Q&A: What Should I Do if I Slip and Fall Over Debris Left Out on Private Property and Broke My Wrist?

An image of a work boot about to slip on a banana peel.

Slip and fall cases are common, especially during the winter months in the New York Hudson Valley area. From the moment an incident happens – that is the time to do some simple things to ensure that your injuries, the site of the accident, and witness information are well documented. In addition, it needs to be reported properly. It is unfortunate that much of this should be done almost immediately after sustaining an injury, but in order to set a strong foundation for a successful case, it is in your best interest to follow the five steps below. As personal injury lawyers, we want to make sure your case is not compromised by things that you fail to do before you even contact an attorney.

Let’s start by giving you some overview information on slip and fall cases.

These types of cases are categorized as premises liability cases. To the general public these are called fall-down cases or trip-and-fall cases. You, the injured party, will be the claimant or plaintiff. The property owner or the party in control of the premises will be the insured or defendant. To prevail on a premises liability claim, the injured party must demonstrate that the property owner (or the party in control) failed to maintain the subject property in a reasonably safe condition. What is reasonably safe? This is a question for the jury to answer (if the case doesn’t settle).

Prior to trial, the injured party must also satisfy a prerequisite by demonstrating the responsible party either created the dangerous condition or knew or should have known that the dangerous condition existed. There are two types of notice: actual notice and constructive notice. Either will suffice. So, for example, let’s take a situation where someone slips at his or her local grocery store. It is incumbent to demonstrate that the store’s employees knew of the apple juice on the floor or that it existed for a sufficient period of time such that the store’s employees should have known its existence.

Sunken sidewalk creating a slip & fall hazard.

Five Important Steps to Take if You Have a Slip & Fall Accident

Here are some important steps you can take to preserve the necessary evidence if you or someone you love is injured on someone else’s property.

  1. First, the most important thing to do after a slip and fall accident is to take high-quality photographs of the dangerous condition. The old saying “pictures speak a thousand words” holds true in the realm of personal injury claims and lawsuits. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that you take pictures of the dangerous condition, and then you must keep the pictures safe. Once you retain an attorney, ask your attorney to preserve the pictures in hardcopy and in digital format. The injured party should also take photographs of his or her injuries. Got a cut on your knee? Take a picture. Do you have a swollen ankle? Take pictures.
  2. The second step is to timely report the accident, if possible. This becomes critically important if you’re injured at a place of business or public gathering. Reporting the accident close in time to the actual occurrence gives the claim validity. On most occasions, the person who prepares the accident report will go inspect the dangerous condition and record it in writing. There is nothing more helpful to a case as when a store employee admits there is ice in the parking lot.
  3. The third most important step to take if you’re injured on someone else’s property is to take the name(s) and contact information of any witnesses. A witnessed accident is almost always easier to prove than an accident with no witness.
  4. The fourth step would be to identify the property owner (or party in control). This means you must know the exact location of your accident. You must know the exact address, and you must know exactly where you fell or got hurt. Did you fall in the first row of cars or the second row? If you don’t know the answer, you’re case has already been undermined.
  5. The fifth step would be to get medical treatment as soon after the accident as possible. Go to your primary care doctor, an emergency room, or urgent care facility. And if you’re instructed to follow up with a physician or a specialist, then follow up as instructed. The liability insurance companies hate gaps in treatment. They will use any gap in treatment to devalue your claim by suggesting you were not hurt, which is why you did not get treatment. When you first treat with a medical office, be sure to explain the mechanism of injury. If you slipped on ice, do NOT use the term “black ice.” This deadly term will render your claim null and void under the New York State common law.

We are Here to Help – Call Us

The attorneys at Basch & Keegan in Kingston, New York have been handling premises liability claims for over thirty years. Approximately 40% of our entire caseload consists of cases involving injuries caused during fall-down accidents. We have private investigators and expert witnesses on our staff to assist us in gathering necessary evidence and evaluating contributing factors to the accident. If you fell on someone else’s property, call us for a free consultation at (845) 338-8884.

 

Our Q&A series features answers from Basch & Keegan attorneys, answering real questions from Hudson Valley residents on Avvo and other sites.