Slip and fall accidents result in over 8 million emergency room visits each year, and thousands of these accidents occur because of ice. While the desert landscape of Arizona doesn’t always evoke images of icicles, we’re no strangers to winter storms, icy sidewalks, and frozen roadways. Tucson receives a light dusting of snow every winter, and Flagstaff is one of the snowiest incorporated cities in America—on average, it receives more than 100 inches of snowfall annually! These icy conditions can make a simple walk down the street treacherous.
If you suffered a slip and fall on ice, you’re certainly not alone. Keep reading to learn more about slip and fall accidents on ice. From settling through the insurance company to average slip and fall lawsuit settlement amounts, we’ve got you covered. Additionally, be sure to contact a trusted personal injury attorney. They can help you receive the damages you’re owed and answer common questions about insurance, premises liability, and pain and suffering.
What is a Slip and Fall Accident?
In Arizona, property owners have a legal obligation to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition. “Reasonably safe” implies a visitor should not encounter any hazard on the property, including cracked or icy sidewalks, uneven steps, or potholes. If hazards do exist, property owners must provide adequate warnings, such as signage.
A slip and fall accident is a type of personal injury that occurs when a visitor suffers bodily damage on someone else’s property due to dangerous conditions. If no hazard warning is provided, and a visitor injures themselves as a response, the property owner may be liable for the visitor’s injuries.
We see many types of slip and fall personal injury cases in Arizona, but the most common occur on ice and in-stores. We also see trip and fall cases, as well as cases involving unknown holes. Keep reading to learn more about each type of slip and fall case.
Slip and Fall on Ice Cases
Areas that receive snow and ice, such as Flagstaff, have ordinances regarding snow removal. Depending on local law, owners, lessees, or residents are responsible for removal. They typically have 24 hours to remove snow from public walkways that border the property, such as sidewalks and driveways. Any snow left on the walkway can create a hazardous condition for visitors, including black ice.
If the snow has not been removed, or the area has not been salted to prevent ice, and a visitor slips and falls, the person responsible for removal may be liable for the victim’s injuries.
Slip and Fall in Store Cases
Much like residential property owners, store owners must also ensure their visitors’ safety. Poorly constructed displays, cluttered aisles, and spilled liquids can all present shoppers with hazardous conditions. A store owner is responsible for placing signage in any area that may be dangerous, such as placing a wet floor sign near a wet floor.
If a customer slips and falls while shopping, and an appropriate warning was not in place at the time of the injury, the business could be liable for the customer’s injuries.
Trip and Fall Cases
Unlike a slip and fall case, a trip and fall occurs when uneven surfaces or objects cause a visitor to fall. These accidents commonly occur on staircases, where uneven stair heights or carpet rippling create dangerous conditions. Because property owners have a legal responsibility to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition, trips and falls caused by hazardous surfaces could make them liable.
Step and Fall Into Unknown Hole Cases
As the name implies, step and fall into unknown hole cases occur when a visitor falls after stepping into an unknown hole or opening. These fall cases typically occur in driveways, parking lots, or on sidewalks, where potholes or deep cracks can create hazardous conditions. If correct signage was not present to warn of the hole, and a visitor falls and injures themselves, the property owner could be liable for the injuries.
5 Most Common Slip and Fall Injuries
According to the CDC, over 800,000 patients are hospitalized each year for a fall injury. Injuries range in type and severity, but they typically include fractures, shoulder injuries, head injuries, back injuries, and emotional damage.
“Fracture” is the medical term for a broken bone. Fractures can range from a thin crack in the bone to a complete break, sometimes in multiple places. After a slip and fall accident, the most common fractures include damage to the wrists, arms, and legs.
Hip fractures are especially common after a fall and can be among the most life-threatening, especially among older adults. According to the CDC, over 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falls. Additionally, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults.
2. Shoulder Injuries
Many victims attempt to catch themselves during a fall and end up landing on one of their shoulders instead. This harsh landing can result in a dislocated shoulder, an incredibly painful injury that can limit a victim’s shoulder and arm movement.
Likewise, a violent fall can cause serious damage to the brachial plexus: a network of nerves that connects the shoulder, arm, and hand to the spinal cord. If the brachial plexus is injured during a fall, the damage can be long-lasting and costly.
3. Head Injuries
Falls can cause head injuries ranging from mild concussions to more severe, long-lasting brain damage. According to the CDC, falls are the most common cause of catastrophic head injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries (TBI). A TBI can result in cognitive impairment, memory loss, mood changes, and other serious health issues. Plus traumatic brain injuries can incur steep medical expenses. In the most severe cases, a catastrophic head injury can lead to degenerative brain disease and premature death.
4. Back and Spinal Injuries
Back and spinal injuries can include herniated discs, slipped discs, and even vertebral damage. A slip and fall can also damage the soft tissue of the back, including muscles, ligaments, and nerves. In more severe falls, the victim may suffer damage to the spinal cord, which can result in paralysis.
5. Emotional Damage
Not all slip and fall injuries are physical. After an accident, the accumulation of medical bills, lost wages, and loss of previous lifestyle can lead to severe emotional damage. Anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are all common following a slip and fall incident. In personal injury law, this emotional distress is referred to as pain and suffering.
How to Establish Slip and Fall Liability
Arizona state law requires property owners to keep their grounds safe for visitors. This obligation is referred to as a “duty of care.” When property owners fail to make repairs, clear snow or ice, clean up spills, or remove hazards from the premises, they are breaching their duty of care and are negligent to the safety of others.
This negligence can make a property owner liable for any accidents or injuries sustained as a result of their neglect. In personal injury law, we refer to property owner negligence as “premises liability.” If you’ve been injured on a negligent property owner’s grounds, consider the following steps for establishing premises liability.
