It is not uncommon for injury attorneys to lose their client’s trip and fall case because they failed to retain a premises liability expert or used the individual’s expertise for wrong reasons. It may seem easy to draw conclusions in a case that follows a series of others before it based on inadequate premises maintenance. However, tying the injury to the cause may not be so simple, especially if the expert witness hasn’t had a chance to examine the premises early on. We’ve already discussed the number one reason most slip and fall cases are unsuccessful – lack of preparation (such as having an expert on the scene right away), however let’s further entertain this hypothetical scenario:
Trip and Fall Scenario
Mr. Jones is a tenant in a poorly maintained apartment complex. There is no doubt about the fact that the building is hazardous based on the 2 previous injuries reported. At one point, one of the tenants fell down the stairs because the light above the stairway was out at night even though several complaints have been made to replace the bulb. Another tenant fell on the rain-drenched stairs because the hallway window was broken for weeks and the rain was blown into the stairwell. One particularly sunny afternoon Mr. Jones is walking down the stairs while holding on to the railing when the railing detaches from the wall. He trips and tumbles down the stairs and suffers a head injury.
Mr. Jones and his attorney may think this is clear-cut case of terrible maintenance of the premises but may be surprised when they lose. Without quick dispatch of a premises liability expert to the scene of the accident, there may be no connection made between the cause of the fall and the injury since the previous factors of darkness and wet surface have nothing to do with sustained injury.
Why Experts are Important to Your Case
A practiced trip and fall attorney will send an expert to the premises right away to have everything examined. The expert will assess the conditions of the premises, including the condition of the railing. He may look at the fasteners to determine the proper size and strength, as well as examine the wall to which the railing was attached. By having an expert on the scene early, injury attorneys are able to consult him to pinpoint the actual cause of the fall. Simply relying on previously reported injuries as basis of fact could lead to the case’s demise.
A more likely scenario is where the victim, in our case Mr. Jones, waits too long to contact an attorney. The landlord realizes he may be in a lot of trouble and quickly fixes the defects. By now, Mr. Jones hires an attorney and an expert is sent to investigate the scene but is unable to find any defect in the railing. There is no evidence to indicate that the fasteners were too small for the size of the rail. Mr. Jones’ attorney knows that trying to base the case on premises of poor maintenance history will likely be unsuccessful.
Does your future attorney place high importance on expert testimony? Ask us about how we may be able to help you with your case.
Image courtesy of Flickr (stairwell.) Yes, I realize the handrail is not attached to the wall in this photo.