It happens quickly. One moment you are walking down the aisle in the grocery store, reaching for a box of breakfast cereal, the next you are flat on your back in excruciating pain. You never even noticed the slippery pool of dishwashing liquid on the floor — and apparently, no working in the store bothered to clean it up or put out a floor sign — and as a result, you are seriously injured.
Every year, thousands of people are injured in slip-and-fall accidents, leading to millions of dollars in medical costs. Studies indicate that more than half of all falls are a result of “slip-or-trip” incidents. A large number of those accidents are preventable and due to negligence by a property owner. Something as simple as failing to properly clean up a spill or indicate a hazard can cause a serious injury.
It is not always easy to prove negligence in a slip-and-fall case. There are a number of factors that must be taken into consideration when determining fault. That is why it is important to take four important steps immediately if you have an accident.
Step One: Document the Scene
If your case goes to court, you will need to prove the dangerous conditions that caused you to fall. Do not leave the scene of the accident without trying to document and photograph the area. That means using your cell phone to take photographs of the entire scene, particularly the dangerous condition that caused you to slip/trip and fall. If you do not have a camera, make a sketch of the area and write down a detailed description immediately after you leave the premises. In addition, get the full names and contact information of any witnesses who saw you fall. This information will be important for your attorney when he or she constructs your case.
Step Two: Get Medical Treatment
In some cases, medical treatment is not optional, and you need to see a doctor immediately for evaluation and treatment. In other cases, your injuries may not be immediately apparent. You may feel fine or have nothing more than a bump or bruise. It remains important to have a thorough medical evaluation. Some serious injuries take time to appear; if you wait too long, it will be more difficult to attribute them to the fall.
Step Three: Make a Report
Notify the store manager or property owner of your accident before leaving the premises. The store may have a procedure for making an “incident report.” If the premises manager or owner agrees to immediately provide you with a copy of the report — in most instance they will not – only provide basic details of the accident and the hazard that caused your fall. Never give a written statement or account until you have an opportunity to consult with an attorney to know your legal rights.
Step Four: Contact an Experienced Attorney
Even if you only sustain minor injuries, contact an attorney immediately to ensure you receive appropriate compensation and begin the investigation of your case, as eye witnesses often disappear and dangerous accident scenes tend to change. The law limits the amount of time in which you can file suit. Without appropriate representation, you could make mistakes that will reduce the amount of money you receive — or keep you from receiving any at all. An attorney will advise you on your rights and responsibilities, conduct a thorough investigation, walk you through the process of insurance claims and, if necessary, take the case to court to ensure you get adequate compensation for your injuries.
A slip and fall can turn an ordinary shopping trip into a painful and expensive experience. Taking the right steps immediately after falling, though, will ease some of the challenges associated with proving the store was at fault — and moving on with your life.