What To Do After a Slip and Fall
You’re pushing your cart through the grocery store or cruising through the aisles at the hardware store when suddenly, you’re on the floor. And if you’re like most people, you’re probably stunned, confused, and in a lot of pain.
Between your injuries, emotions, and the battle with the store’s insurance company, it can be hard to know what to do after a slip and fall. But taking the right steps now will make all the difference in the outcome of your case.
As a personal injury lawyer, I handle a large number of premises liability cases each year. Each client has a different set of circumstances, but there are some pieces of advice that are universal.
1. DO Review the Scene
As much as possible, try to identify the cause of the accident before you leave the store.
Was the floor wet or covered in debris? Were there any visible notices warning you of hazards? Were proper guardrails or slip-resistant surfaces in place that could have prevented your accident?
Take note of the scene now, while things are still fresh in your memory, especially if you don’t see any security cameras. Get it in writing and keep it in a safe place.
2. DO Take Pictures
While you’re reviewing the scene, take a few pictures with your smart phone.
Document any obvious hazards that contributed to your accident, such as loose rugs or carpeting, wet surfaces, or objects sitting within a walkway.If you have visible injuries (such as bruises or broken bones), take pictures of those as well.
Next, make sure your photos are saved in a second location (other than your phone) as soon as possible. Back them up onto your laptop hard drive, save them to the cloud, or even text them to someone else.
3. DON’T Admit Responsibility
What you say and do following a slip and fall can be crucial to the outcome of your case.
Avoid saying anything to undercut your injuries or the store’s responsibility to keep its customers safe. Even a seemingly harmless phrase like, “I wasn’t paying attention…” can be used against you during your slip and fall case.
If the store employees and/or manager ask what happened, stick to the facts. Simply saying, “I was walking down this aisle and slipped on this puddle of pickle juice” is detailed enough.
4. DO Identify Witnesses
Eyewitnesses can be your best tool in your premises liability case.
Ask bystanders whether they saw what happened and if they would be willing to testify to what they saw. Gather contact information and tell them that your attorney will be following up with them.
Fellow customers tend to be your best bet here, as store employees might feel obligated to defend their employer or their own actions.
5. DON’T Say You’re “Fine”
Just like car accident injuries, slip and fall injuries don’t always surface immediately. Just because you don’t need to visit the ER doesn’t mean that you are completely okay. You may have soft tissue damage that takes a few days or weeks to manifest itself in physical symptoms.
Choose your words carefully when talking to store employees following your slip and fall. Never say that you’re “fine” or “okay,” even if you don’t feel pain. Instead, say, “I don’t need emergency medical treatment right now” or “I’ll follow up with my doctor ASAP.”
6. DO File a Report
It is very likely that the store or restaurant you injured yourself in will ask you to file a formal report. If you are not asked to fill out a form or file a report, ask to do so.
Be as detailed as possible when filling out the form and ask for a copy for your own records. In the (unlikely) event the store tries to alter the report to benefit them, you’ll have the original evidence.
7. DO Seek Medical Attention
There’s a very good reason we advise our clients NOT to say that they are “fine” after a slip and fall: you don’t always know for sure!
No one is surprised when they feel sore after a strenuous workout, but they are frequently surprised to feel pain and discomfort days after a fall. But this is completely normal.
Whether you are experiencing pain or not, always seek medical treatment as soon as possible following a slip and fall! A licensed medical professional should be able to identify any injuries, regardless of whether you’re feeling pain.
Additionally, a medical record will act as a “bookmark” of your incident, which will help your attorney document the details of your injury.
8. DO Keep an Organized File
It’s one thing to know what to do after a slip and fall; it’s another to know where to put all that paperwork!
Keep the written report, medical bills, any notes you’ve taken, and other relevant information in a secure location. Both you and your lawyer will need frequent access to this information.
9. DON’T Give A Recorded Statement to the Insurance Company
If the business’s insurance company contacts you for a statement, politely explain that you have already filed a written report of the incident with the store and advise them to speak to your personal injury attorney.
Despite what they may tell you, you are not legally obligated to talk to them. In fact, speaking to them can be detrimental to your case, as some insurance companies will try to get you to admit responsibility for your injuries.
10. DON’T Sign a Release
It’s hard to resist an offer for a lump sum settlement. For many people, it’s the most money they will ever receive at one time. But this money usually has strings attached.
In most cases, the insurance company will offer the settlement check in exchange for your signature on a Release of Claims form. Signing this document essentially waives your right to seek further compensation for your injuries.
Which means, if your injuries worsen or treatment exceeds your settlement amount, you will have to pay those medical bills yourself.
Never sign a release form without speaking to a personal injury attorney. An experienced personal injury attorney has handled enough cases to tell whether your settlement offer is a fair compensation for your injuries.
11. DO Know Your Rights
From your perspective, your slip and fall case may seem cut-and-dry, but the insurance company isn’t going to give up all that money without a fight.
Their business model—like that of any company—is to keep as much of their revenue as possible. That’s not to say that they will resort to shady tactics to deny your claim. Just that their main focus will be protecting their interests, not yours.
12. DON’T Try to Settle It Yourself
“A fall isn’t a serious accident…I don’t need a lawyer for this.”
Going up against a business and/or insurance company on your own is a lot like performing your own surgery: not only are you too emotionally invested to do a good job, you lack the education and experience required to do it.
The store, restaurant, or office whose negligence caused your injury has an insurance company and Legal Department protecting their rights. Hiring a personal injury attorney is the best way to protect yours.
At Sunshine State Law Firm, we only represent victims…never corporations. Schedule a consultation with one of our trustworthy personal injury attorneys and ensure that your rights are protected.