Know Your Rights: What to Do If You Slip and Fall in a Public Space
Obtaining a personal injury in a public space can not only be embarrassing, but the process can be quite confusing to navigate. You may be asking yourself if you fall in a public area, who is held responsible for your injury? Many people experience a slip and fall accident every day due to the negligence of property owners. Regardless of your injury type or where it occurred, it’s incredibly beneficial to familiarize yourself with the details of a slip and fall accident, so you can easily handle your unique situation.
How Do Slip and Fall Accidents Happen?
Slip and fall accidents can happen when we least expect it but ultimately occur due to a property owner neglecting their duty to maintain a property adequately. Whether you’re in your workplace, shopping mall, or fast-food restaurant, each of these locations will likely be held liable for your injuries. Many conditions can cause a slip and fall accident to occur, such as:
- Torn carpeting
- Uneven flooring
- Built-up snow or ice
- Inadequate lighting
- Wet floors
- Unnecessary debris
A slip and fall case is listed under a claims process known as premises liability. This type of claim holds the property owner responsible for any damages that occur when someone else is injured on the property. Property owners are held accountable for maintaining a safe environment for visitors at all times. An injury must have been sustained during the incident to move forward with a slip and fall case. As a result, the injured individual usually seeks damage collection.
Common Slip and Fall Injuries
Many different types of injuries can occur due to a slip and fall accident. Below are a few of the most common slip and fall injuries:
- Soft tissue: Many individuals that experience soft tissue injuries don’t physically see the damage but endure chronic pain and are at risk for future injuries. Sprains and strains to muscles, tendons, and ligaments are examples of soft tissue injuries.
- Head: If you hit your head during your fall, the injury can be severe even if it seems minor at the time. Any swelling, bleeding, or loss of consciousness can signify brain damage making it crucial to see a doctor immediately.
- Cuts and abrasions: Depending on where you fall, cuts and scrapes can occur that range in severity, meaning stitches or cleaning may be required. These injuries usually appear on the legs, arms, head, and hips.
- Spinal cord: Similar to head injuries, spinal cord injuries are also severe. The spinal cord can become severed, stretched, or compressed, which results in full or partial paralysis.
- Broken bones: Many different types of broken bone injuries can happen in a slip and fall accident, from minor fractures to severe breaks. Healing time can range for individuals, but at times the injury can require surgery along with a cast or sling.
If a commercial property owner is held responsible for a slip and fall case, the following guidelines must have occurred:
- Somehow directly caused the circumstances leading to the injury
- Known there was a threat that could cause a slip and fall but took no corrective measures
- Been aware of the danger as part of their dutiful property maintenance
The third situation is usually the most common, but the liability in slip and fall cases tends to be determined by common sense. The law will decide whether the property owner or occupier took preventative measures to keep the property safe and determine whether these actions were reasonable. In commercial slip and fall cases, there are often numerous other people and entities that can be held responsible for someone’s injuries.
Landlords of residential settings may be held liable to tenants or third parties for slip and fall injuries that occur on the property. A tenant must show the following to hold a landlord responsible for an injury:
- Landlord had control over the condition that caused the slip and fall accident
- Making the necessary repair would not have been unreasonably expensive or difficult
- A serious injury was likely if the condition wasn’t fixed
- Landlord’s failure to take action to avoid an accident caused the tenant’s slip and fall accident
Special rules will apply if someone slips and falls on a property owned by a local, state, or federal government entity. Local codes and regulations will likely come into play during the trial to determine who is held responsible for the injury. Government entities are usually shielded from being held liable for injuries on their property due to notice requirements and broad immunity provisions.
Steps to Take After Your Accident
Emotions will likely be high after your accident, and you’ll probably be unsure of the next steps to take. It’s incredibly vital to cover each step, so all necessary information is documented concerning your accident. From seeking medical treatment and reporting the accident to identifying witnesses, documenting evidence, and contacting an attorney, these simple steps will help you navigate your slip and fall accident successfully.
1. Seek Medical Treatment
Your health is incredibly important after a slip and fall accident. The accident can happen quickly, and while you may be in shock, it’s vital that you assess your injuries and seek necessary medical treatment immediately. Doing so will keep you safe from further harm and will allow you to obtain a professional diagnosis of any acquired injuries right away. If you slip and fall in a public space, it’s crucial that you document all injuries right away, so the wounds are fresh. Some injuries may take longer to manifest like bruising, but your healthcare provider will document those as they appear.
2. Report the Accident
Regardless of where you slip and fall, such as a sidewalk, store, or apartment building, the incident must be reported to the manager, owner, or landlord immediately. This allows the public space to document the accident and gives you peace of mind that the event is recorded. Make sure to get all details of the incident in writing and ask for a copy of the written report.
It’s also recommended to inspect the area where you fell because slip and fall accidents commonly happen for a reason. Look around for potential factors that may have caused your fall, from loose carpet and uneven concrete to built-up snow or ice. Once you’ve calmed down from your fall, it’s encouraged to write down your version of the incident, so an attorney and court can have a first hand recount of your accident.
3. Identify Witnesses
It’s essential to check your surroundings after you fall. Gather any names, addresses, and phone numbers of individuals in the vicinity when the accident happened. These individuals can include those that saw you fall and those that were there after the fall occurred. Collecting witnesses will help you have someone on your behalf should a landowner decide to dispute your claim.
4. Document Everything
It’s recommended to document as much information as you can regarding the incident along with potential witnesses. Note the location where you fell and provide a thorough description of the event from start to finish to include the date and time, the way you fell, and any other pertinent details. Take pictures of the location where you fell and any potential hazards contributing to your accident. It’s also recommended to save the clothing and shoes you were wearing during the incident as these items could later be relevant pieces of evidence should the case go to court.
5. Call an Attorney
After your slip and fall accident, you or your loved one may be panicking. Regardless of your emotions, it’s vital that you remain calm and limit communication with the property owner or manager. Statements shouldn’t be provided to insurance companies until you’ve spoken with an attorney. While it may be tempting, it’s encouraged to keep any details regarding your incident off of social media as well. If you’ve decided to consider legal action for your slip and fall accident, you must find an experienced attorney with knowledge of slip and fall cases. At times, slip and fall cases can be challenging to prove, but having a dedicated personal injury attorney represent you can make a substantial difference.
Get Advice From a Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you’ve recently obtained a personal injury from a slip and fall in a public space, it’s vital that you don’t brush the incident aside. Property owners must be held liable for not adequately caring for their property. Whether your injury is minimal or severe, you have the right to seek collection of damages. Many experienced personal injury attorneys can help you effectively navigate the slip and fall claims process. Take the next step and get advice from a personal injury attorney today.