Nothing can be more frustrating to an injured individual than to find out that those they assumed were responsible for their injury doesn’t owe them a thing! Unfortunately, that is the bad news we are frequently faced with delivering when a potential client has come to us for help after falling or otherwise becoming injured on someone else’s property. The first shocking piece of news is that just by virtue of being on someone else’s property when you are hurt doesn’t automatically make that property owner liable to you. You must be able to point the finger at them and say “if it weren’t for you doing this…or not doing this…I wouldn’t have been hurt.” The second eye-opener is when we explain to them just what it takes to obtain a recovery for those injuries.
Despite what most insurance companies and defense firms may think, not every citizen is walking around keeping a watchful eye for an opportunity to sue. Nor are they prepared when they are faced with a litigable situation. However, knowing what to do to protect your rights and being prepared does not make you a litigious person. Just what should you do if you find yourself as a guest on someone else’s property and are injured either by a defect or some other condition on the property?
For example, let’s say you are in a grocery store and you slip on a substance on the floor as you round the corner. Although you’re likely immediately in pain, stop to take a look at what you fell on. Is it identifiable? For example, is it obvious it is a liquid or a piece of produce? You must be able to identify what you fell on. It is hard to prove your case when you are asked that question and say “I’m not sure what I fell on, but it was something.” The law requires such an identification. The best way to prove what you fell on is photographic evidence. These days, almost everyone has a camera on them at all times, since most cellphones are equipped with them. Before you get up, take a picture! Make sure your time and date settings are updated and accurate. If someone is standing around you, ask them if they witnessed the entire incident, and if they appear helpful, see if they’ll provide you with their contact information in case of a fact dispute. Also, take a look around to see if there are any security cameras in the area that may have captured the event. Take a look at your clothes. Are they dirty from the substance? Don’t wash them, as they are now evidence.
After you have snapped a picture and provided you can get up on your own, immediately seek out an employee for assistance, preferably a member of management. Report the accident, and let them know you have photos of the substance. If they don’t offer to have you fill out an Incident Report, insist on it. Incident Reports are typically filled out by the injured customer but if the employee fills it out for you, make sure you read it to verify the facts. Additionally, insist on being provided with a photocopy for your own records.
Next, seek medical treatment if you are injured. The most common defense for insurance companies is the gap in time between injury and medical treatment. Don’t try the “wait and see if it gets better” approach when someone else is potentially liable for your injuries. Get immediate attention, and do not forget to explain to your treatment provider exactly how you were injured. Don’t just say “I fell,” give your doctor the how’s and why’s!! Lastly, and most importantly, call our office for a consultation and begin protecting your rights immediately!