FAQs on New York Slip and Fall Cases

Posted on November 26, 2014

A person injured walking in an area normally used by pedestrians can file a slip and fall lawsuit if there is evidence that a defect caused the accident. These dangers can include wet floors or icy sidewalks, cracks in the walking surface, or other hazardous conditions.

If property owners or their agents created or knew about the dangerous conditions and they did not correct the condition or prevent people from walking in that area, they can be held liable for your injuries.

Examples of What Is and Isn’t a Slip and Fall Case

Slip and fall cases only arise if a property owner or agent created and/or ignored a dangerous condition. If the owner or agent was unaware of the condition, it can be more difficult to prove negligence. However, property owners and their employees are expected to stay apprised of the general condition of property used by the public.

One common example is a grocery store where a product spilled off the shelf and onto the floor. Store employees, including managers, are expected to regularly check the aisles for such incidents. When one is identified, the normal process is to immediately put up warning signs to keep customers out of the area, and clean it up as soon as possible. If the cleaning leaves the floor wet, warning signs remain until the area is dry.

Stages of a Personal Injury Lawsuit

First Step

The first step to filing any lawsuit is to consult with a qualified attorney who will carefully evaluate your claim and discuss the details of how the accident happened, the types of injuries you suffered, and gather other relevant information related to your claim. The lawyer will also inform you about important time restrictions, or the “statute of limitations,” the period during which your case must be filed. If the attorney believes you may be entitled to compensation, it is your decision whether you wish to move forward with filing a lawsuit.

In New York, a lawsuit begins with the filing of a legal document, or “pleading,” called the summons and complaint. The complaint sets forth the nature of the case along with the general allegations surrounding your claim, including the date and location of the accident and information about the defendant (or defendants), the party whom you are suing. The complaint also contains a “prayer for relief” which states the type of relief you are seeking in the event of a judge or a jury rules in your favor. After the defendant is served with the complaint, he/she will typically serve a written answer containing various admissions, denials, and/or defenses in response to your claims in the lawsuit. The defendant’s account of how the accident occurred will normally differ from yours and will set forth why the defendant does not believe he or she is liable. The answer may also include “counterclaims” or “cross-claims” alleging that you, or even another party, are responsible for causing and/or contributing to the accident and your injuries. Sometimes, lawyers will file a motion — a type of written request to the court asking for a specific ruling or order — in response to your complaint. There are many different kinds of motions that can impact your case, for example, a motion to change the venue or place where the lawsuit was filed. Regardless of the relief sought, your lawyer will promptly respond to the motion and do his/her best to protect your best interests.

Second Step

The next phase of the case is called “discovery.” During discovery, your attorney will attend court hearings and conferences, interview eyewitnesses, conduct depositions, file any necessary motions, evaluate medical records, exchange legal documents, and consult with various medical providers and expert witnesses. This is the stage where your lawyer will obtain critical facts and other evidence required for proving your case in the event there is a trial.

While virtually all of the day-to-day matters related to the lawsuit are handled by your attorney, as the plaintiff, you are normally required to attend a deposition at some point during the life of the case. At your depositions, lawyers from both sides are present and you will be asked questions about the accident, your injuries, and other information pertaining to your claims in the lawsuit. You are required to answer these questions, under oath, and your responses will be recorded by a stenographer, who will prepare a transcript of your testimony. Your testimony is evidence that may be used at a trial, so it is imperative that your lawyer thoroughly prepare you beforehand and address any questions and concerns you may have.

Third Step

Many personal injury claims are resolved before ever reaching the courtroom for a trial. If your case settles prior to trial, the defendant will pay monetary damages in exchange for discontinuing any further legal action. Your lawyer will discuss with you all of the pros and cons related to settlement and give advice regarding how best to proceed. However, if you case does not settle, the lawsuit will continue to a trial. At trial, a judge or a jury will determine whether the defendant is responsible for causing your injuries, and if successful, you will be awarded monetary damages paid by the defendant.

While your attorney will make every effort to ensure that your case is resolved as quickly as possible, it is not uncommon for a lawsuit to take one or more years to conclude. There are many factors that affect how long your lawsuit will take including the type of case and the courthouse where it is pending. Regardless of the length, you will be kept apprised of any developments in your case and your attorney will be available to answer any questions or concerns that may arise.

The experienced attorneys at Belluck & Fox, LLP will promptly investigate your case and help protect you and your family. Contact one of our attorneys via our online form or call (212) 681-1575 for a free consultation.