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New York Slip and Fall Accident Attorneys

Slip and Fall Lawyers

As compared to trip and fall accidents, slip and fall accidents—in which the victim’s foot fails to maintain the friction needed to stay in place when walking, often causing a backwards fall—are more likely to be caused by transient factors: precipitation from snow, rain or ice, debris, spilled liquid, and other elements which might lead to a slippery (that is, low-friction) surface.

By the time an investigation starts, the factors that lead to the accident may have been cleaned up or disappeared on their own (for example, a patch of water that dried up in a heated lobby or a sloppy worksite that has since been tidied up). If you or a loved one has been injured in a slip and fall accident, it is not only highly important to retain an attorney as early as possible but to retain one that prioritizes an early and comprehensive investigation. At Block O’Toole & Murphy, this thorough approach to early investigative work, along with skillful legal strategies, has helped clients to recover strong results in serious slip/trip and fall accident cases. Read on to uncover what victims should know.

Need to Know

  • In order to pursue a slip and fall case, it’s important to be aware of what you slipped on.
  • Slip and fall cases involve complications such as quickly vanishing evidence, the challenges of locating witnesses, and the “storm in progress” doctrine, which ensures that a defendant cannot be held liable for failing to remedy a hazardous condition while a storm is ongoing.
  • Early and thorough investigation is critical in slip and fall accidents.

In This Article

Investigating the Scene of a Slip

In order to prove a slip and fall case, you must be able to establish the cause of your slip. The fact that you slipped is not, in and of itself, grounds for legal action—you need to be able to point to a factor that caused the slip to occur, and you will need evidence to back up your claim.  The factor which caused the slip must also be the result of someone else failing to act reasonably.

Some personal injury firms delay investigations for weeks or months. Block O’Toole & Murphy values early—if possible, immediate—investigation as a critical element to giving a personal injury case its due. Slip and fall injuries highlight why early investigation is so essential to our approach.

Even when it proves impossible to investigate so quickly that the elements which caused the slip are still in place for our attorneys and investigators to examine, other sources of evidence are often readily available at the scene. Much like the elements that caused the accident, these sources are transient. Locating witnesses becomes harder after weeks have elapsed, and the memories of those witnesses become less reliable. Footage from surveillance cameras is automatically erased over time to make room for new data.

Going directly to the scene also helps our attorneys to put the details of a case into context. In one case that Block O’Toole & Murphy handled, a resident of a Bay Ridge apartment building slipped in the hallway of her residential floor, which was being mopped. It is the responsibility of any worker or cleaning crew mopping a floor to put up “Wet Floor” signage of some kind, and the janitor in this case did just that.

Unfortunately, he put only one sign up, on the opposite end of the floor, where our client had no possible way of seeing it as she emerged from her apartment. While this janitor might have been able to state, with accuracy, that he took the basic safety measure that was expected of him, he failed to fulfill his duty of care by not exercising his judgement to see what the situation required.

A Note on the “Storm in Progress” Doctrine

Many slip and fall accidents are caused by weather elements, which in New York are subject to the state’s storm in progress doctrine. According to this doctrine, property owners are not liable for accidents caused by a weather event while it is still ongoing and for a reasonable period of time thereafter. This makes it critical to establish, in cases caused by weather events, the state of the weather at the exact point in time that the accident took place.

This is harder than you might think. Pulling up a weather app on your phone and instantly finding a forecast tailored to your zip code might lead you to believe that local weather is among the most precisely documented phenomena around.

The truth is, weather patterns vary with the slightest distance in location, and a limited number of weather stations collect data. A difference of one or two degrees between one neighborhood and another, or a slightly heavier fall of rain in one location than in the one that adjoins it, may not affect how you decide to dress for the day, but it can make all the difference in a slip and fall case. This further emphasizes the importance of traveling directly to the scene to obtain witness statements and other sources of firsthand evidence.

Case Study: $1,500,000 For Residential Aide Who Slipped After Cleaning Crew Left Snow on Apartment Steps

One case settled by Block O’Toole & Murphy shows how important witness testimony can be to a slip and fall case—and how challenging it can be to find.

On the morning after a snowstorm, our client was leaving her Bronx apartment building when she slipped and fell on the front landing and steps. She suffered multiple herniations to her spine, required a cervical fusion and other surgeries, and was no longer able to do her job as a residential aide. Our client claimed that her accident occurred because of the presence of snow on the steps.

The defendants had performed snow removal on the evening prior to our client’s fall, when the storm was essentially over. According to weather data, trace amounts of snow had fallen during the night, and it was this trace snow, the defense insisted, that had caused our client to slip. Under the storm in progress doctrine, the defense could not have been held responsible for snow that fell overnight, before they had adequate time to remove the snow again. If our client had truly slipped on trace snow, the defense—which claimed to have begun the process of removing the trace snow at 7:30 that morning—would have had no liability, since they were acting within a reasonable time of the storm’s conclusion.

