment that you do business in to be appropriately maintained and to be free from dangerous impediments.
The Extent of Premises Liability
Premises liability cases amount to more than just slip and fall or trip and fall cases. In fact, each premises liability case is unique unto itself. There are, however, specific conditions that should be carefully considered:
- Accidents caused by falling equipment or merchandise
- When merchandise or business equipment is not stacked properly or put away appropriately, it can cause unsafe conditions in which accidents ensue
- Accidents caused by negligent lighting or faulty security
Businesses owe their customers reasonably safe commercial conditions, which include adequate security and sufficient lighting in those areas that are integral to conducting business – including stairwells, parking lots and ramps, and garages. Faulty security and inadequate lighting in such areas can contribute to trip and fall or slip and falls and any number of other safety issues.
Burden of Proof in Trip and Fall Cases
If you’re injured while conducting business with a corporate entity, there are situations in which the property owners are legally responsible for the harm you sustain on their property. South Carolinian property owners have distinct responsibilities, and when they fail to uphold these responsibilities, they can be held liable for damages (such as your injuries).
In South Carolina, you must be able to prove that your injury was caused by a breach of the business owner’s duty. You, as the business’s invitee, are owed the owner’s duty of avoiding the creation of unreasonable risks that might lead you, as an invited consumer, to suffer injury on the business property. As such, you must be able to prove two necessary elements of a successful trip and fall or slip and fall case:
- The business owner, manager, or employee was responsible for whatever caused your injury. Typically, corporations are held responsible for their employees and for outside companies that they hire to do work on their behalf. They are not, however, responsible for third-party actions, such as when another customer spills something slippery on the business’s floor that the company can’t reasonably be expected to be aware of.
- The business should have known that whatever caused the accident was present and then failed to rectify the danger or to warn customers of its presence. The caveat to this is that you, as a typical shopper, are expected to heed your surroundings and to notice and avoid glaringly obvious dangers.
The Philosophy behind Trip and Fall or Slip and Fall Cases
When you go shopping or enter into a business transaction with any kind of enterprise as an invited guest – or customer – you are awarded the status of having the reasonable expectation that the commercial interaction will not harm you by way of presenting hazardous conditions or dangerous states of repair. There are several conditions that are routinely deemed injurious:
- Uneven sidewalks, walkways, and entryways
- Common area with dangerous or hazardous conditions
- Surfaces that are wet and slippery
- Surfaces that are snowy and/or icy
- Rough and damaged carpeting
- Unchecked spills resulting from normal business routine
- Sub-par and, thus, dangerous lighting and/or merchandise displays
Any of these instances can contribute to a trip and fall or slip and fall case. We all default to "I’m clumsy" from time to time, and that’s understandable. Don't let that be an excuse when you’ve been seriously injured because of someone else’s negligence. Stand up for your legal rights.
Slip and fall or trip and fall accidents are notoriously complicated, and they can also be vexing; that should not affect your resolve to fight for your right to shop wherever you are invited (commercial shopping venues) and to do so while unmolested by avoidable dangerous conditions.
Trip and Fall Injuries
Differences: Trip and Fall vs. Slip and Fall
While many people use the words “slip and fall” and “trip and fall” interchangeably, there are key legal distinctions between the two types of accidents that can impact on your claim.
Slip: occurs when there is not enough friction between an individual’s shoe and the floor surface.
Trip: occurs when there is a loss of friction. This can happen when something prevents the foot from completing the walking motion. Causes include an irregular surface, cracked sidewalks, the edge of a rug, and various other hazards.
Trip and Fall Injuries
Most of the differences between slip and fall and trip and fall cases surround the types of injuries you can suffer as a result of the accident.
As indicated above, some of the common causes of trip and fall accidents include fixed objects or uneven surfaces, or objects that are in someone’s path and cause them to stumble. The possible injuries resulting from your trip and fall include:
Injury to front of head or face
Hand and arm fractures
Trip and Fall Accidents and Premises Liability
Trip and fall cases, like slip and falls, are under the umbrella of premises liability. Premises liability is a legal concept that typically comes into play in personal injury cases where the injury was caused by some type of unsafe or defective condition on someone’s property.
Like most personal injury cases, premises liability cases are based on the legal theory of negligence. In order to win a premises liability case, the injured person must prove that the property owner was negligent with respect to ownership or maintenance of the property.
Watch Your Step!
Accidents do happen, but when they’re caused by someone else’s negligence rather than by a simple moment of clumsiness, they become legally significant. The National Safety Council finds that falls are one of the primary causes of unintentional injuries in the U.S. As an invited customer on commercial property, you have the valid expectation to remain reasonably safe on the premises. When a business fails to uphold its end of this safety equation and you become injured, that business is liable for your injury.
