After a slip and fall accident, the first actions you take can go a long way toward protecting your potential claim. Follow these tips, and you can't go wrong.
If you get hurt in a slip and fall (or trip and fall) accident, you should report the accident immediately to the premises owner or some responsible person connected with the premises. If you get hurt on commercial property, report the accident to the highest ranking person that you can find there. If you get hurt on public property, and the injury was not severe enough to require emergency responders to come to the scene, report it to the city or town that day if at all possible.
Although failure to immediately report a slip and fall injury will not legally bar you from filing a lawsuit, you should not wait, especially if your accident was unwitnessed. Insurers (and juries) question the legitimacy of an unwitnessed accident claim that was not reported at least by the next day. Even a several day delay in reporting the accident can seriously harm your claim.
In some cases, you may even want to send a notification letter.
If there were any witnesses to your accident, make sure that you get their names and contact information. Witnesses can be critical in a slip and fall case.
If you have a slip and fall accident, you may not be in a condition to gather evidence. But if you can, take pictures immediately. If you are mobile and have a camera, take as many pictures of the accident scene as you can -- from as many angles as you can -- before you leave the scene.
If you do not have a camera or are not physically able to take any pictures after your injury, have a friend or relative take pictures as soon as possible, and hopefully before anyone fixes or changes the area of the accident. This is especially important if you slipped on ice or snow. The condition of ice and snow can change within minutes. Ice can melt, or it can be cleared away. It can be difficult to impossible to win an ice and snow case without pictures showing the ice and snow as it was at the moment of your injury.
If you are hurt, go to the doctor. If it is an emergency, go or ask to be taken to a local emergency room or a walk in clinic. Don't wait. Insurance companies (and juries) often assume that, if you did not seek medical attention immediately, you weren't all that hurt.
Insurance companies do not like to pay money in cases where the injured person's initial medical records are inconsistent with your claims at trial. Juries do not like these kinds of claims either.
Here is an example. Let's say that, in your lawsuit you claim that you hurt your back when you slipped on water on a staircase. But when you went to the emergency room one hour after the accident, the emergency room records state that you told the doctor that your back has been hurting for weeks and that you haven't done anything recently to aggravate it.
This is a serious inconsistency, and a lawsuit with these facts is probably not going to get very far. So, if you had an accident, make sure to tell all of your health care providers that you had an accident.
Often, commercial property owners ask injured people to fill out and sign accident reports. There is no law that you requires you to do this. If you don't want to do this or feel too unwell to do it, don't do it. Don't feel pressured into doing it. But if you do fill out an accident report, make sure that you accurately explain how you got hurt.
After you report the injury, you may receive a telephone call or a visit from an insurance adjuster asking you to give a tape recorded statement describing the accident and your injuries. No law requires you to do this in a slip and fall case. As a general rule, giving such a statement will not help you if you do not have a lawyer. If you do not have a lawyer, you should not give a tape recorded statement to the insurer.
Do not miss medical appointments. If you have a pattern of missing medical appointments, the insurer (and the jury) will assume that your injury is not severe or that you healed as of the time that you started to miss your appointments. If you have not fully recovered from your injuries, make sure that you get to all of your medical appointments.