However, while our client was unable to say exactly how much snow had been present, she was quite sure that she had slipped on more than an inch of snow—in other words, that her accident happened because snow that should have been removed was left over from the night before.

Despite early and dogged investigation, it proved difficult to locate a witness to her statement. Our handling attorneys and investigators kept up the search and were eventually able to obtain a nonparty eyewitness affidavit. This eyewitness testified to twelve inches—a full foot—of leftover snow on the landing and steps that morning, far more than the negligible amount of snow said to have fallen overnight.

Because the search for a witness had taken some time, and the statement was therefore submitted late in the litigation, the defense tried to argue that it should not be considered. However, our handling attorneys convinced the court to deny this motion, and a week before the case went to trial, we were able to settle on behalf of our client for $1,500,000.

As this case goes to show, it is important that investigation should not only start early, but continue for as long as needed to obtain results. If our attorneys had given up on their search for a witness, or allowed themselves to be intimidated by the fact that litigation was underway, such a settlement would not have been possible, and our client would likely have had full liability.

Case Study: $2,250,000 For Grandmother Who Fell Downstairs Due to Leaking Roof

Our client, a 58-year-old tamale vendor, fell down the stairway between the third and fourth floors of the apartment building where she lived with family. The injuries she suffered to her neck and shoulder caused her chronic pain and necessitated multiple surgeries and injections. She was unable to work and impaired by the activities that brought her joy in her daily life, such as playing with and caring for her young grandchildren.

Our client told us that her fall had been caused by an ongoing water leak in the building, which the property owners were aware of and had done nothing to correct. Our investigators spoke to multiple other residents of the building who confirmed this ongoing problem, which had been caused by a roofing company that replaced the roof of the building some time before.

Our client made claims for past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life, and we were able to negotiate a pretrial settlement with the property owners and the roofing company for $2,250,000.

This case highlights another aspect of investigation which our firm values: the power of putting yourself, as an investigator or as an attorney, in the picture. By going to the scene, talking to the residents of the building, and getting a sense of how their living conditions had affected them, we were able to more authentically represent our client.

In similar cases involving roof leaks, we have deliberately sent our investigators to the scene on rainy days—not only to observe the leak and collect evidence for themselves, but to call the building owners and other responsible parties and witness their subsequent action, or lack thereof. These tactics become especially necessary if a case goes to trial by depicting the reality of a situation to members of the jury. By offering details such as the time it takes for residents of the building to have reasonable concerns about their living conditions addressed, we take the jury out of the courtroom and into the everyday reality of our client, powerfully communicating what needs to be redressed.

What to Know When Pursuing Legal Action

It is not unusual for potentially liable parties in a slip and fall accident, such as building owners and contractors, to blame the victim, attributing the accident to inattention, irresponsibility, or worse. This can compound the pain of accident victims who are already dealing with physical suffering, medical expenses, and the effort of pursuing litigation.

Regardless of what the defense may say, it is important to bear in mind that they have a duty to ensure your safety on their property to the best of their ability. You should also realize that New York is a pure comparative negligence state, meaning that even if you are found to have some share of personal responsibility for your accident, that does not negate your right to claim a percentage of damages for any negligence caused by the defendant or defendants.

The experienced attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy have a strong track record in slip, trip and fall cases, with results including:

  • $3,125,000 recovery for a hotel employee in Brooklyn who slipped on debris and fell down a flight of stairs
  • $2,750,000 settlement for a woman who suffered serious knee injuries after tripping and falling on an uneven sidewalk in the Bronx
  • $2,700,000 settlement for a pedestrian who tripped and fell on a raised and cracked sidewalk flag in Queens
  • $2,650,000 award for a worker who suffered back injuries as a result of a trip and fall accident during a construction project in downtown Manhattan
  • $2,400,000 settlement for a woman who suffered neck, back and knee injuries after tripping on a sidewalk decompression
  • $1,900,000 settlement for a woman who was unable to return to work after slipping and falling on recently mopped steps
  • $1,500,000 settlement for a victim who suffered herniated discs after a slip and fall accident on an icy sidewalk in Mount Eden, Bronx
  • $1,000,000 settlement for a client who tripped and fell over a raised sidewalk flag, causing serious neck injury

If you or a loved one has been injured in a slip and fall accident, the attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy want to hear from you. We serve all five boroughs of New York City and the entire New York State. Contact Block O’Toole & Murphy to receive a free legal consultation by calling 212-736-5300, or by filling out our online contact form.

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