Are Slip and Fall Cases Hard to Win?

Yes, slip and fall cases can be hard to win. If you are the victim, the burden is on you to demonstrate how those responsible for the property where you fell were responsible. At first glance, this might not seem difficult. But there are many tactics the defense can use to refute and try to dismiss your claim. For this reason, having a personal injury attorney on your side who specializes in these cases is essential.

If you’ve fallen on someone else’s property and are wondering if you could take legal action, read on to learn more. (And of course, you can always call our Washington injury attorneys at any time for a no-fee consultation.)

Understanding Slip and Fall Cases

According to the CDC, millions of people in the US are treated in emergency rooms and hospitals every year for falls. When a fall is the result of someone else’s carelessness, it comes under premises liability.

In brief, premises liability means property owners are responsible to keep their premises safe for guests to use. Property owners should take reasonable, timely action to address hazards. They should also do routine maintenance and inspections.

When a property owner fails in this regard and you get hurt, they could be found liable. In other words, they could be on the hook to pay for your financial harms as well as pain and suffering.

What a Victim Must Prove

For you to prevail as a victim, there are a few key things you need to prove. As a reminder, the burden is on you to demonstrate each of these components. You, or your attorney, will need to compile records, evidence, testimony, and other facts to support your claim.

  • Breach of duty. In plain terms, this means that the property owner should have taken reasonable measures to keep you safe while on their premises. And they failed in that duty. For example, a store owner should make timely repairs of broken sidewalks or at least, warn customers by signs or barricades.
  • Cause. You must demonstrate how the property owner’s negligence, and not your own carelessness, caused you to slip, trip, or fall.
  • Damages. Did the fall cause you significant harm? Perhaps you ended up in the hospital, needed surgery, and took time from work to recover. These are all examples of damages. On the other hand, if you only suffered a few scrapes and bruises but didn’t require medical treatment, you’d likely not have a case.

If you are successful in proving the defendant’s negligence, they can now be financially responsible for your damages.

Common Defenses in a Slip and Fall Case

First, with very few exceptions, you should expect that property owners will defend themselves against your claim. It is within their financial interests to try to disprove your version of events. Unfortunately for victims, there are many potential angles they can take, depending on what happened.

Here are a few common defenses we’ve seen:

  • Comparative negligence. This is a fancy term that means a property owner could try to say you were partly or entirely to blame for what happened. If they can minimize their responsibility, they’ll minimize their liability.
  • “Open and obvious.” They may claim that the hazard you tripped on should have been obvious to you. In other words, you weren’t paying attention.
  • Unaware of the hazard. A property owner could state that they were unaware of the hazard. Disproving this could be difficult for a victim.
  • Assumed risk. Some properties, by their very nature, contain greater risk for falls and injury. For instance, a water park or recreational facility. A property owner could use this to their advantage, and state that you assumed risk by entering their premises. In some cases, you may have signed a waiver.
  • Wrong defendant. It’s crucial to identify the correct party you think is responsible. For instance, a property owner may claim that their tenant is responsible for maintenance. Filing a claim against the wrong party could cause delays or may even get your case thrown out.
  • Statute of limitations. In the State of Washington, there are strict time limits for filing a claim (RCW 4.16.080). (Even stricter if you’re dealing with a government entity such as a city or county.)

No matter what, you should expect that the defense will use any number of tactics to shield themselves from liability. Thus, it’s crucial to have an experienced attorney on your side.

Dealing with Government Entities

What happens if your slip, trip or fall happens on property owned by the city or state? Examples include schools, courthouses, military basses, post offices, or even many sidewalks around town.

In these instances, you’ll have additional barriers to overcome. Protocols and timelines for filing claims against government entities are much stricter than private businesses. Plus, in many cases, they enjoy immunities from lawsuits.

Even so, it’s not impossible to win a case against a city or state. A qualified attorney will want to carefully evaluate the circumstances of your injury before deciding to take on your case.

If this sounds like what you’re facing, we encourage you to read our posts about dangerous sidewalks as well as how suing the government works.

Washington Slip and Fall Settlement Examples

We decided to research Washington slip and fall cases to provide you with some actual settlement numbers.

We noted 601 reported cases spanning more than 20 years. Here’s what we found:

  • 218 (or 36.3%) resulted in $0
  • 260 (or 43.3%) resulted in a settlement or verdict of $1 – $49,999
  • Only 11 cases (less than 2%) resulted in a settlement or verdict of $1 million or more

These numbers demonstrate further how slip and fall cases are not “easy lawsuits,” nor do they often result in very high settlements. It’s also important to remember that Washington is a contributory negligence state, where the settlement can be reduced if the victim is found partly to blame for their injuries.

Working with an Attorney on a Slip and Fall Case

There are many ways a talented attorney can help you with your slip and fall case:

  • Secure and gather evidence
  • Identify correct at-fault party (or parties)
  • Identify all sources of potential compensation
  • Negotiate with the insurance company
  • Navigate all applicable laws to your circumstance
  • Explain your legal rights in language you can understand
  • Advise you of the fairness of any settlement offer
  • Argue your case against common defense tactics
  • Take your case to court if a lawsuit becomes necessary

Think of your attorney as a trusted adviser and advocate that works for you. When you have an attorney on your side, you can rest assured that the legal aspects of your case are being handled. This frees you up to focus on your medical treatment and recovery.

Wonder if You Have a Case? Call Us.

Every story is unique. That’s why it’s impossible to make blanket statements in a blog post about whether you have a case or not or what obstacles you may encounter.

The best step to take is to call a personal injury attorney who handles slip and fall cases. At Ladenburg Law, we won’t charge you to speak with an attorney from our team. If we take on your case, you’ll only pay us a fee if we’re able to win you a settlement.

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