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Slip and Fall vs. Trip and Fall – Know the Difference

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

Understanding the differences between slip and fall vs. trip and fall accidents is crucial for your personal injury case if you were hurt in a fall on someone else’s property. Slips and falls often result from slick or wet surfaces, while trips and falls usually occur due to obstacles or uneven flooring. The evidence and legal strategy needed to prove your claim can vary based on whether you were injured in a trip and fall or slip and fall.

At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., our slip and fall attorneys understand the subtle differences between slip and fall vs. trip and fall cases. We will use our expertise in Michigan premises liability law to gather evidence and submit your claim to help you receive the compensation you deserve.

What is a Slip and Fall Accident?

A slip and fall accident is a type of personal injury that occurs when an individual falls due to losing their footing on a slippery walking surface. These accidents can happen in various settings, from private residences to public places, and are typically characterized by the sudden and unexpected nature of the fall.

Slip and fall accidents can result in a wide range of injuries and are responsible for over one million ER visits annually and 12% of total falls. Some common injuries associated with slip and fall accidents include:

  • Fractures and broken bones. One of the most frequent injuries, especially among older individuals, is fractures or broken bones. These can occur in the wrist, hip, arm, or leg. More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, with 300,000 people over 65 hospitalized annually for the injury.
  • Head injuries. Slip and fall accidents often lead to head injuries, including concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), which can have long-lasting consequences.
  • Soft tissue injuries. Sprains, strains, and contusions of muscles, ligaments, and tendons can occur, leading to pain and limited mobility.
  • Back and spinal cord injuries. Falls can result in serious back injuries or damage to the spinal cord, potentially causing paralysis or chronic pain.
  • Cuts and abrasions. Minor injuries such as cuts, scrapes, and bruises are common in slip and fall incidents but can still require medical attention.

Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents

Slip and fall accidents often occur due to the negligence of property owners who fail to maintain safe premises. The following are common causes of slip and fall accidents, including hazardous conditions and lack of warning from property owners or managers:

  • Wet or slippery floors. When a floor is wet or slippery, it becomes a hazard for anyone walking over it. Property owners have a duty to ensure that floors are dry, clean, and safe to walk on. Negligence occurs when they fail to address spills or wet floors or remove hazards like snow, ice, or puddles, leading to slip and fall accidents.
  • Poor lighting. Proper lighting is crucial for visibility, especially in areas where the floor may have liquid spills or other potential hazards. When property owners neglect to provide adequate lighting, it’s easy for individuals to slip on unseen hazards.
  • Lack of warning signs. Whenever there’s a potential hazard, like a wet or recently waxed floor, warning signs should be prominently displayed. The absence of warning signs can increase the likelihood of slip and fall accidents because victims are unaware of the danger.
  • Improperly maintained flooring. Worn, broken, or poorly maintained flooring can easily become slippery, especially during wet conditions. Property owners who neglect to maintain or replace flooring materials put visitors at risk of a serious slip and fall incident.
  • Lack of handrails. Handrails provide stability and support, especially in stairwells or on ramps. When property owners do not provide or maintain handrails where necessary, it can lead to slip and fall accidents because victims cannot grab on for support.
  • Cleaning products. The misuse or overuse of cleaning products can leave floors excessively slippery. When cleaning is not performed correctly, or residual cleaning product is left behind, it could create a slipping hazard for visitors.

What is a Trip and Fall Accident?

Trip and fall accidents occur when an individual stumbles or loses their balance and falls due to an obstacle or obstruction in their path. Trip and fall accidents happen when a person’s foot strikes an object or uneven surface, leading to a loss of balance and a fall.

The injuries resulting from trip and fall accidents can vary in severity depending on the circumstances and the individual’s physical condition. Some common injuries associated with trip and fall accidents include:

  • Sprains and strains. Trip and fall accidents can result in sprains and strains affecting muscles, ligaments, and tendons, necessitating rest and rehabilitation.
  • Fractures and broken bones. Falls can lead to wrist, arm, hip, or ankle fractures, highlighting the impact of unexpected trips.
  • Contusions and bruises. Minor injuries such as bruises, scrapes, and cuts are common in trip and fall incidents but can still cause pain and discomfort.
  • Head and face injuries. Tripping can lead to head injuries, including facial lacerations and dental damage, resulting in high medical bills and reconstructive procedures.
  • Back and spinal injuries. The sudden and jarring motion of tripping can result in back pain or spinal injuries, which can be chronic and debilitating for victims.
  • Concussions and TBIs. Head trauma from a trip and fall accident can cause concussions, which may have short-term or long-lasting effects such as cognitive changes and a loss of enjoyment of life.

