Although it’s sometimes impossible to actually plan ahead for what you’ll do in the moments after a slip and fall, it might be useful information to have. Slip and falls, like other accidents, can range in the severity of the injuries resulting from the incident. As a general rule, the first step that you should take in any type of incident or accident is to assess the injuries and ensure that anyone who needs immediate help, gets it.
Slip and Falls can look like a number of things. In fact, although they’re labeled “slip and falls,” that title usually encompasses a large range of personal injury accidents, many of which don’t even arise from a physical slipping, which seems counter-intuitive to the name.
Whether you were the one who experienced the slip and fall, or you were with someone when it happened to them, here are several ways that you can protect yourself if you end up opening a personal injury case in the future because of the incident.
As stated, the first and most important step with any accident or incident is to check on injuries. Injuries can range from ones that need immediate help, to others that aren’t quite so pressing. Whether you find yourself sitting on the floor of the business you fell in, calling out for help, or you exit the building without really allowing yourself time to check your injuries, this applies to you.
Sometimes, embarrassment and adrenaline take over and we leave or cover up our injuries, rather than address the immediate issue. This might be something you’re tempted to do but try not to. First, it’s important not to worsen any injury you have by trying to walk on it. Second, by alerting the store or business to your incident, you can make sure this doesn’t happen to other people.
Whether you’re by yourself or with someone else, it’s usually a good idea to get the help of a manager or employee at the business. Usually (not always), these people have been trained in how to handle accidents like a fall, and they likely won’t move or touch you unless it’s obvious you’re in immediate danger if you stay where you are. They’ll likely call 911 and request EMS assistance so professionals can help you.
If you are still coherent enough, or if you’re with someone who can step in and get help on your behalf, it’s always wise to get as much information up front as possible. Businesses, while helpful in the moment, usually become notoriously unhelpful after you’ve left. They are more difficult to deal with pre-litigation than any other defendants. This usually means that they refuse to turn over any documents, cooperate with any statements, or supply any information at all. So, the more information you can get when the incident arises, the more prepared you’ll be in the long run.
Information that will be helpful includes: the manager’s name and title, whether they took any video footage or photographs (although they may not hand those things over, they should be able to tell you if they have them), a copy of the incident report, and the information and names of anybody who was a responding witness. You’ll also want to make a note of whether or not your clothes are wet, and where. If possible, take photos of the wetness around you and the wet spots on the clothes. This might not seem important, but it can make the difference in a case!
You may be wondering why this is important. In order to win a slip and fall case in Texas, you need to prove that the dangerous condition that made you fall was either known by the store or should have been known by the store. As you can imagine, that’s sometimes really difficult to prove. If there was just a water spill on the floor, you may not win in a battle of negligence. However, if the water spill came from a leak in the ceiling, or a leak from a nearby machine that’s leaking, you have a better shot.
When it comes to proving negligence, the factor of knowledge is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. In order to help yourself and your case in the long-run, document as much as you can immediately.
Given the fact that your injuries will range depending on how severe things are, you may or may not need treatment immediately. If the manager called 911 and they sent EMS, you’ll be treated at the scene, likely before you even get up or move. They’ll give you an option of whether or not you want to be transported to a nearby hospital for further treatment.
When you’re at the hospital, it’s important to be as honest as you can about the facts that assisted in your fall. You may not even know everything that contributed to the fall, but the hospital notes will document whatever you report, and this may play a factor in your case later.
Depending on what type of injury you sustained, you might be advised to pursue additional treatment after your day-of visit. Additional treatment can range from anything like chiropractor treatment to surgery. The best piece of advice we can give is to follow your doctor’s recommendations. Keep in mind that your lawyer is not a doctor (or, if they are a medical doctor, they’re likely not your medical doctor), and you should follow the advice your medical doctor gives.
If you want to pursue a personal injury case for your slip and fall, you’ll find that many PI firms in town will offer a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case, and whether or not you have a case. They will ask you about what happened, and they’ll try to figure out if it’s a situation wherein the manager or business should have known about the dangerous condition. If they sign your case up, they will likely take your case on a contingency basis, which means you won’t pay for fees unless there’s a settlement.
Given the nature of slip and fall cases and how difficult it is to prove negligence, it may be best to continue treating under your health insurance, rather than a letter of protection (which allows you to treat under the case with your attorney.) This saves you from owing thousands of medical bills at the end of your case if, for some reason, negligence wasn't found and your attorney has to drop your case.
You’ll want to involve an attorney as soon as possible, because they’ll send a letter to the store and insurance company demanding that they preserve any and all evidence. Unless this letter is sent, the store may erase video footage or photographs after a certain time period has lapsed.
Whether you believe you have a personal injury case from a slip and fall or not, you can take these steps to protect your rights in case you want to pursue damages within the two-year statute of limitations. Contact Mckinney Vos to learn more.