Slip / Trip and Fall Cases – Tips On Gathering Good Evidence
The evidence required to support your claim in a slip / trip and fall case depends on the kind of accident that occurred. These accidents usually fall into one of the following three categories:
- Slip and fall on water, oil, or other foreign substance
- Slip / trip and fall on staircases, scaffolding or other raised walkways
- Slip / trip and fall on floor, door sill or threshold
1. Slip and fall on water, oil or other foreign substance
In such cases, the cause of your accident is usually temporary, such as a water or oil spill. As such, the success of your case will depend largely on whether you were able to take photographs of the condition of the accident scene, at or shortly after the time of your accident.
A picture is truly worth a thousand words. If you are unable to get photographic proof of what caused your accident, it can be difficult or impossible to prove your case, as the accident scene may no longer be dangerous upon a second visit.
As a plaintiff bears the burden of proving what he/she slipped on, the courts are unlikely to believe or grant claims that are not backed up by photographs or other evidence.
The best evidence for your case will almost always be photographs of the accident scene, taken immediately after your accident. However, in certain circumstances, if you were unable to do so, it may still be possible for your lawyers to obtain pictures taken by other witnesses or CCTV footage of your accident.
As your case proceeds, your lawyers will also request for the property owner’s maintenance and repair records and safety protocols. These will allow your lawyers to determine if similar accidents have arisen before and how – if at all – the owner dealt with it. This can be useful proof of negligence, but it does not prove what the accident scene looked like at the time of your accident. Only photographs taken at or near the time of your accident can prove that.
2. Slip / trip and fall on staircases, scaffolding or other raised walkways
In such cases, the evidence required depends on the cause of your fall. If you fell because of water, oil or other foreign substance on the walkway, refer to the steps at Point 1 above.
If there were no foreign substances on the walkway, your case will instead be largely based on the unsafe design of the walkway. As such, it is less crucial to have immediate photographs of the accident scene, but you should return to the accident scene to take photographs as soon as possible if you have not done so, as potential defendants may try to avoid claims by repairing or resurfacing the unsafe walkway.
You should take several photographs of the staircase, scaffolding or walkway, keeping in mind the following common design flaws:
- Missing handrails or only a single handrail
- Low handrails / ledges
- Risers (the height of each step) being of an unsafe or non-uniform height
- Shallow steps (i.e. too narrow for your foot to fit properly on the step)
- Lack of adequate anti-slip grooves, coating or paint
- Lack of adequate safety notices or warning signs
- Any other indications of a lack of maintenance
Further, your lawyers will often hire a safety or construction expert to examine the accident scene and the photographs, in order to determine if any industry or safety standards were not met.
3. Slip / trip and fall on floor, door sill or threshold
Accidents of this kind generally proceed like the walkway cases above at Point 2, but often include an additional failure to warn.
For example, these cases may involve a door sill or threshold which is unaccompanied by a notice or warning sign (e.g. Caution / Beware of step etc.).
As such, your photographs of the accident scene should focus on the lack of adequate safety notices, as well as the actual floor, door sill or threshold itself.