Common Causes of Trip and Fall Accidents

Trip and fall accidents commonly occur due to hazards resulting from property owner negligence. The following common causes of trip and fall accidents include uneven flooring and obstacles in the walkway:

  • Uneven sidewalks or pavements. Uneven surfaces can cause an individual to trip and possibly sustain injuries. When a property owner neglects to address issues like cracked or uneven sidewalks, they increase the risk to visitors or residents.
  • Obstacles on walkways. Objects like misplaced furniture, loose cords, or clutter on walkways can create tripping hazards. Failing to keep walkways clear of these obstacles puts visitors at risk and can indicate property owner negligence.
  • Uneven flooring transitions. A sudden change in floor height can cause a trip and fall. When a property owner builds or maintains a property with poor flooring transitions or fails to warn about them, visitors may be likelier to fall due to the hazard.
  • Torn or frayed carpeting. Loose or damaged carpeting can snag a person’s foot, leading to a trip. The property owner’s failure to repair or replace worn carpeting heightens this risk and can show negligence.
  • Inadequate lighting. Poor lighting can obscure vision, making it difficult to see obstacles or uneven flooring, which can cause tripping. This can be due to a property owner failing to ensure adequate lighting to prevent accidents.
  • Protruding tree roots. Tree roots that protrude above the ground can be tripping hazards. A property owner’s failure to address these hazards on sidewalks or pathways may result in trip and fall accidents due to this negligence.

Legal Liability of a Slip and Fall vs. Trip and Fall

The legal liability in slip and fall vs. trip and fall cases is based on premises liability. This legal concept holds property owners or occupiers responsible for maintaining safe premises for visitors. While both types of accidents fall under this legal framework, there are differences in how liability is determined in slip and fall vs. trip and fall cases:

  • Cause of the hazard. To determine liability, your attorney will look at the cause of the hazard. For a slip and fall, this might mean investigating the origin of the hazardous condition and whether the property owner was aware or should have been aware of it.
    Liability for a trip and fall might depend on whether the tripping hazard was known or should have been known by the property owner and whether they posted adequate warnings or took corrective measures.
  • Duration of the hazard. How long hazardous conditions existed in slip and falls is a liability factor. For example, the property owner might be liable if a spill is left unattended in a busy grocery store for several hours.
    While the same concept applies to trip hazards, slip and fall conditions are usually temporary and easier to address. For instance, fixing uneven flooring may take longer to repair than cleaning a spill. Your attorney can examine this issue and help determine how the duration of the hazard affects your compensation claim.
  • Preventative measures. Attorneys may assess preventative measures taken by the property owner for both slip and fall vs. trip and fall cases. For a slip and fall, they may look at whether property owners took reasonable steps to prevent slipping hazards, such as putting down mats, posting warning signs, or promptly cleaning spills.
    For trips and falls, they may consider whether the property owner made reasonable efforts to prevent tripping hazards, such as repairing uneven flooring, removing obstacles, or providing adequate lighting.
  • Modified comparative negligence. Michigan uses modified comparative negligence for all personal injury claims. This means that both parties can be partially responsible for the accident. The percentage of fault you are assigned can lower your award under this doctrine. Also, you will not receive a damage award if you are more than 50% at fault.
    Your attorney can help you navigate your claim if you have partial fault. For instance, you were injured at work but failed to wear required non-slip footwear or were intoxicated when you tripped over a cord. Your attorney can investigate where the property owner may still bear responsibility, lowering your percentage of fault to help you get a fair settlement.

