Slip and falls can happen anywhere, at anytime.
Unlike a car accident case, the police don’t come to the scene of a slip and fall to record what happened; or to ticket the at fault party.
That’s very important because in a car accident case, the information regarding liability (the who, where, what, when and why) is recorded by the police. This information is later used by the parties and the Court to place the particulars of the accident in to context. The accident report is relied upon and generally weighed upon by the Court to understand how, where and when the accident happened.
The same cannot be said for a slip and fall case. There is no accident report. There is no recording by independent third party witnesses. There is no accident reconstruction.
Somtimes where a slip and fall happens in a monitored private space (like a supermarket, or a shopping mall) an employee or security guard may record an incident report. Sometimes a video camera may capture the fall itself. But more often than not, this doesn’t happen. And when it does happen, these incident reports are taken by employees, agents, contractors or servants of the defendant property owner. They have an inherent bias towards their employer or contractor to absolve them of liability. Those incident reports won’t favour the accident victim. They will be prepared in such a way as to favour the property owner which isn’t good news for the injured Plaintiff.
The title of this instalment of the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog Post is “know where you fell”. This is very important from the Plaintiff’s perspective. You always want to make sure that you are naming the right party in the lawsuit. The only way that your personal injury lawyer will know where you fell; is through the injured accident victim properly understand and explaining where they fell.
Street addresses (if possible) and landmarks are all very helpful to getting the location of the accident right. The worst thing that can happen in a slip and fall action is that the Plaintiff fails to name the right property owner.
Sometimes falls happen in remote areas without street addresses. In these cases, it’s important to identify landmarks which would help you and your personal injury lawyer pinpoint where the fall happened. Google Maps is also a very useful tool to helping the accident victim better understand where the fall took place. Using the streeview and satellite features on Google Maps has proven tremendously useful in the past towards establishing the location of a slip and fall.
So what happens if you don’t name the right property owner in the lawsuit? That’s a very good question. It means that the Plaintiff is suing a party who had no responsibility for the fall itself. It means that the case would likely get dismissed at a very early stage and that they Plaintiff may be ordered to pay the Defendant’s legal costs to defend the lawsuit. None of these options are good.
Here are a few tips for Plaintiffs with slip and fall cases:
Take pictures! Lots and lots of pictures! Not having a camera is no excuse given that nearly everyone’s smartphone has a camera. If you don’t have a camera, borrow a friend’s camera or smartphone and return to the site of the slip and fall and take lots and lots of pictures. These photos will provide the best evidence at establishing where you fell, along with the hazard which caused you to fall. If you fell on a cracked surface, take photos of that crack. If you fell on a slippery surface; or an uneven surface; take photos of those surfaces. The more photos you take, the better.
Get medical treatment and mention the fall! It’s amazing the amount of people who sustain serious injuries as a result of a slip and fall and don’t elect to get medical treatment. It’s even more amazing the amount of people who get medical treatment but don’t mention that the reason for their injury was as a result of a slip and fall accident. The doctor’s notes recording your injuries will not only record your injuries, but they would also indicate that you sustained those injuries in a slip and fall accident.
Get the names and contact information of any witnesses to your fall! If you or a loved one does not record the names and contact information of the witnesses to your fall, then who will? The police won’t be investigating the fall because police don’t record those sort of matters. You are the best person to do so. Your personal injury lawyer will have a hard time tracking down anonymous witnesses to a slip and fall accident which happened in a public place.
Your footwear is important! The footwear you had on at the time of your slip and fall accident is very important. It’s evidence for your case. Don’t throw it out. Don’t destroy it. Don’t lose those shoes. Take photos of the footwear (all sides and the bottoms as well) if you must. Losing the footwear is akin to losing evidence.
Report that you fell to a person in charge! Remaining silent about your slip and fall isn’t a good way to start a case. Let the people in charge know that you fell, let them know what caused you to fall, and let them know that you hurt yourself. The person in charge might be a security guard, manager or the owner of the property itself. Your personal injury lawyer will then deal with the situation accordingly. This may or may not trigger an investigation or an incident report. The incident report likely won’t be in your favour, or it may be so blank that it’s not helpful. But the fact that the fall was recorded is a good starting point upon which your personal injury lawyer can then build the foundation for a successful case. Being silent, or reporting the incident too late can have a negative impact on your case.