In order to have a successful slip and fall case, there must be a hazard that causes your injury. Often times, people slip on a wet substance. Because the credibility of the injured person who fell is so important in an injury case, he or she should have as much evidence as possible that the floor was wet. This article will concentrate on how to identify a wet substance that caused a slip and fall.
Many questions need to be answered in a case involving a slip and fall on a wet substance so that the case is as solid as possible. These are 13 ways to help prove that the floor that you slipped on was wet.
1. What did you observe after you fell?
What you saw after you fell may make or break your case. If you did not see any wet substance on the floor, this could kill a case. Sometimes I reject cases where I get a call and the prospective client tells me that there was no wet substance on the floor that he or she fell on. Sometimes there is a witness who can testify that the floor was wet. I will talk about witnesses in a moment.
A premises owner can still be at fault for having a generally slippery floor, though I won’t get into that here.
2. Did you feel anything after you fell?
It can help your case if you felt a wet substance after you fell. The fact that you felt a wet substance combined with seeing a wet substance further substantiates that fact that you in fact fell on a wet substance. I have settled cases against supermarkets where my client said that they felt a wet substance on their hands after the fall although they did not see the substance after they fell.
3. What did it feel like when you slipped?
You should make a note of whether your slip felt like you had slipped on water on the floor.
4. Did an employee or witness say anything to you?
Sometimes in the heat of the moment, a store employee will tell you what they saw or felt after your fall. This can be very important testimony that you can use against the premises owner in your case. I have had cases where my client has told me that he or she heard an employee tell him or her that the employee observed a customer spill or break an object – before my client fell – that my client fell on. This testimony is huge and beneficial for the case.
Similarly, perhaps you heard a witness say something that would help you prove that the floor was wet. I have had slip and fall cases where a witness helped build the case. I settled a case for $23,000 where my client slipped and fell at a hotel in Doral, Miami-Dade County, Florida. All settlements on this page are before deduction for attorney’s fees and expenses. Most cases result in a lower recovery. It should not be assumed that your case will have as beneficial a result.
In that case I asked the witness to sign an affidavit stating what she observed, which was that the floor was mopped right before my client fell and that there were no warning signs that were visible to my client. She told me that the 1 warning sign that was there was not visible to my client.
I had another case where a witness signed an affidavit stating that there was water leaking from a refrigerator in a supermarket and this caused my client’s fall. I prepared an affidavit and the witness signed it. This was a huge help because the store video surveillance did not show the actual fall. I also only got the surveillance video after the defense attorney took my client’s deposition. We settled that case.
5. Did your clothes get wet?
If an injured person’s clothes are wet after a fall, this shows that water was on the floor at the time of the fall. Take pictures of the wet clothes immediately. Put the clothes in a sealed plastic bag inside a container and do not wear them again until the case is over.
6. Did you feel anything wet after your fall?
I have had clients who slipped in a supermarket, hotel lobby or hotel bathroom and they have told me that they felt water with the hands after the fell. The same can be true if you felt water on your shirt, on your feet or on other body part. The bottom line is that someone who is hurt wants to be able to show in as many ways as possible that the floor was wet when he or she fell. If you felt water on your person, this helps show the floor was wet.
7. How much water or liquid was on the floor?
The size of the water can be a huge factor in a slip and fall case. In Florida, the size of the puddle can help show constructive notice. Basically, a big puddle may be enough to show that the property owner knew or should have known that the water or liquid was there before your fall.
After your fall, you should write down the size of the wet area. For example, was it the size of a mouse that you use with a computer, was it the size of a computer keyboard, was it the size of a folder, etc.? Was it 1 or 2 drops? If there was puddle you should indicate this.
8. Was the water clear or dirty?
You should note if the water was clear. If the water was clear and the water was in a remote area that wasn’t near any machines or air conditioning that may have leaked, you may have a very difficult time proving that the premises owner knew that the floor was wet before your fall.
If the water was dirty, this may greatly help your case because you can argue that it takes a significant amount of time for water to get dirty. This will help you show that the premises owner should have known the floor was wet before you fell.
9. Were there streaks, skid marks, wheel marks, foot prints in the water?
If the water had streaks, skid marks, wheel marks or foot prints, this may be enough to argue that the premises owner should have known about the water if they would have properly inspected the premises. I settled a case for $300,000 where my client slipped and fell in a supermarket and had 2 skin grafts to his re-injured his Achilles tendon.
When the defense attorney took my client’s deposition, my client testified that the water was dirty and had foot prints in it. He also said there were smudges in the area. This was crucial for us getting this $300,000 settlement.
10. Did your shoes get wet?
If you saw water on shoes following your fall, you should write this down. This can further show that you did in fact slip on water.
11. Did anyone else see the water?
You are in a great position to know whether anyone else saw the water on the floor, on your clothing, on your body or on your shoes. You should write down a description of what these witnesses looked like. If you fell at a supermarket or store, sometimes they have the pictures on the wall by the customer service area that show the name of supervisory personnel. You can look there and see if you recognize any employees and then write down their names.
12. Did anyone clean up the spill?
I recently settled a slip and fall case against a supermarket where my client told me that he watched a store employee mop the area after he fell. Although the fact that they mopped the area up after a fall could be inadmissible at trial, it is still a good piece of information to present to the claims adjuster when you are arguing that you did slip on water.
Sometimes a supermarket or store will send you a copy of the video that shows an employee mopping the area after the fall. In fact, I actually had a supermarket deny liability in a case even though they sent me a video that showed a grocery store employee mopping the area after my client fell. We later settled that case after I sued for $300,000.00.
13. How was the area cleaned up?
You should write down whether the area was cleaned up with paper towels or a mop. If paper towels were used, you should write down the approximate number of paper towels that were used. If many paper towels were used then you can argue that the spill must have been large to require so many paper towels.
If the area was mopped, you should write down the size of the area that was mopped. If a large area was mopped this help you argue that the area of the wet substance was large.
Although most slip and fall cases settle, it generally takes a long time to get to trial after a slip and fall. Your may and probably will forget specific facts of the accident by the time your deposition is taken. You should document everything now. Do not wait! This is true even if the case settles before a lawsuit is filed. I use the answers to all these questions to prepare my client for his or her deposition if we have to file a lawsuit.
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