What’s in a Word?
In the case of trip and fall and slip and fall claims, words do make a difference. While every premise liability case is unique to its specific set of circumstances, these two claims have distinctions. When you slip, your feet lose traction with the ground; when you trip, your feet lose contact with the ground. Because every premise liability case is fact sensitive and hinges on its own details, it’s important to accurately portray the kind of accident you’ve suffered. If you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence, you can’t build an effective case if you can’t accurately identify the cause of your accident.
There is an important physical distinction between slip-and-fall and trip and fall cases. Slips are often (but not always) caused by temporarily slippery walkways, which usually become slippery when something wet and slippery spills, leaks, or splashes on them. Typically, the slippery substance will quickly dry, evaporate, or be routinely cleaned. This can diminish your ability to obtain necessary evidence and can lessen the business’s liability (because it might be difficult to prove that the business should have known about the temporarily slippery surface in the first place). Trips are often (but now always) caused by physical obstructions that are usually more enduring (like cracks in the sidewalk and uneven entrances). Such obstructions help to take some of the guess work out of evidence gathering and liability determination.
Did you slip or did you trip are important questions that can be integral to your claim. This distinction should not be overlooked. An experienced premise liability attorney can help you build your case appropriately and effectively.
Proving Your Claim
In certain situations, corporate property owners are legally responsible for any harm you sustain as an invitee (customer, client, or guest) on their property. In South Carolina, property owners owe you distinct responsibilities, and when they don’t meet these responsibilities, they can be found liable for your damages.
To bring a successful legal claim (either slip and fall or trip and fall), you must be able to prove that your injury was caused by the business’s breach of duty. As an invitee, you’re owed the duty of not being subjected to unreasonable risks. There are two important elements necessary for a successful premise liability case.
These include that the business – whether it be the owner, the manager, or an employee – was directly responsible for whatever obstruction caused you to trip. Corporations are usually held accountable for their employee’s actions and for the actions of secondary companies that work for them. Third-party actions, however, are not considered part of the business’s purview. So, if another customer creates a tripping hazard that the company can’t reasonably be expected to know about, the company probably won’t be found liable.
Additionally, it must be shown that the business either knew or should have known about the obstruction that caused you to trip but failed to take care of the obstruction. Just as in a slip and fall accident, however, the caveat remains that you, as a typical shopper, are expected to heed your surroundings and to notice and avoid glaringly obvious dangers like blatant obstacles in your path.
Course of Action
All of us trip over our own two feet occasionally, but if you’ve been injured in a trip and fall accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, there is a straight-forward course of action that you should follow:
Seek Medical Attention
First and foremost, your health and wellbeing should be your top priority; seek appropriate medical attention as soon as possible. As time passes, it will become more difficult to prove the correlation between your trip-and-fall accident and your claim. Additionally, it’s important that you thoroughly document every medical complaint from the beginning – even minor injuries can morph into more serious problems over time. Any medical records regarding visits, procedures, treatments, medications, diagnoses, and prognoses that the accident evinces should all be compiled as medical evidence for your case.
Memorialize the Scene of the Trip and Fall Accident
If you can, capture the accident site with pictures and/or a short video. If you can’t, ask for assistance or arrange to have it done as quickly as possible. Go over the accident in your head and commit your description to writing. Be sure to document any obstructions or impediments to normal walking that might have caused you to trip. By capturing the scene of the accident with pictures and accurate descriptions, you are documenting the business’s negligence, which could be integral to the success of your claim.
Speak with any Witnesses and Obtain Their Contact Information
If there are any witnesses, their corroborating testimony can be crucial to your case. Speak to any potential witnesses, jot down what they saw, and get their contact information. If you can’t do this at the scene, ask for assistance or arrange to have it done as soon as possible. Evidence deteriorates over time; begin compiling all that you can at the scene of the accident.
Obtain an Experienced Premise Liability Attorney with Expertise in Trip and Fall Cases
Speak with a skilled premise liability lawyer as soon as you can. Provide your attorney with the documentation that you’ve gathered – including photos, videos, eye-witness accounts and contact information, and any accident reports. Get started working with your legal counsel as soon as you can, which will allow them to expertly build your trip and fall case.
Accidents happen and people do trip and fall, but if your fall was caused by corporate negligence, take the situation seriously and implement these steps to uphold your legal rights.
Your Trip and Fall Case
Trip and fall cases are complex and can be confounding, but don’t let that deter you. If you’ve incurred an injury due to someone else’s neglect, contact a skilled premise liability attorney. Your rights and your safety matter.