Injuries that occur on someone else’s property can fall under an area of personal injury law called premises liability. Under this area of law, a person or business responsible for the property may be liable for your damages, depending on the circumstances under which the injury occurred.

Slip and fall injuries are sometimes used as a catchall to describe injuries that happen on another person’s property. However, in legal terms, it refers to a very specific type of physical action.

Trip and fall injuries are less well known. But again, in legal terms, this type of action arises from a particular set of circumstances when it comes to liability.

Here are some facts about slip and fall and trip and fall injuries and how the injuries may be compensated under the law.

Common Slip and Fall and Trip and Fall Injuries

Injuries occur frequently in stores, offices, arenas, stadiums, and other public places. In the U.S., over 9 million people are injured in falls at work, at home, and in public places every year. Another 34,000 people die from accidental falls every year.

Interestingly, the types of injuries that occur often depend on whether the fall was caused by a slip or a trip. The main difference between a slip and fall and a trip and fall is in the direction of the fall. The backward fall after a slip causes different injuries than a forward fall after a trip.

Common Slip and Fall Injuries

Slips happen when you lose your footing due to conditions on the surface of the ground. 

For example, some common causes of slips include:

  • Ice or snow
  • Liquid spills
  • Water puddles
  • Moist foods

Slips lead to falls when you cannot maintain your balance because you have lost your footing. A common slip and fall injury occurs in grocery stores when someone steps on a loose grape. Their weight crushes the grape and the fruit instantly creates a lubricant between the person’s shoe and the grocery store’s tile floor.

As the person’s foot slips forward, they will tend to fall backward. As the person falls, he might reach back to catch himself. This backward fall and the attempt to stop it will produce a few predictable injuries.

These typically include:

  • Arm, wrist, elbow, or shoulder fractures
  • Strained or torn back muscles
  • Broken hip
  • Fractured vertebrae or bones, including the neck and tailbone
  • Compressed or ruptured discs

In serious falls, the victim’s head may strike the floor. This could result in a skull fracture or brain injury.

Common Trip and Fall Injuries

Trips happen when the motion of your leg changes unexpectedly. For example, your foot may catch an obstacle, causing you to lose your balance, or your footing may shift or fall away.

Some common causes of trips include:

  • Uneven pavement
  • Broken flooring
  • Torn, loose, or rippled carpet
  • Cracked or crumbling steps
  • An object on the floor
  • Elevation changes, such as a door threshold, step-up, or step-down into a room

Trips lead to falls because your forward momentum causes you to lose your balance. As a result, most of the time, you’ll fall forward after tripping. This forward fall results in some distinctive injuries.

Some common trip and fall injuries include:

  • Strained neck (commonly known as whiplash)
  • Facial bruises and broken facial bones
  • Fractured hand, wrist, arm, elbow, or shoulder
  • Skull fracture
  • Brain injury
  • Knee strains and ankle sprains
  • Torn ligaments in the leg, ankle, knee, and hip

Many of these injuries occur when you throw your arms out or step forward to try to catch yourself as you fall.

Obtaining Compensation for Slip or Trip and Fall Injuries

The person or business responsible for the property is liable for injuries on that property if they:

  1. Knew or reasonably should have known about the hazardous condition that caused the injury
  2. Failed to take reasonable measures to correct the hazardous condition or warn guests about it

It must be proven if the injury was caused by a slip and fall or by a trip and fall. In most cases, there will be no difference between proving liability for a slip and fall as compared to a trip and fall accident.

Proving Knowledge

You will show the liable party’s knowledge of the hazard, or negligence in failing to discover the hazard, using the same processes for either type of injury. 

For example, your personal injury lawyer might:

  • Interview witnesses, employees, and managers
  • Review video footage
  • Examine the accident scene

This information will help your lawyer to establish the facts that will support your claim against the property owner or tenant. For example, you might determine through interviews with witnesses and employees that a customer informed the manager of a spill. This would establish knowledge of the hazard.

Failure to Take Reasonable Measures

A property owner or tenant only needs to take reasonable measures to fix the hazard or warn guests away from it. You will likely be the best witness as to whether reasonable measures were taken. Since the hazard caused you to slip or trip, you will probably be able to show that no reasonable measures were taken.

An exception might occur if you caused your injury by ignoring a warning sign or jumping a barrier. In this case, a judge or jury could find that the business is not responsible for your injuries because the owners did take reasonable measures to prevent injuries from occurring.

Proof of Causation

The failure to remedy the hazard or warn of the hazard must be both the cause-in-fact and the proximate cause of your injury. Proving causation can be relatively straightforward in slip and fall cases and trip and fall cases because of the typical and foreseeable injuries that these accidents cause.

Thus, if you suffered a wrist fracture and a concussion as the result of a trip and fall case, your lawyer can easily argue that these injuries were caused by the trip and were a foreseeable outcome of it. Similarly, if you have a herniated disc and whiplash after a slip and fall accident, you should be able to establish causation.

Types of Damages You Can Recover in a Slip or Trip and Fall Case

You can recover the same types of damages whether you were injured in a slip and fall or a trip and fall accident. 

Some of the typical damages recoverable include:

  • Out of Pocket Medical Expenses:  This includes bills for medical treatment, physical therapy, and medications.
  • Lost Wages:  This is the pay that you lost due to missed work while recovering from your injury.
  • Pain and Suffering:  These damages attempt to place a value on the mental anguish, diminished quality of life, and pain that you experienced as a direct result of your injury.

Working with an attorney familiar with premises liability cases like yours can help to ensure that all of your damages are identified and valued properly.

The Similarities Between Slip and Fall and Trip and Fall Outweigh the Differences

After your accident, you will find that the differences between slip and fall and trip and fall case are mostly defined by the types of injuries that were suffered. Your case against the person or business that controlled the property will be the same, regardless of whether you slipped or tripped.