Steps to Take After a Slip and FallJune 10, 2014
The normal reaction for a person who has slipped or tripped on something is to get up quickly and move on so as to minimize attention and embarrassment. But once you’ve left the area and realize that you are hurt, it may be too late to gather important evidence to support a claim for negligence.
If you realize you’re injured, besides immediately contacting an experienced lawyer, you or somebody on your behalf should return to the scene of the fall as quickly as possible to record everything. Most people carry smart phones and can easily take pictures or video of the reason for a fall, whether it’s a big patch of ice, a huge gap between sidewalk tiles or a poorly marked hazard. One person I know who slipped in a supermarket had the bright idea of grabbing a disposable camera from the front of the store and taking pictures of the spill that injured her before it was cleaned up.
You can just as easily grab a tape measure, or use a ruler app on your phone, to measure the size of a floor spill or the height difference between two sidewalk tiles and then record it.
It is also important to get one or more passersby to stop. Get names and phone numbers so that these people can confirm when you fell, where you fell, and the reason for it. While our firm has access to investigators to try and track down witnesses and other evidence, they can only do so much.
There are other tricks of the trade I have learned over my many years of practice, such as getting video from nearby traffic cameras, obtaining satellite images of a construction zone in flux, or searching the web for photos or videos taken of the area, or comments about the area, in the period before a fall. Recently, I was pleasantly surprised to find an old video on YouTube for an ongoing case I have which shows cars repeatedly dropping down a few inches at the very intersection where my client fell due to a significant height differential in the pavement.
Unfortunately, evidence disappears quickly – ice melts, the store clerk mops up the spill, or the City’s maintenance crew swoops in and fixes that broken sidewalk. The parties responsible for a fall can even go so far as to cover up their sloppiness, particularly once you or your lawyers have notified them about a possible lawsuit.
One of my clients fell on some oddly shaped stairs in a dimly lit steakhouse and I immediately sent somebody to surreptitiously take pictures, since I knew from experience the steakhouse was going to cover up the danger somehow. And sure enough, after our pictures were taken, the steakhouse not only improved the overhead lighting, but they installed a strip of small lights along the side of the stairs and then claimed they had been there all along. But we beat them to the punch and my client obtained a good settlement for her badly broken leg.
Don’t assume that there is a security camera nearby that captured anything. Most businesses erase the tapes quite quickly anyway.
As a wise law school professor once told me, “it’s not about the truth, but about proof”. When I get a call from somebody who fell because of others’ negligence, I always ask: Did you get pictures? Are there any witnesses? Did you notice any security cameras nearby? And I go to work trying to piece together supporting evidence right away.
No insurance company is going to pay you a dime because you claim to have fallen on somebody’s property last week without any real proof of it. You could have just as easily fallen in your home, and then made up a story. Gathering the right kind of evidence right after you fall, or as soon as possible thereafter, is essential. And hiring the right lawyer to assist you in building and advancing your case is also a must.
For more information, visit our slip and fall lawyer section. If you have any questions, book a free consultation or call 1-855-446-7765 for immediate assistance.
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