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Slip and Fall Lawsuit Guide: What You Need to Know About Filing an Injury Claim

While typical hazards like unsecured rugs, debris, unsafe stairs, and slippery floors may not seem like particularly dangerous circumstances to the average person, property owners, management companies, maintenance companies and contractors working on a premises must ensure that common threats such as these are removed before someone gets injured.

If you or a loved one has been harmed in a slip and fall accident, you may have a viable personal injury case.


  1. Actual Notice vs. Constructive Notice
  2. Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
  3. Common Slip and Fall/Trip and Fall Injuries
  4. Who is Liable in a Slip and Fall /Trip and Fall Lawsuit?
  5. How Long Does a Slip and Fall /Trip and Fall Lawsuit Take?
  6. How Much is a Slip and Fall/Trip and Fall Claim Worth?
  7. Case Study: $3.1 Million for Woman Who Slipped on Debris While Working
  8. Legal Help for Slip and Fall /Trip and Fall Accidents

Slip and fall accidents are just as common as they are unfortunate. Slip and falls, alone, account for more than one million emergency room visits annually. The frequency of slip and fall accidents is partially due to the wide range of environments and scenarios in which they can occur. Many slip and fall accidents are entirely preventable but slip and fall and trip and fall lawsuits can be challenging to handle. Your attorney must be very experienced and knowledgeable when it comes to the law that governs slip and fall/trip and fall accident liability.

Slip and Fall Law: The Difference Between Actual Notice and Constructive Notice

The law, generally, requires that a defendant be on actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition in order for them to be held responsible for the accident. “Actual notice” means that the party that is being sued such as an owner, building maintenance company, building management company, or tenant of a commercial premises actually knew that the dangerous condition that caused the slip and fall or trip and fall accident existed. Cases where a party is on actual notice of a dangerous condition may include proof that a defendant actually observed the dangerous condition or if another person informed the defendant of a representative of the defendant of the dangerous condition. If these entities are aware of a dangerous condition and do nothing to rectify it, they can be held liable.

More often, these entities are not on actual notice of the dangerous condition but rather are under what is known as “constructive notice” of the dangerous condition. “Constructive notice” means that a defendant using reasonable judgment knew or should have known that the dangerous condition existed if they were reasonably doing their job and keeping the premises under reasonable inspection.

In other words, if a dangerous condition (such as a spilled soda in a store or restaurant) is present at a location for five minutes or less and someone comes along and slips on it that is a very difficult case to prove against a defendant because the period of time where the dangerous condition existed was brief and not long enough a period of time for a defendant to learn of and to reasonably take steps to correct the dangerous condition.

Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents

Some of these circumstances include:

Slick Floors

Slippery floors are perhaps the threat most top-of-mind when it comes to slip and fall dangers. Slick, slippery floors are often the result of spilled liquid, precipitation, ice, grease, wax, soap, or even dust and powder. These hazards become even more threatening when they are left unmarked, leaving potential victims vulnerable to slips.

Simple measures such as warning signs, cones, barriers to prevent access to dangerous areas can be taken and prevent these accidents from happening in the first place. Unfortunately, building owners, maintenance companies, property management companies, and/or contractors often take the less expensive and quicker way out rather than the safe way out. These decisions to save money and time often result in very serious injuries being caused.

Loose or Worn-Out Carpeting

Carpeting that is loose or bulging poses a trip hazard for those walking on it. Rugs and mats are also a major trip hazard, as most of them are not secured to the ground. Unsecured mats are likely to bunch up with use, acting as a dangerous obstacle in walking areas.

Again, unfortunately, business owners, property management companies, and maintenance personnel often take short cuts rather than providing a safe premises. It is expensive to replace the old carpet and cheaper to tape down a defective carpet temporarily. While this may be less expensive, it doesn’t make it safe, and it does not make it right. These safety shortcuts often end up hurting people when they trip and fall because of faulty carpeting.

