Reporting the Accident
As soon as you are physically able, report the slip and fall accident to the person who is in charge of the premises. If you are at an apartment complex, the landlord or the manager who is available should be the person to receive the report. If you are on retail property, the store manager would be the appropriate party. This person should take a written report of your slip and fall. If you are unable to get to them or they to you because you are being treated for medical conditions, then take a phone number so that they can receive that report as soon as possible. The timing of this is very important; the sooner that the incident is reported, the better that your story will hold in court. Even if the case does not go to court, the fact that you reported the accident immediately will bring a higher settlement from the insurance company that is responsible for paying claims such as yours. If you are on the scene when the report is made, do not leave until you obtain a copy of it.
Take special care how you speak to homeowners if you slip and fall in their personal space. You should still tell them that you fell, but since they are not professionals in this capacity, you should be sure to limit your emotional involvement. If you argue with the person, it will only complicate things during the legal process and lessen the possibility of a fair settlement.
When you are reporting the incident to a homeowner or a business manager, keep your statement short and stick to the facts. You should not give extensive statements on anything until you have spoken to an attorney. If you do, the homeowner or business manager may be able to put the statements into their police reports and use them against you in court.
Make sure that you call the police in order to file a report. Tell them your physical condition and what happened. Depending on the seriousness of your injuries, they may or may not send an officer to the scene. However, they can and should always take a report of the slip and fall accident. Make sure that you get this police report as soon as possible. If the landlord or homeowner files a similar report with police, make sure that you have that in your possession, as well. You may have to use the legal discovery process; however, do not be afraid. This information will be invaluable to your insurance agent and to your attorney in your case.
Other Actions on the Scene
One of the most important things that you can do immediately after a slip and fall accident is to take pictures of the surrounding environment. If you can, photograph the exact location in which you slipped. If there are any other conditions that may have caused you to fall, make sure you include those pictures.
Taking pictures as soon as possible is incredibly important; once you report the accident to the homeowner or the landlord or the store manager, they can quickly fix the problem to make it look as though the accident was your fault. Getting the picture of the actual situation that caused the slip and fall will help your case immensely. Even if it does not go to court, the opposing insurance company that is responsible for paying will likely raise the settlement because of evidence that you were able to obtain.
It is also a good move to try to get pictures and reports time stamped. If you can prove that pictures and reports were taken at the time of the accident, then you will have a much stronger case in court or leverage for more settlement money. Having a notary public sign off on the timing of your photos and your reports is one of the best ways to prove to a court that you were able to obtain this evidence immediately following the accident.
If you slip and fall outside, make sure that you report the condition of the weather in your written reports. Depending on the way that the judge or the jury interprets the situation, the business may or may not be responsible for duty to you in bad weather as well. However, you will never know either way if the details are left out. Your attorney will also be able to better provide you with a winning case if he or she is in possession of all of the relevant details.
You should attempt to retain any witnesses that observed the slip and fall. You should not run after any witnesses who do not want to stay on the scene, but do your best to get the name and the contact information of anyone who saw the incident. If the witness has the time to do so, have them write out a report of the incident and give you a copy. If police arrive on the scene in time to interview the witnesses, they can take down a witness report. Be sure to get all reports that police take on the scene for your attorney and your insurance agent.
In order to prove that you were not at fault in the incident, you will need to set aside the clothing that you were wearing at the time of the incident. Keep the shoes that you are wearing ,as well as the clothes that you had on in a safe storage place. Do not wear the shoes or the clothes again; they are now evidence in a case and should not be touched.
Contacting an Attorney
After you go to the doctor and file all of your reports with police, the next step in protecting yourself in a slip and fall accident is to contact an attorney. Depending on the severity of your fall and the type of evidence that you have, the insurance company for the business in which you fell may contact you quickly trying to settle the case out of court. Do not talk to them until you have retained an attorney on your behalf. If you do, the settlement is likely to be much lower than it should be. You are also relieving them of all future responsibility for the incident. This is a huge mistake, because you may have ongoing medical bills from injuries that you sustain from the accident.
Under no circumstances should you sign any papers from an insurance company having to do with the incident. The opposing insurance company can use even the most innocuous agreement or document against you in court. The only conversation that you are required to have with them is a factual conversation in order to give them details about you required by law, such as your name, address and phone number. If you talk to an insurance company in order to give this information to them, be sure that you are calm and collected. Do not put any emotional energy into the conversation, and do not discuss the case beyond legally required factual exchanges.
There are many expenses that are given up if you settle with an insurance company without an attorney. Your rights to pain and suffering, medical bills and any wages that you may have lost from missed days at work may be completely lost if you sign any papers with insurance companies. Most of the time, if an insurance company offers to pay for your medical treatment, they are only talking about the initial treatment. If you have ongoing expenses, the contract they want you to sign will undoubtedly relieve them of paying these expenses.
No matter how minor the incident may be, you may be able to receive restitution for a slip and fall accident. Do not skip any of the steps above, and definitely do not attempt to contact an insurance company without an attorney that you trust.
Do not attempt to take on the legal process by yourself. Opposing insurance companies have teams of lawyers who do this every day for a living. Unless your name is Evil Knievel, it is likely that you do not have a great deal of experience with personal injuries. You are dealing with people who do this every day. These people know the law, and they know how to keep from paying individuals who do not have the time to understand the nuances of the legal system.
Make sure you choose an attorney with plenty of experience in personal injuries. Do not talk to insurance companies until you have talked to a lawyer. Be sure to take notes and have those reports time stamped by a notary public so that you will have documented evidence that will hold up in court. Although this article contains many tips that have been proven to work in slip and fall cases, you should always consult your attorney before committing yourself to any course of action in the legal process.