If you fell down at a store, place of business, or other public location and were injured to the point where you required medical treatment, hopefully a report was made at the time. If you are trying to hold the owner responsible for your injuries, it can be an uphill battle, especially if you are trying to handle the case without a lawyer. Chances are, the insurance company will say that the fall was your own fault. It is a valid consideration, but if you know that there was something wrong with how the property was maintained, you may have a case.
In order to be able to hold another legally responsible if you fall or somehow get hurt while out in public, it is important to prove fault. To defend against fault, the shop owner or their insurance company will often try to blame the person who got hurt by saying that they were not looking where they were going or tripped over their own feet. Unless they were there and actually saw what happened, this is usually just a guess designed to protect the place of business. If you are the one who got hurt, it is going to be up to you to prove how the accident happened, and not the other way around where the business owner has to prove that it wasn’t their fault. You, unlike the the store owner or employee (in most cases), were right there and can give your version of how the events happened. Be careful though, insurance adjusters are highly trained and may ask you tricky questions designed to build a case against you and deflect blame.
How can I prove what happened when I fell?
Try to remember everything that you can about what you noticed immediately before you got hurt. For example, was the floor wet or was there anything remarkable about the area in which you got hurt? What were you doing at the time? If you were with anybody, ask them what they remember or what they noticed. Independent and unbiased witnesses are the best because they have nothing to gain by embellishing the facts and are a great resource, if someone was around and saw what happened. Their contact information may be on the incident report, in case you did not get their name and phone number at the time of the accident. Surveillance tapes, business records, and employee statements can often be helpful in establishing how an accident happened.
What if the insurance company says it is my fault and refuses to pay?
Slip and fall cases, also known as premises liability cases, can be tricky and business owners quick to deny blame. Maybe they don’t want their insurance rates to go up or are afraid of bad publicity. Some may take it personally if they are accused of not keeping their place of business in anything but the best condition. Their insurance companies earn more profit if they can get away with paying out as little as possible to those who are injured and before they offer a dime on your case, they are going to want solid proof about what happened. By denying your claim, they are essentially forcing you to prove that what happened was somehow the business owner’s fault for being careless. Remember, the insurance company or store owner’s decision not to pay or determination that the injury was your fault somehow, is not the end of the story. That is why our legal system exists.
The best thing that you can do after falling down in a store or getting hurt in a public place is to speak to an attorney. A personal injury attorney will listen to the facts of what happened and should give you an honest assessment of what they think your chances are for compensation. It must be shown that the property owner did something wrong. For example, if a liquid spilled on the floor and they knew about it but did not clean it and you slipped, the owner can be held accountable. But if you tripped (as we all do sometimes) on a perfectly good floor for no real reason, this is not the property owner’s fault. After speaking to a lawyer, if he or she thinks that you are likely to succeed in a claim against the store owner, they will want to talk to you about your injuries. If a lawyer takes your case, then your lawyer can deal with the insurance company and hopefully bring about a reasonable settlement to compensate you. If not, a lawsuit might be necessary.
If you fell down or got hurt in a public place and are being blamed for what appears to be the business owner’s fault, or if their insurance company is trying to pressure you into a low settlement, be sure to give us a call. Not sure if the settlement is reasonable? It probably is not, for a number of reasons. Give us a call today and we can help you to evaluate your claim and suggest the next steps.