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Trip-and-Fall Lawsuits: An Overview

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What is a Trip and Fall Injury?

Trip-and-fall lawsuits originate from, as the name suggests, a trip and a subsequent fall to the ground, which is slightly different from a slip and fall or a step and fall.  A trip occurs when the plaintiff is walking, and her toe catches on an object unexpectedly and unreasonably protruding from the ground.  A trip may also occur when the ground has an unexpected pit or pothole. 

For example, plaintiffs can trip over an illegal curb-cut made by a property owner to create a driveway.  The curb-cut may violate city codes and ordinances; that is, it may be too steep, abrupt, in an unusual place, or not flush with the adjacent street.  The inevitable result is a trip-and-fall. 

Who is Responsible for Trip and Fall Injuries?

Municipalities are responsible for maintaining sidewalks and streets in a reasonably safe condition.  A pedestrian may trip over rebar or a metal stake protruding dangerously out of the sidewalk.  If the rest of the sidewalk is fine, the pedestrian will be lulled into believing that there is no protruding rebar.  The pedestrian may be reasonable in her belief that protruding rebar probably does not exist, and thus the need to constantly scan the ground for it is unnecessary. 

As other examples of trip-and-falls, a person descending into an underground garage may suddenly trip on an unexpected hazard where lighting is too dim, the descent too steep, an intermediate landing is lacking, and handrails are lacking.  Store owners may be liable where a rollerblader trips while riding a ramp in violation of code, or where an employee trips on stairs in violation of code.

Trip and Fall claims, like many personal injury lawsuits, are based on the concept of negligence; that the person or organization responsible for the injury was careless and failed to take the proper actions which would have prevented the injury. This is true regardless of whenever the party is a private property owner or a city/county government.

How Can I Bring a Trip and Fall Lawsuit?

In order to bring a trip and fall lawsuit, liability must be established. The owner of the property must have caused through action or inaction the dangerous environment which resulted in the injury. The property owner is only expected to act as a reasonable person would in the same situation. If, for example, a reasonable person would not have discovered that the lighting was too dim before the injury, then the property owner cannot be expected to either.

Second, a person needs to suffer a real, lasting injury.  If a person is merely surprised or scared, or suffers brief pain from a bump, she probably will not recover.  Plaintiff needs to go to the hospital immediately in order to document the trip-and-fall accident.

Lastly, it must be proven that the trip and fall was the reason for the injury. In a person injury claim, it is common for prior medical history to be examined for alternative causes. For example, the back pain that the person complains about may be the result of a previous injury and not the trip and fall.

Do I Need a Lawyer For My Trip and Fall?

Although trip and fall cases may seem simple, they can become complex very quickly. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you receive the most for your claim.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 10-27-2015 01:49 PM PDT

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