According to the National Safety Council, falls are one of the leading causes of unintentional injuries in the United States, accounting for approximately 8.9 million visits to the emergency department annually (NSC Injury Facts 2011). Falls are the second-leading cause of unintentional death in homes and communities, resulting in more than 25,000 fatalities in 2009. The risk of falling, and fall-related problems, rises with age and is a serious issue in homes and communities.
SLIP, TRIP AND FALLS
Millions of Americans get injured because of accidents caused by slips, trips and/or falls on the property of another person or business. Many of these accidents involve death, serious injury or disability. Common hazards include broken or missing steps, missing handrails; uneven risers on steps; uneven sidewalks; accumulations of snow or ice on a sidewalk or parking lot; oil on a slippery surface; liquids on a supermarket floor; entrance way mats; slippery floor surfaces, debris; mopping, housekeeping or maintenance issues.
Inside grocery stores there may be a leaking cooler, an unfastened mat at the doorway, or unexpected liquids in the aisle. Inside Big Box stores, there may be heavy and unevenly stacked items that fall on a customer.
Many of these injuries could be prevented if the property owner complied with the applicable federal and state statutes, building codes, safety codes and other industry standards. Legal liability may attach by failure to comply with one or more of these standards.
Owners of bars and taverns owe a duty to their customer to protect them from violence from their employees and other customers. Owners of buildings are required to keep their street front windows in good repair so as not to endanger a passerby.
There are endless ways that a person can be injured on the property of another.
AFTER THE ACCIDENT
It is always important to identify the particular hazard that caused the fall as soon as possible. Photograph the hazard that caused the fall. Take enough photographs from different angles and distances that you can visually illustrate what caused you to fall.
Notify the property owner or its employees that you fell on that property. Collect and write down the names and addresses of any witnesses. Actual or constructive notice of the hazard to the property owner or its employees is always important to establish. Ask the employee or person in charge if they already knew that the particular hazard existed and how it got there.
Seek immediate medical attention. If necessary, use an ambulance to get to the nearest hospital. An ambulance record establishes that you fell where you say you fell. Give an accurate and consistent medical history to each health care provider that you encounter. This information is recorded and available to the insurance representatives of the property owner. Your medical history will be carefully examined during the course of this claim.
Call an attorney before you talk to the insurance representatives of the property owner.
The property owner claims adjuster may offer to pay your medical bills. Be aware that this payment almost always will come from a “Med-Pay” portion of the property owner’s liability policy. This is usually only $1,000 to $5,000 and is quickly exhausted in a serious injury. A common misconception of the injured party is that the property owner is now going to pay all of their medical bills. Any payment past the “Med-Pay” must come from the liability portion of the property owner’s policy. Liability is almost always contested to some extent in a slip and fall accident.
Do not give the claims adjuster for the property owner a recorded statement. Have your attorney talk to the claims adjuster. Many liability claims are lost by something misspoken when an injured person gives a recorded statement. These recordings are immediately after an injury when victims are in a state of shock or confusion and can defeat the legal liability of the property owner or reduce the value of the claim.