You trip on the walkway outside your neighbor’s house and break your ankle. You need surgery and are in pain. You will miss work for over a month too. Can you sue your neighbor?
There are a couple of types of slip and fall or premises liability cases. All of them have unique elements that must be proven, defenses available to the landowner, and all have reasons why an attorney is necessary.
One is a slip and fall on snow or ice. These are extremely difficult to win. You must show that the place you fell had a duty to remove the snow or ice and that it was an unnatural occurrence of snow or ice. You also have to demonstrate that the defect was created by a negligent removal of the snow or ice. Some municipalities like Chicago mandate removal and absolve from liability to some extent when you do remove it in a reasonable manner, while others specifically allow you to take no action. In other words, if you slip on accumulated snow, it is next to impossible to win.
Another type is a slip and fall while working. This would fall under the umbrella of workers’ compensation in most cases. If you slip on a slick office carpet, or a waxed floor, you may be entitled to recovery, but you must show that you were under a risk that was increased from that of a member of the general public. An example would be a prison guard, who may be at a higher risk for slipping and falling than an office worker.
Another type of slip and fall is a slip or trip on a defect created by a private defendant. Think of this as a slip on a wet floor in a store or a trip on gravel in a parking lot at a local store. The problem here is that you must demonstrate that the entity created or allowed the defect and that you could not have been aware of it. For example, if it was a huge gaping hole in the parking lot, the argument that it was “open and obvious” to you, or should have been had you used ordinary caution, would be a good defense to your case.
Additionally, it cannot be such a small defect or a defect that existed for such a short time that the entity could not have reasonably been aware of it using ordinary caution. An example here would be the slip and fall on the slimy substance another customer dropped at the store. If the store was on its way to clean it up and barricade it (“cleanup on aisle 6”) within 30 seconds, it would be able to deflect your suit based on that defense.
This is an area where things get really difficult. The law on things like a cracked or uneven sidewalk are even more arcane and fact-specific than in any of the cases above.
Since cities and towns get sued so often for trips and falls on sidewalks, the law is designed to limit their liability. It seems logical that a city cannot constantly monitor every single stretch of pavement, so the law has adapted to that truism. Instead, as a plaintiff, you must show either that the city had actual knowledge of the crack or imperfection or that it is large enough so that the city reasonably should have known. In other words, a crack of 1/8 of an inch on a lightly-traveled sidewalk would not be something they should reasonably be aware of while a crack of 2 inches in a heavily traveled area might be.
The biggest take away is that any case must be vetted by a seasoned professional lawyer. This is not an area of the law you can handle alone.
If you have the misfortune of tripping, slipping, or falling, contact a lawyer immediately.
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a personal injury lawyer.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He has been named a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury and workers' compensation claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything upfront and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.