Does it Matter Whether I Fell Backward or Forward?
By: Jeffrey Shaw, Esq.
Published: August 29, 2019
Surprisingly, the answer is a qualified “yes.”
But, not for the reason you might think. The reason why falling backward or forward is important to your case has to do with the requirement that you must prove a foreign object or dangerous defect of the land “caused” your fall.
Sometimes, that is a difficult thing to know exactly what “caused” your fall. Remember, in order to win your case, you must show the landowner did something unreasonable that caused your slip and fall (or failed to do something reasonable). In other words, one cannot recover money damages simply because he or she fell upon somebody’s property – you must prove the landowner did something that caused your fall (or failed to do something).
In order to recover money damages for a slip and fall or trip and fall incident under Indiana law, the injured person must prove two things:
A hazardous condition on the property caused the fall; and
The defendant had “notice” of the hazard.
This might sound easy, but it can end up being very difficult to prove, especially when you aren’t sure exactly why you fell.
Showing whether you fell backward or forward might help prove that a “hazardous condition” was actually the cause of your fall and not simply losing your balance or tripping over one’s own feet.
While knowing what caused your fall isn’t exactly a requirement, knowing it was “something” the landowner did or failed to do that caused the condition is required.
Fortunately, Indiana law does not require that you know exactly what item or condition caused your fall – it’s okay to just know it was “something” and not simply losing one’s balance.
In the case of Barz v. Shapiro’s Deli (Ind. App. 1992), Mrs. Barsz testified that she “slipped on something that was like I was outside on ice or maybe it was grease… .” Although Mrs. Barsz did not specifically identify the defect that caused her fall, she did say that she fell and slipped on “something.” If she was to be believed, then this established the presence of a foreign object which caused her fall and not simply tripping. This was enough to see the case when to trial and was not thrown out beforehand by a Motion for Summary Judgment.
Similarly, your case can also be strengthened or weakened depending upon whether you fell backward or forward. The idea is one of consistency – some dangerous defects like ice and snow usually result in a person slipping backward; obstructions and rises in elevation, on the other hand, usually cause a person to trip forward.
The mechanics of a slip and fall on ice and snow usually demonstrates the foot of the person walking “slips” out in front of them, causing the pedestrian to fall backward, often on his or her buttocks.
On the other hand, pedestrians who encounter an unlevel rise in a sidewalk or a defect that is in his or her path, will stub the toe and fall forward, often breaking a wrist or hurting the shoulder area.
Consequently, if your allegation that the defect that caused your slip and fall was ice, your story is scientifically corroborated if you fell backward and landed on your buttocks.
If your story involves tripping over a rise in elevation or an obstruction in your path like a wooden pallet in your pathway, you would be expected to fall forward as your momentum carries you to the ground. Your injury, too, can scientifically corroborate your allegations of what caused your fall. A shoulder and wrist injury can be assumed to be due to a tripping mechanism. A broken leg is often the cause of a twisting motion going backward or sideways.
Of course, there are exceptions to these rules as the human body is a complex and unknowing thing.
So, how does Shaw Law Offices and Attorney Jeff “JJ” Shaw attempt to prove the your fall was caused by a hazardous condition even when you don’t know exactly what caused your fall?
It starts with a proper investigation. Shaw Law Offices is allowed to perform “discovery” under Indiana law. We review incident reports, inspection reports and other investigatory materials to search for what could have caused your fall. We interview witnesses and send both oral and written questions to determine what was seen, by whom and when.
We also examine medical records and talk with your doctors to ask if the type of injury suffered is consistent with your story of what happened.
There are many other facts that can prove what caused your slip and fall.
These legal concepts can be difficult to pursue on your own. Hire Attorney Jeff “JJ” Shaw, who has over 30+ years of premises experience without a single jury verdict loss of any kind.
Call or Text (877) 225-5742 and hire Attorney Jeff “JJ” Shaw to pursue your case within 10 minutes from the comfort of your own home.