What to Do After a Slip-and-Fall Accident
Many view slip-and-fall accidents as embarrassing incidents from which they hope to dust off and scurry away with as few witnesses as possible. But this is not the best way to handle a fall, particularly if it resulted in injuries. Bear in mind: Not all injuries are immediate. At Gerson & Schwartz, P.A., our Miami slip-and-fall accident lawyers urge all slip-and-fall accident victims to do at least two things:
- Seek medical attention, the sooner the better
- Call an experienced injury attorney
Understand that chances are, it was not clumsiness that caused your fall. You had a legal right to assume when you entered that property that it would be reasonably safe for you to pass. Yes, you need to be mindful of where you step and make sure you aren’t putting yourself in obvious danger. However, that doesn’t absolve the property owner from the responsibility to make sure the site was safe for patrons. Business property owners owe the highest duty of care customers invited on site to shop (i.e., for the benefit of the business). Shoppers are classified under Florida law as, “business invitees.” That means, as noted in a 2012 Florida 5th DCA opinion, Dampier v. Morgan Tire & Auto, property owners have two main duties:
- Use reasonable care in maintaining the site in reasonably safe condition
- Warn about any concealed or latent dangers that are or should be known to property owner and which were unknown to the invitee and could not be discovered through the exercise of due care
Slip-and-fall injuries can occur almost anywhere a property owner fails to regularly check the site and promptly address problems.
It’s important for those who encounter hazardous conditions to understand why the business might be liable. It’s also important to preserve evidence that will help prove it, and maximize your chances of obtaining fair recovery for your losses.
Of course, our Miami injury attorneys recognize these cases are going to vary on the circumstances, but in general, here are some guidelines you want to follow:
- Seek medical care. We cannot stress enough the importance of this. First and foremost, this is about your health and well-being. This should be the top priority. In some cases, you may not have a choice because your injuries will be so severe, you may be unconscious – or worse – and emergency responders will make the call for you. However, if you are in a situation where you are not sure whether medical treatment is appropriate, err on the side of seeking it. Even if you do not want to call for emergency help, get yourself as soon as possible to a physician or urgent care center. The other benefit to this action is it helps to document your injuries. When you do not seek medical treatment right away, it could undercut your claim later as far as the severity of your injuries. Medical records are an important piece of the puzzle in these cases. Without the benefit of these records documenting your personal injuries soon after the slip-and-fall, defense lawyers could assert there was an intervening cause of your injuries. It is important too to follow through on medical treatment. Failing to do so may also hurt your claim for damages.
- Report the accident. This assumes, of course, you are in a position to do so. Even if you are whisked off for emergency care, make sure later to contact the store and file a report. If you fall at a friend’s apartment complex, make sure you contact the landlord and/or property manager. You want to get those important details of the incident in writing. Request a copy of that report before you leave. Remember at no point should you try to downplay the property owner’s responsibility to be nice, nor should you admit fault. Simply state the facts as they occurred to the best of your recollection.
- Document everything. If you are in a position to do so, get names, addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of anyone who saw what happened. Their statements could prove vital down the road if you later decide to pursue a claim. If you or a friend/ family member have a phone, take photos of the site, particularly the exact location of the fall. Pay close attention to wet or slippery spots, tripping hazards and whatever may have caused those hazards to exist. If and when you are able, put the shoes and clothing you wore in the accident in a safe place – without washing – as those items could become important pieces of evidence for later.
- Avoid giving a statement. This includes to the insurance companies, as well as to social media or the traditional media. The risk here is that you may say something that could trip up your case. In fact, it’s wise to limit your activity on social media period until you talk to a lawyer. There have been many cases across the country in recent years wherein plaintiffs in injury lawsuits claiming emotional distress had their claims successfully refuted by something as simple as happy emojis or smiling photographs (See Romano v. Steelcase, Inc., New York Supreme Court, Suffolk County). Of course, we all know we put our best selves forward online, and a single smiling picture doesn’t truly mean we aren’t suffering. However, that won’t stop the defense from trying to assert that.
- Contact an attorney. Specifically, contact the right attorney. You need an attorney who has a track record of proven results in premises liability claims, and slip-and-fall injury cases in particular. Our slip-and-fall accident attorneys advising Miami know these cases are often more complex than they might seem at first blush. By contacting an experienced lawyer (our firm has nearly five decades to compare), you can be confident that your rights will be guarded and your best interests protected.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a slip-and-fall accident, please contact the Miami Injury Attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A., for a free consultation by calling 305-371-6000 or using our online contact form.