Falls happen in a split-second, but they can cost you for years in the form of pain, the inability to work and enjoy life, plus a whole lot of worrying. Making a winning case for yourself, though, can solve many problems, including helping you get your life back. Here's how to go about doing just that.
Establish A Link Between Your Injuries And The Incident
While some injuries are very obviously connected to a specific accident, such as broken bones following a fall, if the harm inflicted isn't readily explainable, you'll need your doctor's help and perhaps a documented medical history to establish the link between your current condition and the incident itself. For example, say you tripped over construction debris carelessly left outside of the entrance to your favorite restaurant, but the pain you're experiencing is an excruciating backache. Unless an X-ray shows damage, proving your case could become challenging.
Your entire medical history will become subject to scrutiny since the defendant will want to question whether or not you already had a back problem, which could nullify part or all of your current claim. This is where having a long-term relationship with your doctor helps: Ask them to document the fact that you did not have any existing condition or to specify the extent of it if you did and ask further that they clearly identify what injuries and consequent problems you now have as a direct result of the incident you're bringing a claim over.
Determine The Exact Conditions Which Led To Your Fall
Despite the overbearing influence of gravity, slip and fall accidents can often be attributed to some circumstance that was avoidable or should have been prevented. Such is the case with the example of debris being left in the path of people walking by: Did the debris and it alone cause the accident? You need to paint the scenario of the exact conditions in such a manner as to clearly show that they instigated the fateful chain of events.
Recall everything about the incident on paper and add to it as memories or details emerge. It's vital that these conditions be concise and that the location you were in held reasonable expectations that it would be a safe place to pass. Such might not be the case if you were meandering through a clearly marked construction site that gave warning to avoid the area, for example.
Find Proof Of Culpability
Whatever caused your slip and fall must have been the responsibility of someone, but proving this isn't always cut-and-dry. You must first discover ownership of the property, management of it, if applicable, and any related third-party involved in the situation, such as the construction crew who would have left the debris, as an example. Everyone associated with the area should be brought into question.
In order to hold them all responsible, a few stipulations must be met:
- An unsafe condition existed.
- The owner(s)/responsible parties were aware or should have been aware of the unsafe condition.
- You could not have easily avoided the situation, such as by side-stepping the debris or heeding warning signs.
Liability can become very complicated and many variables will affect the course your case takes; however, once you've hired an attorney who has trained investigators on hand, culpability can be determined with greater and provable specificity. Your continued cooperation, though, is a very important component of the process.
Gather Solid Evidence
Your recollection of events and your doctor's testimony are the building blocks of your case, and from there, physical evidence will be needed, such as possible surveillance video of the area, proof that there was or was not any sign posted warning of danger, other complaints that may have been made regarding the unsafe conditions, and relevant witness testimony.
Your attorney will need to establish if the owners were aware of the potential dangers, for how long they were aware, and whether or not they made any effort to improve the conditions. These details are crucial to proving liability, which is the basis of any settlement you will receive.
Prepare Yourself For Battle
Although most viable personal injury cases are settled between the parties, as opposed to going to trial, the process isn't likely to be as expeditious as you'd like. As soon as you know a slip and fall attorney is hard at work on the case for you and you've provided them with all the information you possibly can, focus on getting better and trying to put your life back in order. You may be forced to re-work your household budget, if lost wages cut into your earnings too much or rehabilitation racks up the medical bills.
Keep detailed records of any case-related expenses you incur, such as the cost of fuel going back and forth to appointments, missed hours at work or any special equipment you are forced to buy to accommodate your injuries, but otherwise, pour your energy into healing and adjusting to the changes.
No matter how your case turns out, it's in your best interest to try to return to a "normal" life as much as possible and get over the incident, even though it hurt you. Your lawyer will be the one handling details, staying up late and getting headaches trying to win the case, so there's no need for you to go through all that, too. Keep your chin up, carry on and be prepared for your day in court or an offer for a settlement and hopefully, getting your life back.