Wet Carpets and Mats

Many establishments, such as supermarkets and restaurants, place commercial mats at their doors to prevent water and mud from being tracked into their buildings. But sometimes that carpet is left to remain in place after being waterlogged. A carpet that is intended to create safe surfaces is only as good as it is absorbent. If a carpet becomes waterlogged it is useless.

Waterlogged entry mats allow water to be tracked inside where floors often become slippery when wet. It is the responsibility of a building owner, building maintenance company, maintenance personnel, and/or tenants to make sure that carpeting is routinely checked to make sure that it is doing its job and keeping the floor from becoming slippery.

Just because it is expensive and difficult to make sure that a premises stays safe does not mean that the responsibility legally goes away. Maintenance and safety are the responsibilities of a building owner and/or commercial tenant. They charge rent and other fees, which should be sufficient for staff maintenance and to keep equipment in good working order. Victims of slip-and-fall and trip-and-fall accidents should not have to pay for financial shortcuts taken by greedy building owners, tenants, property management companies and building maintenance personnel.

While this is important for preventing slip hazards, commercial mats often create trip hazards when they are too old, too worn out, or filled with liquid to perform their intended function of keeping pedestrians safe.

Doorway Thresholds

The strip of wood, metal, or plastic that covers the uneven floor gaps in doorways is known as a “doorway threshold”. We rarely acknowledge doorway thresholds, instead simply stepping onto or overtop of them without a second thought. In reality, a properly installed and maintained doorway threshold could be the difference between business as usual and life-changing injury. Thresholds that are too tall present a serious trip hazard – so much so that the height of doorway thresholds must be code compliant.

Additionally, if a nail is sticking out of a door threshold or if a piece of wood or metal is extruding from the threshold, that can often create a tripping hazard that leads to an injury. Those conditions are not normal, and pedestrians don’t expect them to be present. Accordingly, pedestrians often trip and fall because of these defects. It is the responsibility of building owners, maintenance companies, property managers, and/or contractors to keep a careful eye out for these types of defects and fix them promptly after they occur.

This duty to maintain a safe premises for pedestrians remains the responsibility of the owner even if they have other companies working at the premises who should be taking care of this work. In short, a property owner remains legally responsible even if they hire someone else to maintain the property.  This creates a specific mindset for property owners.  They must prioritize hiring competent people to help maintain their properties. Building owners often have written agreements with property maintenance companies and property management companies and other insurance agreements in place that protect them and provide for money when pedestrians are injured as a result of defective door threshold conditions.

The lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy recently settled the case for a laborer who tripped on a nail that was protruding from a door threshold. The insurance company for the general contractor paid out a substantial settlement because the general contractor was responsible for maintaining a safe work site. Had the general contractor properly done its job, it would have discovered the protruding nail when it inspected the premises prior to the workday beginning.

The insurance companies and defense attorneys argued that our client was responsible for the accident and should have seen the nail in question. We successfully argued that the general contractor and owner had a non-delegable duty she’s making the move to provide a safe workplace and that it was foreseeable that a worker would trip on a nail protruding from a door threshold.

Hazardous Stairs

Stairs are a common arena for injury, but property owners, employers, and other potentially liable parties can make several efforts to keep their stairs as safe as possible. Hazards like loose carpeting, uneven stairs, slippery surfaces, and missing or damaged steps should be eliminated before anyone is unfortunate enough to use them. Insurance companies and defense attorneys often try to argue that they should not be held liable for injuries that occur on stairs because the injured person uses the stairs every day.

Just because someone uses the same stairs every day does not mean that they can’t bring a lawsuit when they are injured because of a defective or dangerous condition on a staircase. Every case is fact specific; it could be that a staircase was safe the last time a pedestrian or tenant used it, and then became unsafe by the time they used it next. The property owner has a duty to regularly inspect their property to ensure that the premises are properly maintained so that foreseeable injuries and use can be done safely.

