In many commercial places, cost saving is a primary goal. This applies to the amount of time and attention that commercial businesses may spend on regular inspection, maintenance and repair of defective conditions. Typically, our clients will have fallen on a slippery floor, parking lot hole, crumbling curb, upturned carpets, missing tiles, water. In one case, our client fell on liquid soap that was nearly invisible on a commercial floor, even when the owners knew about it.
There are any number of ways that clients can help themselves after taking a fall on a defective floor, sidewalk or public space. The first thing that happens when a person falls is an overwhelming sense of embarrassment. Who wouldn’t initially feel out of place by slipping and falling. Others who may have seen the fall will usually come to aid. So, one of the first things that a client can do is get the name and contact information for anyone who may have witnessed the fall. The witness could help later on with information on the defect. Further, the witness gives credibility to the client in verifying the actual fall and resulting injury.
A further step if possible is to take a photo of the area where the defect is or if the client cannot do that, asking the witness to take the photo as a courtesy. Even though many large box stores have a policy of taking pictures of the area after a fall, these photos, even if taken, are oftentimes not readily available in a later legal claim.
Most stores have video surveillance and here, clients should ask for confirmation of the fall by recording of videotape. Most of these systems on digital and videotape is stored for some time.
Stores managers will ask for clients to sign forms after the fall. Clients should remember to ask for copies of any document that they sign or if not will be provided, not signing at all. Many stores like to downplay the mistakes they make by grading their own homework papers. We see this quite often.
Finally, if a client is later contacted by an insurance claims agent, there is no requirement that a statement be given. Even if a statement is given, all clients should request a transcript of the statement. Our advice is for all clients to have early contact with an attorney who can advise them of the right course of action and follow up with any witnesses to the fall and to the defective condition. All of these steps will help in the prosecution of any claim of injury. Overall, early contact with an attorney and obtainment of investigation information is the key to a successful outcome.