In a previous blog post I discussed the dangers of slips and falls in indoor places and how to use caution to avoid them. However, what happens if you are one of the unlucky ones who are hurt in a bad fall? What should you do? It should go without saying, but if you need medical attention you should seek it immediately, without any delay.
If you fell at a store or some other place of business, you should report the incident to the management or ownership or the location where you fell after you are permitted by your doctors to travel again. This may involve completing an incident report with your version of what happened.
Keep in mind that in New Jersey, the management or ownership of the property where you fell does not have any obligation to provide you with a copy of the incident report, even if you filled it out and signed it. So, before handing in the incident report to an employee of the property where you fell, you should make a copy of the incident report for your records. This can be accomplished by taking a clear photograph of all pages of the incident report with any smart phone or electronic tablet or similar device. In filling out the report, you should clearly explain what happened. You are not under any obligation to complete an incident report, but it can sometimes be helpful later on if you decide to pursue a legal claim for any injuries you suffered as a result of the incident.
Additionally, you should take note if there are any video cameras in the area where the incident occurred. If there are, you should immediately contact a lawyer, so that he or she can request in writing that the management or ownership of the location where you fell provide you with the surveillance footage of the incident. The lawyer also should demand in the same letter that the ownership or management preserve and store all surveillance footage of the incident.
As soon as possible, you should take photographs of the exact location where you fell. Photograph the floor, the steps, the railing, any liquid on the floor, or any other condition that may have contributed to your fall. You should photograph any items that are sold or located in the area near where you fell.
If you slipped on a liquid on the floor, are any liquids sold in that area or aisle? If you fell outside the store on ice near the entryway, was water dripping from the roof or gutter? What were the weather conditions at the time of your fall? Was it rainy? Were customers and employees tracking in rainwater from outside? Was the roof leaking water onto the floor? You should carefully document all of these things. Also, be sure to document the exact date, location, and time of your fall. Keep in mind that conditions can change over time and things can disappear. Additionally, your memory of the details of the incident can fade over time.
You should try to get the names and contact information for any witnesses to your fall. Find out if there is an independent witness who can verify your version of what happened. Just because a store employee saw you fall does not mean they will verify your account of what happened. Remember that the employees, management, and ownership of the location where you fell are not on your side. They will be doing everything in their power to limit their liability to you.
You should preserve the clothing and footwear you were wearing at the time of the incident by placing it in a safe storage location. It could end up being important evidence later on if you decide to pursue a legal claim.
Do not be surprised if you are contacted in the days and weeks after your slip and fall by an insurance adjuster or an attorney who represents the owner of the property where you fell or another responsible party. Remember that these people do not work for your and are not interested in protecting your rights. They work for the opposing side, which may be the insurance company or the management of the property where you fell. Be very careful about what you say to them. You are under no obligation to speak with them.
Once you have hired an attorney, no one from the other side may contact you. This is why you should immediately contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after a slip and fall or trip and fall incident. We have the experience, knowledge, and resources to represent your interests against the large insurance companies and defense law firms.
As soon as the insurance company for the other side learns about your incident, they will immediately begin investigating it and preparing a way to defend their interests. There is no reason why you should not have someone working hard on your side at the same time to protect your rights and combat the insurance company.