What to Do if You Experience a Slip and Fall or Trip and Fall

Experiencing a slip and fall or trip and fall accident can be physically and emotionally distressing. Taking the right steps to ensure your well-being and protect your legal rights is essential. If you are in a slip and fall or trip and fall, take the following actions:

  • Seek medical attention. Prioritize your health following a slip or trip incident. Always consult with a medical professional immediately, no matter how minor your injuries seem. Some fall-related injuries, like concussions or internal damage, might not show symptoms immediately.
    Early medical attention helps in faster recovery and establishes a documented history of your injuries, which can be beneficial should you pursue legal action.
  • Report the incident. Inform the property owner, manager, or relevant authority about the incident promptly. Ensure an accident report is filed and secure a copy for yourself. This document can act as a crucial piece of evidence, especially in determining the timing and place of the accident in case of a slip or trip and fall claim.
  • Document the scene. Visual evidence is critical to establishing the hazardous condition that led to your accident. If circumstances permit, capture photos or videos of the location where you fell.
    For slip and fall situations, take pictures of the slippery surface, ice, or other dangers present. In the case of trip and fall incidents, record the impediment or irregular terrain that resulted in your fall.
  • Collect witness contact information. If anyone witnessed your accident, collect their names and ways to contact them. Testimonies from these witnesses can support your version of events and shed further light on the unsafe circumstances that resulted in your slip or trip and fall episode.
  • Consult an attorney. Speak with a personal injury attorney with expertise in slip and fall or trip and fall cases. Our slip and fall attorneys at Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. can help you understand your legal rights and pursue compensation for your injuries.

What Four Elements You Must Prove in a Slip and Fall or Trip and Fall Case

In slip and fall or trip and fall cases, establishing liability and seeking compensation typically require proving four key elements. These elements are essential to demonstrate that the property owner or occupier was negligent and should be held responsible for your injuries and losses:

  • Duty of Care. It’s vital to determine that the property owner is responsible for keeping the premises safe for you. How you were on the property—be it as a business visitor, a casual guest, or an uninvited individual—determines the level of this responsibility.
    Your lawyer can help define your legal standing on the property by reviewing invitations, contracts, tickets, or purchase records indicating your reason for being there. We may also use witness accounts to verify your presence and determine the care duty you were entitled to under the premises liability law.
  • Breach of Duty. You must demonstrate that the property owner failed in their duty, such as neglecting a spill or not repairing a damaged walkway. Your lawyer will collect and showcase evidence highlighting the owner’s disregard for maintaining safety.
    This evidence can encompass maintenance logs, security camera recordings, or testimonies from witnesses. This proof can indicate a recurrent oversight or a one-time act of negligence, like overlooking a recognized danger.
    For example, time markers on security footage might illustrate that a spill was left unaddressed for an unreasonable duration, leading to a dangerous situation that resulted in your fall.
  • Causation. It’s essential to link the property owner’s negligence to your mishap and injuries. To establish this causation, your attorney might collect medical documents and incident reports and seek specialist opinions to draw a clear connection between the unsafe environment and your harm.
    In collaboration with your legal team, including partner attorney and registered nurse Eileen Kroll, they will consult medical professionals to explain how the premises’ conditions were behind the accident and your injuries.
    Eileen can use her background in the medical field to bolster this connection and accurately assess your current and future damages.
  • Damages. It’s crucial to illustrate the setbacks you’ve encountered due to the accident, including medical expenses and missed earnings. Your lawyer will gather all health records and other proof to highlight your losses and assist in securing maximum compensation.
    This may encompass economic damages, representing the quantifiable expenses you’ve experienced, derived from medical invoices, W2 forms, and other related bills.
    Your compensation might also account for non-economic damages like pain, anguish, and emotional turmoil. We’ll use medical reviews, psychological appraisals, and personal accounts to depict your suffering and substantiate the compensation claim.

Trip and fall or slip and fall accident

Seek a Fair Settlement With Help From Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C.

Whether you were hurt in a trip and fall or slip and fall accident, you deserve financial compensation for your injuries caused by someone else’s negligence. Our experienced attorneys at Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. have the legal skill and knowledge to aggressively represent your interests in a slip and fall claim.

We can help you receive a settlement that covers the full extent of your injuries. Contact Cochran, Kroll & Associates for a free consultation for your slip and fall vs. trip and fall claim.

Our contingency fee basis means we only get paid if we win your case, so there is no financial risk to you to get started. Call our law firm today at (1-866-779-7331) and schedule your no-obligation, free case evaluation.

Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.

Alistair MacDonald holds a bachelor’s degree in History and minors in Classics and Economics from Hamilton College. He writes about complex financial and legal topics, explaining them in a reader-friendly way.

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