Slip and fall hazards are everywhere. Stairs, potholes, wet floors, forgotten debris, and other hazards can be tough to anticipate ahead of time. That's probably why a million people suffer slips, trips, and falls every year. The Center for Disease Control estimates that 20% to 30% of those people will suffer injuries ranging from bruises to traumatic brain injuries. Some of these injuries can require extensive – and expensive – medical treatments.
Not all slip and fall accidents are actionable in court, but it's a good idea to know how to gather and preserve evidence when you experience a slip and fall accident, just in case you want to try to pursue compensation for your injuries later in court. Here are a few tips for gathering and preserving evidence after a slip and fall.
Pictures are critical evidence in slip and fall cases – perhaps even more critical than in other personal injury cases, like car accidents. After all, even after the accident scene is cleaned up, it's possible to look at damage to the cars and skid marks on the road to figure out how a car accident happened. But once you leave the scene of a slip and fall accident, if the wet substance you slipped on is dried up, the obstacle is removed, or the broken step or pothole is repaired, there will be no evidence left to explain how your fall happened.
A cell phone camera is perfect for taking pictures at a slip and fall scene. If you're one of the rare people who doesn't own a cell phone with a camera, ask a witness at the scene to take a picture and send it to you by email. Make sure they have your contact information. Research shows over 90% of Americans own cell phones, so the odds are good that someone at the scene of your accident will have one.
File a Police Report
Many people simply don't think of calling the police for a slip and fall accident. While it's second nature to stay put and dial the police when your car is wrecked and blocking traffic, slip and fall victims tend to try to get up and leave if they possibly can – most likely because a slip and fall accident can feel embarrassing. When slip and fall victims are not capable of getting up and leaving, emergency medical services are usually summoned, but police are often still not called.
The truth is that any accident can and should be reported to the police. A police report can provide powerful documentation in a court case. Usually, the report will include a description of the scene and the accident, a list of witnesses and their contact information, and possibly more photographs. Also, don't be too quick to hurry away from the scene even if you don't believe you're hurt. Some injuries take time to show up, and it's a good idea to have a medical assessment after a fall, especially if you hit your head. Resist the urge to quickly leave the scene out of embarrassment. A fall can happen to anyone and is nothing to be ashamed of. Making sure any injuries are treated as soon as possible is more important than saving face.
Document and Save Any Damaged Property
Although property damage doesn't occur in all slip and fall cases, when it does, it can be a good visual indicator of the seriousness of your accident. Ripped or bloody clothing, a broken object that you were carrying in your arms, or even a scuffed or torn purse could serve to show what sort of impact your fall had.
If the damaged property is something that cannot be saved – broken glass, for example, or a bag of groceries – then make sure to at least document the damage. Once again, pictures can be a big help. At a minimum, write down a description of the damaged item and explain the damages as soon as you're able.
Even if you're not sure whether your slip and fall case is worthy of a lawsuit, it's not a bad idea to seek a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer who specializes in slip and fall lawsuits. Most of these lawyers take their cases on contingency, so they won't hesitate to let you know whether or not your case is worth pursuing. Lawyers working on contingency don't get paid if their clients don't win in court or receive a settlement, so they usually won't take cases that aren't strong. A free consultation is a good way to assess the merits of your case if you're unsure.
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