What Steps Should You Take After a Fall?
Immediately after a fall, the injured party should contact the property owner to file a report. The majority of businesses and rental buildings should have a fall report ready. If the fall occurred at a private residence, the injured person will likely need to contact the authorities. The responding officer can then file a complaint on the fall victim’s behalf.
A fall report should include the contact information for both the property owner and the injured person, including their full names, addresses, and phone numbers. It should also detail any present injuries. Documenting these injuries early on can help support the victim’s personal injury claim. Other helpful information to include is the time and date of the accident, as well as exactly where on the property the fall took place. All of this information may be requested during the discovery phase, so it’s best to take detailed notes.
The injured party should also take photographs of the accident scene, especially if there was no signage in place when the accident occurred. These images can serve as evidence down the line and help prove the property owner was negligent. Plus, they can assert that the fall victim’s actions did not contribute to the cause of the accident.
What is the Statute of Limitations for a Slip and Fall Claim?
A statute of limitations enforces a time limit for how long after an accident a victim can claim damages. In Arizona, the statute of limitations for slip and fall claims falls under the larger umbrella of personal injury cases. This means that all fall victims have a two-year deadline for the filing of any civil cases seeking compensation for damages. In other words, if someone was injured in a slip and fall, they must file a lawsuit or insurance claim within two years of the date the accident occurred.
Comparative Negligence in Arizona Slip and Fall Cases
The state of Arizona uses “comparative negligence” for slip and fall cases. This means that when a fall victim is found to share some amount of blame for the accident, any damages they’re awarded will be reduced by an amount equal to their share of negligence.
Imagine a court finds a victim to be 25 percent responsible for their slip and fall accident. If the victim’s damages totaled $20,000, their total settlement amount would be reduced by 25 percent. In this case, the victim would only receive $15,000—their total damages minus their 25 percent share of fault for the accident.
If you’re making an injury claim against a property owner in Arizona, you must be prepared to argue against comparative negligence. Some arguments you may face include:
- The dangerous property condition should have been obvious to you
- The dangerous condition was cordoned off by cones and signage
- You weren’t paying sufficient attention to where you were walking
- You were wearing footwear that was inappropriate under the circumstances
Evidence such as a fall report, photographs of the scene, and a lack of signage is key to proving your innocence and receiving full compensation after a slip and fall accident.
Average Amount for a Slip and Fall Settlement
The average slip and fall settlement is typically between $15,000 and $45,000, but amounts vary wildly. More high-profile cases—such as those that involve major retailers or serious injury—can average between $100,000 to $500,000 or even upwards of $1 million. Whether your case falls within the average range depends on several factors, including the severity of your injury and your percentage of fault.
A serious injury implies the damage took longer to heal, such as a head injury, and averaged higher costs of medical treatment, such as surgery. Injured parties in these cases tend to receive more compensation. Minor injuries, such as a sprained ankle, and minor medical treatment, such as physical therapy, typically result in lower settlement amounts. Likewise, if you were found liable for a portion of your damages, your total slip and fall settlement will be reduced.
Slip and Fall on Ice Settlement Amounts
Slip and fall on ice settlement amounts vary depending on the severity of the injury. However, many slip and fall on ice cases do result in more serious injuries, such as spinal damage, head injuries, or fractures to the hip and shoulder. Due to these factors, ice fall settlement amounts may be in the higher range than an average slip and fall.
Consider these recent fall settlements, but do consult with a slip and fall injury attorney to best estimate your unique slip and fall on ice settlement amount.
$1.5 Million Slip and Fall on Ice Settlement
A mother in New York slipped and fell on black ice while walking her child to daycare. She was awarded a $1.5 million settlement amount to compensate for her damages.
The victim was unaware of the black ice on the sidewalk, and because she was holding her child, she fell backward to protect him. She immediately felt pain in her head, neck, and shoulders, and she required cervical spinal fusion surgery to repair the damage.
There had recently been snowfall in the area. However, weather records indicated the last snowfall had occurred 39 hours earlier—15 hours beyond the time limit for property owners to safely remove any hazardous conditions from walkways. The victim was granted $1.5 million to cover her medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
$595,000 Slip and Fall on Ice Lawsuit Payout
Another victim had a slip and fall on ice and was awarded $595,000 in damages. A 39-year-old nurse’s aide slipped and fell on ice that had accumulated in front of the hospital where she worked. She suffered an ankle fracture that caused swelling, scarring, and difficulty walking. The nurse’s aide claimed the hospital was negligent. She stated that instead of clearing recent snow, the hospital allowed it to melt and refreeze, which created a walking hazard.
However, the hospital argued they had properly cleared snow. They insisted the aide was negligent for failing to properly look where she was walking. The courts ultimately declared the nurse’s aide was partially responsible, resulting in a reduction of her settlement by her percentage of fault. She was awarded a total settlement amount of $595,000.
Do You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer to File a Fall Lawsuit?
The stress of a slip and fall can be overwhelming. Before seeking compensation on your own, consider the help of a slip and fall attorney. A slip and fall lawyer can help you gather evidence, quantify damages, and establish premises liability. Additionally, they can make litigation filings on your behalf and represent you in court.
Not to mention, forging a strong attorney-client relationship can also save you the heartache of representing yourself should the property owner claim you’re liable for your injuries. Legal representation is also beneficial if you’re going up against a large corporation, such as a store or property developer.
Seek a Free Consultation with a Slip and Fall Lawyer
If you’ve suffered a slip and fall due to the negligence of a property owner, you deserve justice. Seek a free consultation with a law firm knowledgeable in slip and fall law and premises liability in Arizona. A fall lawyer’s legal advice, paired with their experience in the courtroom, can help ensure you receive the most compensation possible for your injuries.