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There are many causes for a slip and fall accident and depending on the cause, you may have a potential personal injury claim against the property owner. However, there are several elements that must be proven in order to succeed in a slip and fall case. First, you must establish that you suffered an injury as a result of a dangerous condition on the property owner’s premises. Next, you must establish that the property owner knew about the condition prior to your fall. Finally, you must prove that the property owner had a sufficient amount of time to correct the dangerous condition.
Having the burden of proving all of those things means that your actions in the immediate aftermath of your accident will have an impact on your ability to prove your case. Even the most negligent property owner can escape liability from an accident if fault cannot be proven by an injured party. To best protect your legal rights there are five tips that you should follow after a slip and fall accident.
The most important thing that you can do following an accident is to take photos of the condition that caused your fall. A picture is worth a thousand words and the more photos the better. Make sure that you not only take some close ups, but you also take some wide angle shots to show the whole area that include landmarks that can help identify the location where you fell. For example, if you fell in a pothole in the parking lot of a store, try and get some close ups of the pothole as well as some wide angle shots that show the building and where the pothole is in relation to the building. It’s also best to take photos as close in time to the accident as possible. This way you can make sure that your evidence is secure in case the property owner fixes the dangerous condition.
Another important tip is to get the name and addresses of and witnesses. So often people will stop and help an injured victim. Once help arrives, the good Samaritan goes on their way, never to be seen or heard from again. Always ask for a name and a phone number just in case you need their help. If the person that helps you is an employee of the place where you fell, make sure to ask for their full name. You may even want to take a photo of them.
It is best to report your accident to the property owner prior to leaving. You may even be asked to complete an incident report for the property owner, especially if it is a retail business such as a grocery store or clothing store. I believe it’s best to complete the report, but to not go into detail. For example, you could give your name and contact information and say that you fell because of a pothole in the parking lot and leave it at that. You should also ask for a copy of the report. Most of the time the employee will not give you a copy. You should take a photo of the report prior to returning it to the employee. If they fill it out on their own without giving it to you, take a photo of them completing the report. This way they cannot deny that you fell on their premises and reported it to them.
If you have suffered any injury, even minor ones, you should get checked out. Make sure that it is not something serious. Also, some injuries feel relatively minor in the first few days following an accident but sometimes progress into something much more serious. The closer in time to your accident that you first receive medical attention, the harder it will be for an insurance company to deny that your injuries were a result of your accident.
Sometimes after an accident the insurance carrier of the responsible property owner will reach out to you to get a statement. You can be certain that their questions are carefully crafted to protect their interests. So, it is not a good idea to cooperate with them. Your best bet is to take their information in case you want to pursue a case in the future, but don’t give a statement. I have seen many strong cases damaged, some beyond repair because a shifty insurance adjuster asked questions in a certain way that confused the injured party into an admission that was against their interests.
If you follow these tips, you are going to make sure that your potential case doesn’t get shot in the foot right from the start and that you are protecting your financial interests should you decide to pursue a personal injury case.
Steven Palermo is the managing partner for Palermo Law, Long Island’s Personal Injury Law Firm. He has been helping people receive compensation for their injuries for over 21 years. He focuses on cases involving car accidents, truck accidents, construction accidents and slip and fall injuries.
His book The Ultimate Guide to Handling New York Car Accident Claims details the ins and outs of a car accident claim in a simple, easy-to-read manner.