What Are The Most Common Causes Of Slip-And-Fall Accidents?
The most common cause of slip-and-fall accidents is some type of substance that is either on the ground or a surface that people generally do not see, and of course they slip on it and fall. Other common causes can be food items. We see that often. Anything from banana peels, believe it or not, to oil, to cookies or candy. At The Sexton Law Firm, we have had cases where people have slipped and fallen on M&M’s in a grocery store aisle. So, there can be a lot of common causes of slip-and-fall accidents, but the majority of them come from some type of liquid-type substance that is on the ground.
Slip-and-fall cases are very different from car accident cases or any other types of injury causing case. In the slip-and-fall cases, the most important thing is to show notice. Let’s say you slipped and fell on a banana peel in a grocery store. They would have to have notice of that banana peel in order to be responsible, in order to be liable. That is a public policy issue.
Just because you slip and fall in somebody’s store does not automatically mean the grocery store is responsible. You have to show notice. Notice could be a customer saying, “Hey, there is a banana peel on aisle seven. You guys need to clean that up,” and they do not do anything about it. Lo and behold, I come around the corner and I slip on a banana peel and break my ankle. That is notice.
That is why, in a lot of the grocery stores and other stores, they have things called sweep sheets, which are sweep records. Someone is usually assigned to go up and down the aisles in the store with one of those big mop-type brooms and basically sweep the floors every 30 minutes or so, and then record that. One notice shows that they are using due diligence, that they are looking at the aisles to see if they should have any notice of any problems, liquids on the floor, bananas on the floor. It could be anything like lettuce on the floor. That covers them if they can show that they took reasonable precautions to put themselves on notice.
Of course, if they do find something, they clean it up. If they do not, no one can say, “Well you didn’t use due diligence in cleaning the floors.” We were sweeping every 30 minutes. And when we did find a problem, we tried to correct it immediately.
Then, there is the second kind of notice, which is constructive notice. That could be that there is a puddle in front of the ice machine, and someone slips and falls on it. The store owner might say, “Well, we didn’t know there was a puddle there.” Well, they should have known. That is what constructive notice is. You should have known, and you should have had some other precautions, like a mat or something else in front of the ice machine. That was an inherently dangerous spot where people would be reasonably expected to slip and fall in front of the ice machine from the condensation and the ice melting on the ground.
Those are the two types of issues in a slip-and-fall case. Did the store owner or the potential person at fault; did they have notice that a potential slip and fall could happen? Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, the first time an owner does have notice is when someone slips and falls. They did not know there was a banana right there on the aisle. Some little boy had just reached in and pulled it out of the shelf, and it got on the floor, and a few moments later someone came walking around the corner and slipped on it. That is not enough time to give them notice. So in that type of example, although a horrible result, the store owner would not be held liable on that type of example because they just did not have the notice to have avoided a customer slipping and falling.
What To Do After A Slip-And-Fall Accident
The first thing someone should do is try and find as many witnesses as they can at the scene. This can be very difficult because, one, the person just slipped and fell, and they are probably in pain. The last thing on their mind is asking around for any witnesses. But, in reality, that is the first thing that should be done, and it is surprising that the cases that we have taken where people have done that. It is surprising how many witnesses there are who literally have come forward and said things like, “Yes, that banana peel had been on the floor for like 30 minutes, and my friend had actually told the cashier about it and no one did anything about it.” “Yes, the bottle of vegetable oil was spilling on the floor, and we mentioned that to the stock boy, and he said they would get around to cleaning it up. And then the next thing we know, 10 minutes later, we heard somebody fall in that aisle.”
So, if you do the checking, that they did not take remedies to correct things right away, and that puts them on notice.
The second thing is to document it. Many people nowadays have cameras on their cellphones. It is always good to take several pictures of the scene and what it looked like at the time of the slip and fall. Invariably, the owners will say it was not as bad as they are claiming. It was just a little spill. How could they have noticed it? It was just a tiny little thing. When you get the pictures back, it was an eight-foot spill or something like that. So how could they have not noticed something like that? That is paramount, if they can, to take some photographs.
The third thing is always fill out an incident report. That is crucial. You would be surprised how many clients come in a month later after a slip-and-fall accident and they say, “Oh, I fell at the store a month ago.” And we ask then, “Well, did you fill out an incident report?” “Well, no. I just left the store, and they said they were sorry.” Well, that is not good enough. They are going to deny it or not remember it, and nothing is documented as to anything happening on that specific day.
Those are the three main things, and then you can get a little bit further. Many stores now have security cameras. Unfortunately, they do not usually keep those surveillance films. They usually erase them after a couple of days. So do not depend on the store and saying, “It can show the whole incident. I’m sure they caught it on camera.” Well, it may have, but they do not keep those things forever. So that is why it is important to do those first three things and make sure it is documented. Take any photographs, and see if you can find any witnesses to verify that the store owners had notice or should have had notice. Those are the three paramount things a person needs to do.
Get Help With A Personal Injury Claim After A Slip And Fall
To schedule a free consultation with an attorney after a slip-and-fall accident, please call our firm at 619-678-1833 or contact us online. We have offices available for appointments in Chula Vista and Oceanside, and our lawyers represent clients throughout Southern California.
The benefit for consulting with The Sexton Law Firm on these slips and falls is there are various nuances to the slip and fall. We mentioned the notice issue. And for people who do not get the documentation, if they get to us early enough, sometimes we can find witnesses. Sometimes we can document things. It is surprising what you can do when you do a little bit of investigation. So, that is the first thing that we can do that maybe a normal person might not think of doing. We are able to document these things a little better, do a little bit of investigation, and we know where to look.
The other thing, as I mentioned before, is that public entities have shorter statute of limitations for making a claim. I cannot tell you how many clients have come and they have just waited beyond that six-month period of time, and it breaks my heart. I have to tell them, “I’m sorry. We cannot help you. You waited too long.”
Sometimes we have to be creative. I remember I had one slip-and-fall case, and the person slipped on a cookie, and of course the grocery store said: “No notice. We didn’t have notice how long that cookie had been there. It could have just fallen on the floor and two minutes later someone could have slipped on it.” However, our law firm saved the cookie; and, believe it or not, it was as hard as a hockey puck. It was rock hard. And so, our argument was whoever was doing the sweeping must have kept missing it, because it was there for a substantial amount of time to become as hard as a hockey puck, or else it would have crumbled. So we were able to be a little innovative there and claim that it was something that they should have picked it up. It was more of a negligence thing rather than a notice thing. Had they been doing their job, and doing a good cleaning job, they certainly would have picked up this cookie long before it could have become as hard as a hockey puck. We prevailed on that case.