We represented a carpenter who fell down a flight of temporary stairs outside of a trailer on a construction site. The stairs were defective, and we were able to bring a successful lawsuit on his behalf against the general contractor who was responsible for keeping the work site safe.

Low Lighting

Poorly lit environments can cause pedestrians to trip, slip, and fall. Generally safe areas become dangerous when we cannot navigate them properly. Furniture, stairs, door thresholds, and rugs that are safe for use become potentially deadly hazards if our vision is impaired by low lighting. It is the responsibility of a building owner, maintenance company, and/or property management company to regularly inspect their entire premises and make sure that they are adequately lit.


General clutter is an often overlooked yet significant trip and slip hazard. Seemingly innocuous objects such as loose bubble wrap, cardboard boxes, disorganized merchandise, gathered materials, and countless other items spell danger when left in walkways and workspaces.

Loose Wires

Loose wires that have not been secured with cover strips, cable ties, and cord protectors are a significant trip hazard. Running cords along baseboards or underneath carpeting is ideal, but the aforementioned solutions are also acceptable when wires must run along walkways. Building owners, property managers, and contractors know what kind of work is going on their premises.

Often pedestrians, customers, or tenants, are not given any warning of work that is taking place in the area and are surprised to find loose wires which caused them to trip. These are very preventable accidents, and the law justifiably imposes a burden upon owners, maintenance companies, property management companies, and business tenants to keep their promises in a safe condition. When they fail to do so, a successful trip and fall lawsuit can be brought against them.

Common Slip and Fall Accident Injuries

Slip and fall accidents can cause a variety of injuries that range in severity.  A slip and fall accident can result in painful fractures, which sadly occur in 5% of people who fall. For older individuals, the risk of fracture from falling is even higher.

Other injuries resulting from slip and fall accidents include:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Facial injuries
  • Soft tissue damage, particularly torn ligaments
  • Musculoskeletal injury (injuries to the back, neck, hip, knees, shoulders and or ankles)
  • Lacerations resulting in scarring
  • Scrapes and bruises
  • Fatal injury

Unfortunately, physical pain is rarely the only burden that slip and fall victims carry in the aftermath of accidents. The injuries caused by an accident often require victims to take time off from work; in some cases, severe injury can permanently prohibit the injured individual from working. The financial strain of wage loss combined with the expenses associated with medical care creates material and psychological strain for the injured and their family for weeks, months, or even years after the accident. It is important for a person injured in a trip and fall or slip and fall accident to hire someone who will fight on their behalf against the insurance companies that will be hired by the property owners, building management companies, building maintenance companies, and/or contractors working at the location of your injury.

Investigators for insurance companies often are at the scene of your accident within hours. Attorneys hired by insurance companies often accompany these investigators. You need someone fighting on your side who will get to work as soon after your accident as possible. Eyewitnesses can be crucially important on a trip and fall and or slip and fall lawsuit. Evidence needs to be preserved such as videotapes and photographs of the premises where you were injured.  Insurance companies are hard at work trying to prevent or minimize paying you what is fair. You need a fighter on your side.

Who is Liable in a Slip and Fall Lawsuit?

Possibly the most challenging aspect of a slip and fall personal injury lawsuit is determining who is at fault. Fault in the law is referred to as liability. Liability in slip and fall cases depends on very specific facts.

Slip and fall cases often refer to premises liability law, which holds property owners accountable for maintaining safe premises for typical activities such as walking, traveling, and shopping. These entities are, generally, responsible for keeping records of their inspection period.

It is not enough when a lawsuit is brought against these entities for a defendant to say that they regularly inspect the premises. They need to prove it by showing that inspection records are maintained in the ordinary course of business and those records will need to support their inspection protocols. The absence of such records can create a negative inference against defendants in a lawsuit and help prove a negligence case against them.

