Personal Injuries can be very costly, and if the fall was caused by another person or business, a lawsuit may be the only way you can recover medical expenses, lost wages, or money to compensate for pain and suffering. There are a few easy but important points to keep in mind in the immediate aftermath of a slip and fall that will go a long way towards proving the property owner was at fault
Immediately After a Slip and Fall Accident Occurs
Your actions in the immediate aftermath of a slip and fall accident, both at the scene and shortly after you have received medical attention, can have a significant impact on an insurance claim or lawsuit. The following points are a helpful checklist to work through after a slip and fall accident:
Get medical attention: While many slip and fall accidents are relatively minor, broken bones, head trauma or internal injuries are not uncommon. It is important that a medical professional treat you as soon as possible after a fall. The reason is twofold: first, to keep you out of immediate peril, and second, it’s important to procure medical attention and obtain, in writing, a professional diagnosis of any injuries initially caused by the fall. There are some conditions that take longer to manifest, but if you have a broken arm, cuts, bruises or some other type of wound that was caused by the slip and fall, it is important to document when and how the injury happened while the incident is still fresh.
Inspect the area where you fell: Slip and fall accidents often happen for a reason. Look around for the potential cause of a fall such as snow, ice, loose carpet, spilled food, and uneven concrete. You should write down your version of the fall as soon as possible because a present impression of what occurred may be valuable evidence in court, and at the very least it will be valuable in helping an attorney decide how the potential lawsuit should be handled.
Identify witnesses: Write down the names, addresses and phone numbers of anyone in the vicinity where the incident occurred – both those who saw you fall, and others who were there after the incident – since you may need them as witnesses on your behalf if the landowner disputes your claim. Even if someone did not see you fall, he or she could, if necessary, describe your pain and the conditions of the floor, lighting, etc. immediately after you fell.
Follow necessary procedure: If the incident occurred in a store or place of business, then you may need to fill out a slip and fall accident report or notify a manager. While you should not make an effort to resolve the issue in the store, make sure the store is aware of your accident immediately. If anyone (especially an employee, supervisor or manager) makes a comment suggesting that this has occurred before, or that they were aware of the condition before your fall, make a mental note. If possible, get the name of the person who make the comment. As soon as you are out of the store, write down the name and what exactly the person said, and who else heard him make the statement.
Take photos as soon as possible: You should attempt to take pictures of the scene immediately after the accident or before conditions change. If you do not get photos, it is a safe bet that the premises owner will, and you never want to be at the mercy of a property owner’s version of how a slip and fall accident happened. Even if the condition that caused your fall is permanent, or semi-permanent (like ice on a sidewalk in Duluth in winter), have someone take photographs of the area as soon as possible so a record is made. Buying a tiny throwaway camera for $5 to $10 may be a good investment. Even “permanent conditions” have a way of changing if the landowner thinks that you might file a claim for injuries.
NOTE: You will likely need to wait around at the scene of your slip and fall accident to receive medical attention or fill out an incident report. While the wait may not be long, it can be important to a future case. Slip and fall victims are often rattled by what has occurred, and tend to not realize what they or those around them are saying or doing, but maintaining focus after a slip and fall can be the difference between a win and a loss in court. You should keep talk to a minimum; feel free to be gracious and accept offers of help, but refrain from talking about how the fall happened, laying blame or making immediate demands.
Shortly After the Slip and Fall Accident
In the period of time shortly after your slip and fall claim you may be approached by insurance adjusters and attorneys from the property owner or responsible party. The most important thing to keep in mind is that these professionals do not work for you – they work for the opposing party or the insurance company and it is their job to pay you as little as possible. While you do not need to be combative, uncooperative, or rude you do need to be very careful about what you say. If you are questioned about the incident, keep in mind that detouring or recitations of the facts by having casual conversations and downplaying the effect of your slip and fall could be fatal to the success of your future claim, so don’t make simple mistakes by saying too much.
The best thing to do, particularly if your injuries are serious or you are concerned your condition could get worse, is to speak with a slip and fall attorney before speaking with anyone else. Experienced attorneys know how to handle insurance adjusters or opposing lawyers, and will give you the best chance to get the money you deserve. Most lawyers who handle slip and fall cases offer free consultations and do not get paid until you settle the case or receive a judgment in a lawsuit.