We all seem to know what to do in the event we get in a car accident. We call the police, take photographs of our vehicles, get the names of the people that witnessed the accident and exchange insurance information with the other driver. Even if we forget to take pictures of the car after the accident a repair estimate is completed which details the damage to our car, and since it is our car we can always take photos at a later date before the car is repaired.
We know we were injured in the car accident so we move quickly to make sure all of these things are done so we can prove our case – it’s second nature to us. BUT, what do we do if we slip and fall at the mall or work or store or on the sidewalk or at someone’s house? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, slip and fall accidents occurred over 200,000 times last year in the workplace alone! Almost 100% of pelvis and hip injuries are caused by falls. Almost 10 million people will visit emergency rooms this year for injuries due to falls. Our injuries could be very serious and impact our ability to work and earn a living, so what do we do to protect our rights?
First, we report the accident to the store owner or home owner immediately! You cannot fall at the store or an apartment building and then report it hours or days later. The insurance company will not believe you when you say you fell on their property if you do not report your accident immediately. You want them to complete an accident report that details the time and place of your fall and the condition which caused you to fall. You will want to get a copy of the accident report from the person that completed it and you also want to get their first and last name. Write it down! In fact, write everything down.
Second, you need to take photos of the condition which caused your fall. The conditions which caused you to fall will most likely not be present for much longer after you fell. Whether it was a water leak or ice formation or dangerous condition, the property owner through advice from its insurance carrier will move quickly to remove the condition. Suddenly warning signs that were not present before your fall are put up shortly after the occurrence. Damaged flooring or missing handrails are suddenly installed and water leaks are quickly repaired. Taking photographs after you have fallen is critical because it establishes proof of the injury causing condition.
Third, you need to look at the condition that caused you to fall and think in terms of how long that condition existed before you fell. This is by far the most important and the MOST difficult thing to prove. But, without it you have no case. The property owner or entity responsible for keeping the area free from tripping hazards must have been aware of the condition which caused your fall. Or at least a reasonable person in their shoes would have been aware of it and corrected it. You are not entitled to a recovery from a property owner simply because you fell on their property!
For example, items fall off the shelves at the grocery store all the time. The store should clean these spills up so shoppers don’t fall and sustain injuries. If the jar of spaghetti sauce that fell and cracked open was present on the floor for 30 seconds before you slipped in it then maybe it would be unreasonable for the store to have discovered the spill and clean it up. If that same jar of sauce fell 15 minutes before you slipped in it then someone from the store should have discovered it and cleaned it up. Take steps to figure out how long the thing that caused you to fall was there! If the ceiling is leaking water and the area of the leak is water stained then take a photo of it with your phone before the store repairs the leak and paints the stain the next day.
Fourth, make sure you seek medical attention right away and follow up with your family doctors and the specialists that the hospital or family doctor refers you to. People who do not seek immediate medical attention on the day of the accident run the risk of not being viewed as injured by the insurance company or worse, a jury. People who have large gaps of time between their emergency room visit and the next time they see a doctor are also generally not viewed by insurance companies or jurors as being injured. This seems very unfair given our busy schedules but you must seek immediate medical treatment for your injuries and follow up with the specialists you were referred to.
And lastly, seek the advice of a personal injury attorney. Our firm specializes in fall cases and there is NO CHARGE to call us to discuss your case. Your free consultation with one of our attorneys following a slip and fall accident is critical to make sure your rights are protected. Do not wait!