Depositions should be taken of maintenance and management personnel to establish faulty maintenance procedures. Additionally, agreements between property owners and maintenance companies and/or property management companies should be obtained and carefully reviewed to determine who bears the responsibility of keeping their premises safe. Insurance policies between these companies should also be carefully reviewed. Insurance companies for different entities often like to point fingers of blame at each other and delay paying what is fair on a trip and fall lawsuit. The attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy have been practicing law in this area for more than 30 years. We will not allow insurance companies and defense attorneys to play games that delay our clients’ right to justice. You never know if you have a viable lawsuit unless you speak to a qualified attorney.

To establish negligence, attorneys work with their clients to understand the circumstances in which they were injured and then determine whether the accident was caused by one of these three negligent behaviors on behalf of the property owner or the employees working on-site:

The defendant created the condition which caused the accident. For example, say a grocery store worker mops during business hours but fails to properly mark the slippery area caused by the soap and water. If a customer slips on the wet floor and fractures their arm, it can be determined that the hazardous condition was created by the grocery store. Caution signs don’t cost a lot of money and can prevent slip and fall accidents. Unfortunately, building owners and tenants often take shortcuts that create dangerous conditions.

The defendant had “actual notice” of the hazard. In this scenario, perhaps a child spilled their juice box on the floor of a grocery store, creating a slippery area. The mother notifies the manager of the grocery store about the spill. Instead of immediately tending to the spill, the manager arranges apples in the produce section. As he arranges the apples, a customer slips on the spilled juice and suffers a concussion. In this case, the grocery store may not have created the hazard, but they did have knowledge of the hazard and failed to take reasonable action. A store can be held liable when they choose their convenience and schedule over the safety of their customers.

The defendant had “constructive notice” of the defect. In this example, imagine that the roof of a grocery store has been leaking for several months. The roof of the building hasn’t been maintained in several years in the owner’s effort to cut down on maintenance costs. Despite the efforts of the staff to keep the rainwater contained in several buckets, the leaky roof creates a puddle on the floor. A customer slips on the puddle and tears a ligament. In this situation, the grocery store owner failed to maintain the building and keep the premises reasonably safe. Unfortunately, building owners sometimes choose to save their money rather than keep their customers and tenants safe.

It is important to conduct a careful investigation of all the circumstances surrounding an accident and take very careful depositions in order to establish liability for a slip and fall and/or trip and fall accident. By carefully analyzing the maintenance protocols of an owner, property management company, or property maintenance company, a good case against these entities can be developed and constructive notice can be established.

Another very good way to prove liability for a trip and fall or slip and fall accident is by obtaining video of the premises. It is important to contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible after an accident so that evidence such as video footage can be preserved. If the video exists, it can be very helpful in proving your case. If it is destroyed in the ordinary course of business, (which may happen over the course of time if a letter is not sent to the company), it may be very difficult to prove liability against defendants for your trip and fall or slip and fall accident.

An experienced attorney will apply their expertise and knowledge in order to determine which, if any, of these circumstances apply to you. Establishing negligence and identifying liability can be a confusing and difficult process if you aren’t well-versed in the law. If you aren’t sure if any of it’s possible to establish negligence in your case, don’t throw in the towel. Consult an attorney to best understand how premises liability law applies to your case.

How Long Does a Slip and Fall Lawsuit Take?

Many factors play into the length of a lawsuit, making it very difficult to predict how much time a personal injury lawsuit will take to be resolved. In order to get your case resolved as quickly and fairly as possible, you need an aggressive law firm. Insurance companies have every interest in delaying your lawsuit or claim. The longer that they hold on to their money, the more money they can make in their investments.

It May Take Years…

Unfortunately, the court system also has many delays because of understaffing and covid. The coronavirus pandemic has only made court congestion problems worse. By aggressively pursuing your lawsuit and making sure that your medical records and evidence gets out promptly to the defense, the lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy often obtain fair results far more quickly than their competitors. The stress of being injured and out of work is tremendous.

