What to Do (Legally) After a Slip-and-Fall Accident
Reviewed by Carina Jenkins, J.D.
Slip-and-fall accidents can happen in countless ways, from spilled water on the floor to snow and ice that haven't been cleared from a walkway. Most of the time, recovery is as easy as getting up and dusting yourself off, but in rare cases, slipping and falling can mean serious injury on account of someone else's negligence.
If you find yourself injured in a slip-and-fall accident — regardless of how severe — and want to consider taking legal action, it's important to handle things properly from the start. From who to contact to how to seek treatment, this is what you need to know to manage a slip-and-fall case.
Legally speaking, a slip-and-fall accident takes place when someone falls and injures themselves on a business's premises due to hazardous conditions. These conditions may be caused by a weather event, like snow that hasn't been shoveled off a sidewalk, or through negligence, like a spill an employee has neglected to clean up. Slips and falls can happen to employees on a business site or customers seeking services.
If you're not sure whether an accident you had qualifies as a slip-and-fall, speak to an attorney as soon as possible to maximize your options. In order to have a viable case, you need to be able to document that the business knew about the problem and failed to take necessary measures to prevent the chance of injury.
After an accident that's a presumed slip-and-fall, it's important you take the right steps. In the aftermath of your injury:
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible, either by going to the hospital if the injury is severe or making an appointment with a personal doctor.
- Report the accident to the business in question, and, if possible, obtain acknowledgement that the company is aware of what happened.
- Document the scene as best as possible, including taking photos and notes about the circumstances.
- Keep records of all expenses and events, like results of medical tests, doctors' diagnoses, lost wages due to being out of work and any other consequences that could impact the outcome of a suit.
- Consult an attorney specializing in slip-and-fall injuries.
- If a case qualifies, file a lawsuit seeking compensation for medical expenses and any career consequences.
While not a legal step per se, it's also important to stay realistic. Slip-and-fall cases can be very hard to demonstrate in court, so staying patient and managing your expectations is important.
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If you plan to sue for damages in a slip-and-fall case, then yes, you'll need an attorney, particularly one that specializes in the personal injury space. While you're not legally required to have a lawyer in most cases, you may not be able to win a slip-and-fall case without one.
An attorney will be able to assess the details of a case, including whether the requirements — proof that the business knew about the hazard and neglected to address it — for a lawsuit are met. They will also be able to determine what kind of suit to file, what kind of damages may be covered as a part of the suit and what kind of a settlement you may be able to expect. A slip-and-fall accident lawyer can also help you keep expectations in check and ensure you're educated on each step of the process.
Prior to suing for damages related to injury, disability or job-related implications, you'll need to see a doctor. Only a medical professional can quantify the extent of any health challenges and how the consequences will impact your life. Without documentation and medical records, a suit can't move forward. Even if you're not sure whether you're injured or whether you want to move forward with a lawsuit, seeing a doctor is an important step in protecting your overall health and wellness.
Personal injury cases in general, including slip-and-fall cases, can be challenging to navigate. With the right attorney and knowledge about the legal steps to follow immediately after an accident, you can do your best to make it through the lawsuit process as smoothly and successfully as possible.
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