Trip and Fall Injury: Do I Have a Case?

This video features Ronald J. Landau, a Personal Injury attorney based in New York.

New York Attorney Ronald Landau

Video Transcript:

Ronald Landau:

Really, the most important thing to do for anyone who suffers an injury on a sidewalk trip-and-fall is to make sure to call the right lawyer; a lawyer with experience.

Rob Rosenthal:

So, if you're injured in a trip and fall accident, how do you decide if you've got a case to get compensation? Well, we're going to find out right now, because that's what we're going to ask the lawyer.

Hi again, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with askthelawyers.com. My guest is New York City attorney Ronald Landau. I want to remind you that if you want to ask questions about your specific situation, head over to askthelawyers.com, click the button at the top of the page that says “Ask a Lawyer”, and there’s a free and easy to follow process right there.

Ron, good to see you. Thank you so much for helping us out and answering our questions.

Ronald Landau:

Good to see you. How are you? 

Rob Rosenthal:

Doing great. So let’s talk about trip and fall accidents. Let's just start with how common are those in the New York City area?

Ronald Landau:

It is incredibly common in New York for pedestrians on their way to work, on their way to school, on their way to the subway or to go shopping, and while walking on the sidewalk they're caused to trip and fall. We frequently get calls about this type of situation, and clients inquire, “Do I have a case? Is it a good case?” And really the most important thing to do for anyone who suffers an injury in a sidewalk trip-and-fall is to make sure to call the right lawyer; a lawyer with experience. 

I've been doing this for almost 40 years, handling people who are involved in these trip and fall accidents, and they want to know, “Do I have a good case?” When a client comes to me, I think it's important for the client to really understand the law, that the law in New York is that property owners of commercial properties, of apartment buildings, of shopping malls have a legal responsibility—a duty—to keep the areas in front of their property safe and secure. Pedestrians walking in front of those properties have the right to walk without suffering injuries and those property owners have that legal duty—a responsibility—to those pedestrians.

Rob Rosenthal:

So give me a couple of examples. What might be a circumstance where someone might have a trip-and-fall case?

Ronald Landau:

Well, typically what will happen is a client will call the office and speak of having fallen on a sidewalk. The first thing we do in response to that is we go to the scene of the accident. We frequently go with the client if he's available or shortly after they get out of the hospital, and we'll get to the scene of the accident and we’ll photograph it. We'll have it for all times to be able to show to a property owner's insurance company what type of defect it was and why it was unreasonably dangerous. Those are the magic words when someone suffers an injury in a sidewalk trip-and-fall. Was the sidewalk unreasonably dangerous? Was the gap between the two pieces of flagstone unusually wide? Was one higher than the other? These are the things that we look for. We measure them. Sometimes we'll send out engineers, but we know exactly what to look for. We know exactly what the insurance company is going to want to be shown in order to resolve the claim, either by verdict and jury trial or by settlement, which is always the optimal course to take.

Rob Rosenthal:

At first glance, Ron, it seems like you trip and fall, you get a bump, you get a bruise, but you get up and dust yourself on and you go on, but are injuries sometimes much more serious in these cases?

Ronald Landau:

It's a very unusual thing. Before I went to law school, I had a friend who had tripped and fallen and suffered a shoulder injury, and I never understood the biomechanical aspect of a trip-and-fall as it relates to a shoulder injury. One would simply imagine you've tripped and you've fallen; you might suffer an ankle injury or a knee injury, but a shoulder injury struck me is highly unusual. Obviously after doing this for some period of time, it became common knowledge that when one falls, what does one do? They extend their arms out in front of them, and all of a sudden your shoulder is twisted in such a position that it's never been before; it's really being twisted. 

People frequently develop shoulder injuries called torn rotator cuffs as a result of a trip-and-fall because they fall with an outstretched arm. These are incredibly serious injuries. These are torn ligaments that do not repair themselves, and frequently, even after a six or twelve months of physical therapy, require surgery. Some of these surgeries are what are called arthroscopic, and some of them are open, but they are surgeries and there are never any guarantees that these people will regain full function and motion of their shoulders again.

Rob Rosenthal:

I would think sometimes people may hit their heads and there could be head injuries involved in these?

Ronald Landau:

Absolutely. We've seen broken noses, broken teeth, head trauma, concussions; anyone who suffers a concussion may end up with some type of traumatic brain injury. They may have post-concussion syndrome. They may have frequent headaches, nausea, and loss of consciousness as a result of the fall. These things can be very, very serious. But a majority of the injuries are fortunately orthopedic, like a broken ankle, a twisted knee, a broken patella or knee, a torn shoulder. Thank God that they frequently don't result in a traumatic brain injury, but they certainly can. You're absolutely right.

Rob Rosenthal:

What if, Ron, someone falls and at first they're embarrassed and say, “Oh no. I’m fine. I’m fine. I don't need medical help or anything like that.” And then maybe a couple of days later or a week later, they’re not getting better. Is it too late then to call someone like yourself to get help?

Ronald Landau:

It really is not too late. Unfortunately, the way insurance companies have almost programmed jurors and judges to react is, “When was the first time you sought medical attention following the accident? Were you picked up from the scene of the accident by ambulance? Did you report it to the property owner?” Now, these are things that people typically do not do, especially if you're not sure how severe your injury is. You're on your way to work and you trip and fall, you suffer a knee injury, then you try and get yourself to work and perhaps you get through work that day or the next day, and then you realize that your knee injury is getting progressively worse or just not getting better at all. You call us, and of course we suggest that you seek medical care immediately. 

It's like calling your doctor and you want to schedule an appointment. When you call your doctor to schedule an appointment right now, the first thing it says is, “If this is an emergency, call 911.” And that's what we really suggest to our clients. Go to a hospital. Go to your primary care physician. Let them check you out, because that is the most important thing, and that is the first question an insurance company asks us. That's the first question a judge asks us when we go in and conference these cases.

Rob Rosnthal:

It occurs to me that a lot of tourists visit New York City. Let's say someone is injured in a trip-and-fall, but they're a tourist. They’re visiting from out of the city. Should they wait until they get home and contact an attorney there? Is it preferable to contact an attorney who's in New York City? What's your advice?

Ronald Landau:

Well, obviously, if they do go home and they're from out-of-state—when we say out-of-state we're talking about out of the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut area—if they're from the Midwest or the West or down south, if they do contact the lawyer there, their lawyer is going to have to contact a lawyer here. That's perfectly alright. Obviously it is best if the injured party contacts us immediately. The fact that our client lives out of-state is effortless for us. We have many, many clients who, when they start the case they live in New York and they move down south or they move out west. That's never an issue for us, especially in these days of Zoom, telephone calls, cellphones, FaceTime—that's effortless for our client to be out of town.

Rob Rosenthal:

Lots of great information, Ron. Thank you so much for making some time and answering our questions. I really appreciate it. 

Ronald Landau:

Thank you. This has been terrific. 

Rob Rosenthal:

That's going to do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been New York City attorney Ron Landau. I want to remind you, if you want to ask questions about your specific situation, head over to askthelawyers.com, click the button at the top of the page that says “Ask a Lawyer”, and you can ask away right there. Thanks for watching. I'm Rob Rosenthal with 

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