We understand that the stress of being involved in a lawsuit where insurance companies question the extent of your injuries, and your intentions can be very stressful and insulting to your character. We will push your lawsuit and get it behind you as soon as we can, always making sure that the amount of money you receive is fair and reasonable. Yes, a lawsuit could take just a few months from consultation to settlement or mediation, but many cases take years to be fully resolved.

The Consultation Process

Regardless of the circumstances of your case, the first step in a personal injury lawsuit is to consult a trusted lawyer. The process can be intimidating for those who have never filed a personal injury claim, so a good attorney will walk you through each step of the lawsuit and ensure that you fully understand the lawsuit as it evolves.

First, your attorney will meet with you to collect a detailed description of the incident, including detailed descriptions of the parties involved and the damages you have incurred. In this stage, you and your attorney will determine who you both believe to be liable for the accident.

Formulating and Filing a Complaint

With this information, your lawyer will formulate a complaint, which will be submitted to both the court and the defendant upon completion. At our initial meeting, we don’t just gather information about the effects of your accident, we also gather information about you and your family so that we can better know who we are fighting for. Every one of us has had a unique journey and injuries impact on our own individual lives and activity levels, not to mention the responsibilities that we have to ourselves, our employers and our families.

After gathering information about the circumstances of your accident, your injuries and identifying potentially responsible parties, we will file a lawsuit on your behalf. That can be a nerve-wracking feeling for someone who has never been involved in a lawsuit before. It is important that you do your very best to allow your lawyers to take away the stress of being involved in a lawsuit and trust that you are in good hands. At this point, the defendant is provided a window of time wherein they must respond to your suit.

In this response, the defendant must choose one of two options:

  1. Admit fault, or
  2. Deny the claims you have made.

Discovery Phase

Once their response has been received, the case enters what is called the “discovery phase”. In this phase, both you and the defendant will gather information about the case, including written statements, medical evidence, video/audio recording, and other documents related to the case. This phase can take several months or even years, depending on how much information needs to be gathered. The length of your physical recovery can also affect how long the discovery phase lasts.

Settlement or Mediation Phase

After the discovery phase, the parties may agree to attempt to avoid a trial in favor of a settlement or mediation. In this situation, parties will typically agree on the liability of the case and use the settlement or mediation to work out the particulars of the damages owed to you.

Attending a mediation is not a sign of weakness. Every insurance company in the State of New York knows the name of Block O’Toole & Murphy. Our law firm has resolved nearly $2 billion worth of personal injury lawsuits in the last 25 years. Our reputation precedes us and will benefit your case.

Trial Phase

If neither party agrees to a settlement or mediation, a trial will take place. We at Block O’Toole & Murphy are ready to try each and every case in our office. We don’t run from the courthouse — we run towards the courthouse. If a trial is required, you can rest assured that your attorneys will be ready.

This level of preparation and confidence very frequently leads to an outstanding settlement of your case. The defendants’ insurance companies know that we are ready, they know that we are not afraid of trial, and they know that our past results speak for themselves.

How Much is a Slip and Fall Claim Worth?

Damages in personal injury lawsuits refer to the amount you are owed after an accident based on a sum of your medical bills, Physical, emotional and mental suffering, lost wages, loss of future income, damaged personal items, and other costs you may have incurred due to the accident. 

How much you receive will depend largely on the severity of your injuries and the extent to which your injuries have impacted your life both in terms of what you need to do and what you love to do. For example, if a client loved to paint and sustained a hand injury which prevented him or her from painting, we would seek compensation for the loss of joy caused by an inability to paint. Similarly, if an injured party sustained a knee injury that prevented them from playing basketball, an activity that gave them a great deal of enjoyment, we would be sure to tailor the lawsuit toward that loss of enjoyment.

We never treat a client as if they are a number. You are important, you are unique, and you will be treated with the respect you deserve. A claim is more than an injury, more than a medical bill, more than a lost wage check. A personal injury claim also impacts the spirit of the injured party.

