When you are injured in a slip and fall accident on someone else's property, and it's pretty clear that a dangerous or defective condition led to the incident, there's a good chance you'll end up making some kind of claim for your injuries.
Whether you decide to file an insurance claim filed with the property owner's carrier, or you choose to take the matter straight to court by way of a personal injury lawsuit, your ultimate success will depend in large part on the steps you take immediately following the accident. So let's explore your best course of action after any kind of slip and fall.
Write Down Everything That Happened
The first thing you need to do -- once you have received all necessary immediate medical attention for your injuries, of course -- is document as many of the facts of your accident as possible. This includes writing down/noting:
- the date, time and location of your fall
- the weather and lighting conditions in the area of your fall
- what you were doing and where you were looking when you fell
- the nature of the defective or dangerous property condition that caused you to fall (a spill on the floor, a broken banister, accumulated ice, etc.)
- the presence or absence of any signage warning of the condition
- a description of your footwear
- a description of your injuries sustained in the fall
- names and contact information of the property owner, employee(s), or anyone else who talked to you after the incident (and a summary of anything they said to you), and
- names and contact information for all known witnesses to your fall.
Take Pictures of Everything Related to the Accident
In some situations, the cause of your fall may be remedied before you have a chance to take a picture of it. For example, if you fall on a spilled drink in a restaurant, chances are it will be cleaned up before you get around to photographing it. However, if the cause of your fall is an uneven sidewalk in front of a store, it is likely that this condition will remain in place for some time. Whatever the circumstances of your accident, do whatever you can to take pictures of the area where it happened.
Pictures are important because often the cause of a fall is in dispute, and the property owner will deny the existence of a dangerous or defective condition. As we all know, "a picture is worth a thousand words."
Give Notice to the Property Owner
Providing written notice of your slip and fall -- and a brief description of your injuries -- to the property owner serves several purposes. It:
- prevents the property owner from later claiming he or she had no knowledge of the incident
- triggers the property owner's duty to take corrective action that will create a safer environment for others who come on the property, and
- provides evidence that your claim is a legitimate one, since most jurors will expect that a person injured on someone else's property would let the property owner know right away.
Once you provide this notice, it's a safe bet that the property owner will let his or her insurance carrier know about what happened, so be prepared to hear from their insurer (and watch what you say when they do contact you). Learn more about Homeowners' Insurance and a Slip and Fall Claim.
Follow Up With Your Medical Care
Besides getting proper medical attention immediately after the slip and fall (at an emergency room, for example), be sure you follow up with your own doctor, see any specialists your doctor recommends, and keep all appointments.
Explain to each health care provider exactly how your injuries were sustained so that they can document this in their records, and can provide valuable testimony on your behalf later on as to the cause, severity and prognosis for your injuries.
Talk to a Lawyer
If you've suffered injuries in a slip and fall, even if you don't think you were hurt all that badly, it usually makes sense to discuss your situation with an experienced personal injury attorney. Since the initial consultation is almost always free, talking to an attorney after a slip and fall is a great way to make sure your legal rights are protected and all your options are on the table. Learn more: What Should I Ask a Slip and Fall Attorney at My Free Consultation?