Many people scoff at slip and fall claims, because they think they aren’t serious injuries. They think the biggest injury after slipping and falling is to the victim’s pride, or maybe a twisted ankle. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
According to information collected by the National Floor Safety Institute, falls are the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims, the leading cause of emergency room visits in the U.S., and cause half of all accidental deaths in the home (most of which occur on ground level).
Some of the most common injuries resulting from slipping and falling include:
- Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)
- Hip fractures
- Back and spinal cord injuries
- Shoulder injuries
- Knee injuries
- Ankle injuries
Any of these could easily cause you to be unable to work until you are recovered, which could take weeks or even months, on top of intensive medical treatment, all of which adds up. That’s why it’s important to know that if you slipped and injured yourself on someone else’s property, they can be held liable for your lost wages and medical expenses.
So what do you need to do after a slip and fall accident to make sure you can get the compensation you need? Watch our Legal Break clip on this topic, or read on for more information.
First, Figure Out What Caused Your Fall
The first step, after checking yourself over for injury, is to determine what caused your fall. Was there loose carpet that slipped when you stepped on it and caused you to lose your footing? Was the floor uneven, presenting a tripping hazard? Was there water or another liquid on the floor? If so, where did it come from?
These factors are important to determine, because in order to win a slip and fall claim, you will need to prove that:
- A hazard existed
- You were injured by that hazard
- You couldn’t have recognized the hazard without being warned beforehand
- The property owner did know about the hazard, or at least should have known about it, and either didn’t get rid of it or didn’t warn anyone about it.
Let’s use a wet floor as an example. Say someone in a convenience store accidentally dropped a drink on the floor. If someone slipped on the floor moments later, the owner of the store would likely have no way of knowing the drink had been spilled, so they probably could not be held liable. However, if the drink had been spilled 20 minutes prior to the fall, they should have been aware of the hazard by that point, so failing to clean it up would have been negligent.
And what if they mopped up the spill, but didn’t put up a wet floor sign? In this situation, they definitely knew about the hazard (the wet floor caused by mopping) but didn’t warn people, so they could be held liable if someone slipped on the wet floor. However, if they did put up a wet floor sign, it will be much harder to win a claim.
Can You Ever Get Compensation If a Warning Was Put Up?
If you tripped on an uneven floor or slipped on a wet floor, and a sign was posted warning you about the hazard, it will be much harder to successfully file a claim. However, it is still possible if the sign wasn’t clearly visible, prominently displayed, and easy to read.
Next, Take Pictures of the Scene
Taking pictures of where you fell will provide proof of the hazard and the lack of warning signs. Take as many pictures as you can, and from as many different angles as you can, to capture the scene accurately and comprehensively.
You should also take pictures of your injuries, if they are visible (such as bruising, swelling, or lacerations).
Then, Report the Accident
Report the accident to an authority. If the owner is on the premises, tell them what happened. If they are not, speak to the manager. They will likely ask you to fill out an incident report form that should include:
- Time, date, and location of your accident
- Circumstances of the accident (what happened and what you were doing when you fell)
- Conditions at the scene of the accident (if the floor was wet, for example)
- Your name and contact information
- Name and contact information of the owner/manager on duty, and of any witnesses or employees on the scene
If you were injured on public property such as in a park, report it to the city or governmental agency responsible for maintaining the park as soon as possible.
Ask for a copy of the report for your own records.
Although skipping this step doesn’t mean you can’t file a claim, it will make it much harder to win one. Insurers will be much more suspicious of injury claims where no incident report was filed, or for injuries where a report was filed the next day or even several days later, when evidence of the hazard may no longer exist (such as in the case of slips and falls from wet floors).
Get Medical Treatment
Absolutely seek medical treatment after your injury. This establishes when your injury occurred, what your injuries are and their overall severity, and helps prevents them from becoming worse. Remember to tell your doctor how you received your injuries when seeking treatment.
Finally, Speak to a Lawyer
Because it can often be difficult to prove that property owners knew or should have known about a dangerous hazard on their property, it’s always a good idea to get an experienced slip and fall lawyer on your side.