For example, a parent that is unable to lift up their young child and carry them feels more than the pain of a sore back; that parent also feels the pain of a broken heart. A person who can’t sleep well at night doesn’t feel like themselves when they wake up in the morning and can’t be as patient or kind or hardworking as they otherwise would have been. We are committed to telling the full story of our injured clients. It takes time to develop that story and it takes good communication. We purposefully keep the number of cases that we take on at Block O’Toole & Murphy at a manageable number that allows us to take as much time as we need for us to get to know our clients fully and for them to be fully heard and listened to. If you do not speak English comfortably, we will make sure that a staff member speaks to you in your native language and makes you feel at home in our office.

That being said, the severity of the damages you’ve incurred is hardly the only thing that determines the extent of the financial compensation you may receive. A major factor in how much money you may receive is insurance limits. An insurance limit is the highest amount that an insurer will pay for a claim, which can vary widely from policy to policy.

For example, if your damages are worth $3,000,000 and the defendant’s insurance policy has a limit of $1,000,000, it is likely that you will only receive $1,000,000, despite your damages being worth more than the maximum financial compensation allowed by the policy. Having said that, many times our law firm has leveraged the ownership of a defendant’s building or other assets in order to obtain a fairer settlement. In an unprecedented case, Partner Jeffrey Block persuaded a judge to award his client summary judgment in a bad-faith action against an insurance company, which he then settled for more than 30 times the insurance policy.

Case Study: $3.1 Million for Woman Who Slipped on Debris While Working

In a Brooklyn case, our client was working as a housekeeping supervisor. As she inspected vacant guest rooms on the hotel’s eighth floor, she suddenly slipped on unidentified debris – likely plaster or compound. The debris caused her to slip onto her back and fall down a flight of metal stairs.

Sadly, the accident left her with an aggravation of pre-existing herniated discs located at L3-4, L4-5, and L5-S1. Our client also complained of symptoms of radiculopathy, more commonly known as a “pinched nerve”. In response to the aggravated injury, she had to undergo a laminotomy and a spinal fusion at L3-5.

Firm Partner Jeffrey A. Block worked to secure a settlement in the amount of $3,125,000 for our client, a sum of money that helped compensate for her pain, suffering, and financial damages. It should be noted that this settlement was not obtained easily. The defense insurance company did not want to pay a single penny on this case. Mr. Block went to court and obtained a favorable finding against the defendants. After that verdict, a substantial settlement promptly followed.

Legal Help for Slip and Fall Accidents

The experienced professionals in our office work closely with those who have been wrongfully injured in slip and fall accidents. We understand the pain, confusion, and fear that an accident like this can bring upon you and your family. If you or a loved one has been injured in a slip-and-fall accident, the responsible party should be held accountable.

A personal injury lawsuit may provide you with financial compensation that could ease the financial strain of recovery. The slip-and-fall accident lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy have a record of accomplishment when it comes to personal injury lawsuits, with nearly $2 billion recovered.

Some of our recoveries involving slip and fall accidents include:

  • $2,750,000 settlement for a Bronx mother of two who sustained several knee injuries after a slip and fall on an uneven sidewalk
  • $2,700,000 settlement for a 50-year-old case manager who tripped on an uneven sidewalk on another individual’s property
  • $2,650,000 award for an electrician who suffered several back injuries after a slip and fall at work
  • $2,250,000 settlement after an apartment tenant slipped and fell down the stairs in her building and required multiple surgeries
  • $1,500,000 recovery for a tenant who slipped and fell outside of her apartment due to poor maintenance of wintry conditions
  • $1,500,000 settlement for a mother walking with her daughter when she fell on a sidewalk covered in snow and ice
  • $1,000,000 settlement for a 44-year-old man who slipped and fell on the sidewalk outside of another individual’s property

If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, contact our experienced team of lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy for a FREE consultation by filling out an easy contact form or calling our office at 212-736-5300. We serve New York and New Jersey.

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