Slip and falls can be very costly, and if the fall was caused by a business, a lawsuit may be the only way you can recover medical expenses, lost wages, or money to compensate you for pain and suffering -- or future medical treatments and future lost wages. There are a few easy steps. Below are 10 essential steps for winning your case in the aftermath of a slip and fall injury.1. Understand What You Need to Prove
- Determining whether the property owner is at fault for your slip and fall is decided by courts and juries on a case-by-case basis. Each case is different.
- Generally, a court will look at whether the property owner acted carefully to make his property reasonably safe to prevent or reduce slip and falls.
- A jury could decide whether you were at fault for falling by not seeing the dangerous condition on the land or if you did see it and chose to step upon it, thus taking the risk of falling.
- Notice of the danger is also important and a jury will decide whether the “dangerous condition” existed for a sufficient length of time for the property owner to fix it (spills in grocery store aisles are an example).
- If you fall at a business, you must prove that the owner of the property of the business was "negligent" which means the business caused the unsafe condition or did nothing about it despite knowledge of the condition or should have reasonably known and still did nothing to correct it.
- A landowner owes different standards of being careful depending upon whether the person on the land was invited or a trespasser. (A formal invitation is not necessary --customers of businesses are considered "'invited.")
- Try to determine who owns the land because that will help determine the duty the business owed to you. If you don't know who owned the property, we here at Shaw Law Office can help you.
- If you slipped or fell at a house of an acquaintance or a non-business like a school or hospital, the owner can still be held liable if the above criteria are met.
- Nursing homes, assisted living facilities and apartment complex owners or landlords are held to the same highest standard of being careful as retail stores or other businesses.
- If you believe that the owner of the premises where you fell was at fault or helped cause your injury, write down what happened right after the injury while it's still fresh in your mind.
- This information should include any visible defects in the surface where you fell, what you fell upon and whether you heard oral warnings or saw warning signs.
- Common visible defects important to note include: (a) snowy and ice accumulations and the approximate size or depth of the area in which you fell; (b) Leaky gutters contributing to ice puddles or downspouts; (c) Poor Lighting; (d) Changes in levels of sidewalks, unmarked stairs or defects such as large cracks; (e) Wet or slippery substances on floors.
- It's a favorite topic of slip and fall defense lawyers everywhere -- "what type of shoes were you wearing?" The idea is that generally you will be blamed for wearing inappropriate shoes such as clogs or flip-flops depending upon the weather.
- If you have the shoes, keep them.
- Do not wear them until after you have settled your case if possible.
After you fall, fill out an incident report or insist the business provide an incident report, if you are physically able to do so.
- Notify a manager and insist upon an incident report to be provided. It's important to document what happened.
- Write down the names of the employees or manager you are talking with.
- Find "witnesses" or people who saw you fall and get their names and addresses or telephone numbers. Ask for help; don't be afraid. Ask family members to seek out witnesses if they were present with you during your fall. Typically, witnesses have no bias and can help immensely.
- Write down any acknowledgements of the dangerous condition like substances or liquids or other problems on the floor or land. Write down if the problem was old or new.
- Write down any apologies, while such admissions cannot always be used at a jury trial, we can always refer to these statements during settlement negotiations.
Immediately after: Slip and fall victims are often rattled by what has occurred, and tend to not realize what they or those around them are saying or doing, but maintaining focus after a slip and fall can be the difference between a win and a loss in court.
- At the scene, you should keep talk to a minimum; feel free to be gracious and accept offers of help.
- Refrain from talking about how the fall happened, laying blame or making immediate demands.
In the weeks after: You may be approached by insurance adjusters and attorneys from the property owner or responsible party.
- Do not talk to any insurance representatives or give a statement in the days or weeks after the fall; it's designed to be used against you later.
- Many people think they can "explain" or "win" their slip and fall case themselves. It can't be done. Don't try it.
- Call Shaw Law Office immediately and we will schedule your statement or deposition later.
Inspect the area where you fell as soon as you can after the fall. Slip and fall cases always seem to have differing viewpoints by participants as to the condition of the land. Photos can be the difference between a win and a loss in court.
- At the scene, photograph where you fell, if you can.
- If it is the possible, have a family member or friend photograph the condition of the land if you are in the hospital.
- Dangerous conditions like snow or ice or holes or cracks in pavement can get fixed quickly. Do what you can.
Even if your injuries aren't severe, you should still see a doctor. Even pre-existing injuries are compensable in Indiana for the aggravation of that condition. Don't assume just because you had a problem in your past with an injury or condition, that you are prevented from recovering.
- Most slip and fall injuries are not immediately visible, but your doctor will know what to look for.
- Your doctor visit will also create useful medical documentation.
- Keep records of any follow-up appointments or treatments, including physical rehabilitation.
- Medical documentation provides a link of causation between the accident and your injury. You must prove that the injuries resulted from the fall.
Most people are visual when retaining information. Help your jurors understand the true nature of your injuries and the pain and suffering you experienced. Use your cellphone.
- Photograph your injuries. Many slip and falls result in bruising or other indicators of injury.
- Photograph any surgical incisions or other invasive treatments. Don't be shy. Cover up your face, if necessary. Photos help your injury case.
Hire experienced slip and fall lawyers. Unfortunately, statistics show that most slip and fall jury trials are lost by injured victims..
Listen to Your Lawyer. We get paid when you get paid. We are on the same side. We have the experience to know what is the best strategy in every case.
- Help Your Lawyer. Keep in good communication. If you have a cell phone and an email, provide those to us and check for texts and emails. We can communicate electronically.
- Be honest with your attorney. Even if there are facts in your case that are not favorable to you, you must tell your attorney. Lying to your attorney will only hurt you and your case.
- Act professionally at all times. Yelling, cursing or being rude during statements, depositions or court conferences can adversely affect your case.