Slip & Falls: No Laughing Matter

Most of us have seen a cartoon or played a video game where someone slips and falls on a banana. Banana or no banana, some people may get up and walk away only feeling a little embarrassed, what is more embarrasing is not knowing how serious slip and falls can be. According to the CDC In 2005, more than 15,8007 people over the age of 65 died as a result of a fall.Over 540,000 slip and fall injuries requiring hospital care occur in North America each year. That’s nothing to laugh at.

I slipped, I fell, and I got up, now what? Take pictures, file an accident report with the store, and get names of any witnesses. Those three steps can help you in the long run. You don’t want to be laid up four weeks later with an anterior cruciate ligament tear trying to recall this information while sedated with painkillers. You may not realize how badly you are hurt at the time of the fall, so out of an abundance of caution take those proactive precautionary steps.

See a healthcare professional. If you are injured, get help. It is as simple as that. Regardless of if you have a legal claim, not treating an injury and trying to “tough it out” might work some of the time, but if it doesn’t you may do more damage by not doing anything.

“But I can’t afford to go to the doctor.” You can’t afford not to. Even if it turns out you don’t have a claim, wouldn’t you rather know there is no permanent injury? Besides, everyone should have health insurance of some kind or another at this point. If you don’t, pay a visit to and find a plan that is right for you.

Sometimes, people are just klutzy. But, sometimes, floors are left in unsafe conditions. Whether there is a hole in the floor, the floor is wet, or the classic banana peel, someone else’s negligence shouldn’t come out of your pocket.

"Voir Dire" or is it "Vour Diore":

“I’m not calling the cops unless she’s got a gun to my head”. That was a great nugget that a potential juror gave me when I was prosecuting a case involving a male victim of domestic violence. Was that the type of juror I wanted behind closed doors deliberating? No. But it’s exactly what I needed someone to say during the selection process.

Selecting a jury is one of the most difficult and most important things to do during trial. If done right, potentially, a case can be won during voir dire. Voir dire is a french term that means ‘to speak the truth’. The truth attorneys want to know is: what are your biases? Can you listen to the evidence fairly? Or will you ignore everything I say? If a juror has already heard something about a case they could potentially be biased. For example in the Colorado theater shooting case, the largest jury pool in history will be gathered. That pool will be winnowed down to the final jurists who claim they have not heard anything about the case. More on ‘undercover’ jurors in an upcoming post.

The one piece of advice I took to heart about void dire is: embrace being uncomfortable. Void dire requires attorneys to ask probing questions. Having done dozens of voir dires about domestic violence against men and women, I always aim to get someone to speak  up and say exactly what everyone is thinking but doesn’t want to say. “If there is even a chance he’s guilty they ought to string him up and hang em” Another nugget extracted in an alleged child sex case. All the jurors that secretly agree with these types of statements are given a voice. Once they speak up, I identify them, ask them further questions, and exclude them based on their answers.

The worst thing to happen in a case is to get an attorney who is afraid to ask the tough questions. A good attorney knows that during a voir dire, you want to hear the seemingly unfavorable answers. Otherwise, you could get an unfavorable verdict.

Your Day In Court

“I don’t care what they offered, I want my day in court”. How many times have you heard something like that? How many times have you wanted to say it? As any trial attorney will tell you, the vast majority of cases don’t go to trial. They end up settling (in civil cases) or pleading (in criminal cases). Trials take time and are expensive. Not to mention you must herd witnesses (often times similar to herding disgruntled cats) to testify. But perhaps the most daunting thing is putting on a case in front of a jury.

Imagine, getting up in front of 40-140 people (yes, first a jury needs to be picked from a pool of people) and select just 14 (a jury is 12 but someone has to be the alternate). Some attorney’s go their whole career without ever doing it. It could be because they are nervous about public speaking, it could be because they don’t want to deal with the hassle. An attorney needs to ask deep, probing, and sensitive questions to each juror (more about Voir Dire in an upcoming post).  And even after finally selecting what seem to be 14 rational people, they sometimes don’t come to the seemingly obvious verdict. I am obliged to say this “There is no slam dunk case”. That case would settle anyways, not go to trial. That’s because jurors are too risky.

Individual jurors are logical. Jurors put together are crazy. Wherever you stand on the political spectrum, in the last 20 years there is some case you probably don’t agree with. OJ Simpson, Michael Jackson, George Zimmerman, to name a few. Entire careers are made on conducting jury panel preparation on big cases. Companies specialize in jury consulting to find out what average joe/jane thinks. Maybe there is some edge or magic formula, but then again maybe its just a crap shoot and you are only playing odds.

So where does that leave you? We have all felt wronged at some point. And when that wrong leads to injury, well maybe its no coincidence that injury contains the word jury. We want to tell someone about it and have it fixed. That would be the role of the jury. Right? Well as i said before, the vast majority of cases don’t make it to trial. Just check out this New York Times article on the subject. While the article is a little old, the trend continues.

So what is the point? Make sure your attorney knows how and when to try a case but also how and when to settle a case. There are always reasons for doing something. Make sure it is the right reason. Being too “gung-ho” either way may ultimately not be in your best interest.