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Serving Martinsburg, Eastern Panhandle of WV, MD, and VA

Slip and fall lawyer in Martinsburg, WV, MD, and VA

Lawyers occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.

Winston Churchill

Slip, trip and fall cases

    Slip and fall cases, slip, trip and fall, premises liability: sometimes they're called the Rodney Dangerfield of law suits...they don't get no respect! But they should! Slip and fall cases, premises liability, fall cases constitute the majority of general industry accidents. Second only to automobile accidents, slip and fall accidents accounted for 15% of all accidental deaths. Where a worker was working at an elevated height, fully 31% of all deaths were related to avoidable falls. Of all the slip, trip and fall accidents that occur, 5% result in a bone being fractured, the most common injury. Services, such as restaurants, amusement parks, retail, such as grocery stores, shopping areas account for 60% of all slip, trip and fall accidents. While we sometimes make light of a fall, injuries from falls are the primary cause of time lost from work. 22% of all falls result in more than 31 days of missed work for the victim. (Can you afford that?) Falls in retail/restaurants are the leading cause of non-fatal medically treated injuries in the United States. Each year, over 8,000,000 emergency room visits are due to slip, trip and fall accidents.

    So, why are slip, trip and fall cases the butt of so much legal humor? Simply put, they are hard to win. If you asked a thousand trial attorneys if they had ever successfully tried a slip and fall case to a positive outcome, I suspect that you wouldn't hear a whole lot of noise.     

a close shave, saved by a helmet

      I've not only successfully settled many slip and fall cases, but I have actually tried many slip and fall cases to very happy outcomes. What makes a slip, trip and fall case so hard? Start with the things that you need to prove in order to win:

      1. Store owners, restaurants, apartments, hospitals, virtually any entity that invites the public into their place of business for the purpose of making money owes a duty to the public to keep those places of business reasonably safe.

      2. Reasonably safe means that the business has done a reasonable job of keeping the premises safe from such things as might reasonably be found to cause you harm.

(What is reasonable?

You've probably noticed by now, that the word "reasonably" pops up a lot in this description. The question really should be "did the property owner use reasonable care to keep the property safe?" Did they use common sense? The problem with reasonable is that it is a moving target. For example, some areas of a grocery store practically never have a slip and fall accident, and that is because of what they sell in that aisle. By contrast, some aisles of the grocery store, such as the dairy aisle, where people open the egg cartons to check if the eggs are cracked, and occasionally drop one on the floor, or the produce aisle, where the store has misters, and sometimes a bit of water falls not on the lettuce but on the floor. The grocery industry knows this, and knows that you have to check the floors for defects in the dairy aisle, or the produce aisle far more frequently than you do in, say, the meat department.)

3. There are standards for practically every thing that we come in contact with: length of time an egg can sit on a supermarket floor before it becomes unreasonable; whether a tube of shipping wrap can be left on the sales floor; the difference in step height, or width; whether a retail aisle is reasonably inspected to ensure that it is clear of those tiny, translucent clips that hold clothes in place; whether the floor mats at the front of a restaurant are replaced often enough, or even placed appropriately. All of these standards have been acknowledged somewhere, and it is the job of the good slip and fall lawyer to find those standards and determine if they've been violated.

4. Unfortunately, just because the store, or the restaurant, or the apartment complex failed to observe a reasonableness standard does not mean you've won. Next, you need to prove that the defect was so obvious, or long lasting that the store or business knew, or reasonably should have known of its existence. This is sometimes done through the use of maintenance logs, store video, witness testimony.

5. Just because the store reasonably should have known of the existence of the gaping pit on aisle 8, doesn't mean you're home free. You need to demonstrate why you did not reasonably appreciate the danger and avoid it.

6. Finally, you need to show that all of this unreasonable activity caused your injuries.

Given the countless ways that the facts and the law of every case can double and triple back on you to defeat your case, it is little wonder that very few people are able to successfully resolve slip, trip and fall cases. If your injuries are minor, you should try to resolve your claim on your own, hoping that the adjuster for the store will hope to buy peace cheaply. On the other hand, if your injuries are significant, you should call the right lawyer, for the right results. 

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I've slipped, I've tripped, I've fallen, and now I'm hurt...what now?

Slip, trip and fall cases can lead to catastrophic injuries. So, of course, the first thing is get appropriate medical help, and follow the advice of your health care provider. If you are in a position to do so, you should try to:

    1. Have the store complete an accident report (make sure the accident report accurately describes what caused your slip and fall- don't sign it- but do get a copy, if possible.)

    2. Take photographs of the accident scene, your clothing, and any obvious injuries.

    3. If there were witnesses, try to get their names and telephone numbers.

    4. If possible, preserve the evidence from the scene of the accident. Bag your clothes and shoes, if they evidence in any way how the slip and fall occurred. For example if you slipped on an egg, and it is smeared down your pants leg, keep those pants, unwashed, and in a bag, as evidence.

    If you can't do the above, don't worry, evidence can be gathered down the road, but witnesses, and evidence are much harder to locate days, weeks, even months after an accident.

Things not to do

Slip, trip and fall cases are very fact dependent. That is a case can go from boom to bust based upon one off tune comment made by you in an accident report, in a conversation with the store claims adjuster, or during a deposition (A recorded interview held after a case has been filed.) For example, while the business owner has a duty to use reasonable care in keeping and maintaining his business premises clear of any dangerous condition, you also have a duty to be aware and to look out for harmful circumstances and avoid them, if possible. Many times when people slip, or fall in a grocery store, or restaurant, their first reaction is embarrassment. They will pop back up as though nothing is wrong, and will say to the first store employee who reaches them "I guess I just wasn't watching what I was doing", or "Clumsy me, I'm always falling." Comments like these, while understandable, will invariably become twisted by the insurance company and will come back to haunt you as accusations that you failed to observe an open and obvious hazard, and therefore you can't recover, or, you've fallen before, and therefore the injuries complained about by you, are as a result of some previous fall. For these reasons, I think that it is a good idea that any statement you give to the employee of the business where you slipped, tripped, or fell be limited. Further, until you've decided whether you are going to need a lawyer, I would avoid giving a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster. Of course, if you decide that you need a lawyer, do not give such a statement until your attorney arranges for you to do so. If you fall in a business and ask to complete an accident report form, don't be put off if a clerk, or the waitress says that they don't have any forms for you to fill out. They do. If at all possible, complete the accident report form before you leave the business, or, as nearly after the slip and fall as you can manage.

Premises Liability

       So far I've been talking about slip, trip and fall cases as though they exist only in grocery stores, restaurants, and other businesses. Slip, trip and fall cases can occur almost anywhere someone else exercises control over a property, and you are invited, or induced to come onto the property. For example, if a landlord rents a second floor apartment to your friend, and the stairwell is not illuminated properly, or there isn't sufficient hand rails, and you stumble and fall when you leave your friend's apartment, the landlord may be liable to you for your injuries. How about if the owner of a building hires a guard to watch the building at night, but fails to provide reasonable communications, or methods of protecting himself, and the watchman is killed by the criminal acts of a third party. Is the building owner liable for such criminal acts? It depends, The employee of a sub-contractor comes into a building to pull electrical wires, steps onto a joist that is not properly secured and falls. Is the contractor liable? How about the sub-contractor for not providing adequate fall protection? Again, it depends. The point is, that slip, trip and fall cases, which are nothing more than a sub-set of premises liability, all depend upon the facts of the individual case, and, if you've been seriously injured, whether those facts add up to a successful case can only be determined by the right lawyer, who has the experience to deliver the right results.