I fell in a store. What should I do?
Mitchell Allen is the founder and CEO of the Debt Education Certification Foundation, an organization that provides credit counseling certificates and debtor education courses for those who are filing for bankruptcy. He’s also the founder of legal services marketing agency LeadRival. He’s the author of numerous books on debt and bankruptcy.
Mitchell is not an attorney and his answers should not be considered legal advice. Please consult with an attorney about your legal situation. Full Bio
I fell in a store. What should I do?
If you trip or slip and fall in a store, there are actions that you can take to protect your health and legal rights if you are injured. This is what is known in legal professional circles as a "slip and fall" personal injury and, in some cases, the injured person can sue for damages.
A slip and fall accident under United States tort law is a case or claim that occurs after a person slips or trips and falls. Many such falls happen inside or outside a business. They can be caused by damaged or uneven floors, debris on the floors, inadequate lighting, wet floors (grease, water, ice, etc.), or other hazards. Research has shown that 60% of falls are related to a tripping or slipping incident, likely caused by a foreign object or design flaw in the walking surface. Slippery conditions on the walking surface can also cause a slip and fall.
What to Do After a Slip and Fall
Even if you are not severely injured, you should take the following actions to protect your health and legal rights in the event that you do need to sue for your personal injuries.
- Seek medical help immediately after the accident. This is a number one priority to protect your health and to get documentation that you were treated in case you need to be compensated for medical bills.
- Report your accident to the store manager, or person in charge of the store where the accident occurred. This person should fill out an incident or accident report. If you are busy being treated by medical personnel, then call back to make sure that an accident report was filed, or have a friend or family member do so if you are unable to. Make sure that you get a copy of the accident report, even if it was filled out by someone other than the police.
- Be sure to take photos to document the exact location where the fall occurred. Note any condition or hazard that may have caused or contributed to your accident. Also note the time of the accident and any other pertinent information. All of this is evidence in establishing blame and the conditions that led to your injuries.
- Collect the names of witnesses, their addresses, phone numbers or any other key information.
- Store your clothing and shoes in a safe storage area to retrieve at a later time. These may be used as evidence later.
Finally, contact a personal injury attorney before talking to the insurance company or signing any papers that they send your way. A personal injury attorney is experienced in handling this type of case and will protect your legal rights in this type of situation. They will immediately begin work on getting you compensated for damages.
Be Cautious in Dealing with the Insurance Company
Many insurance companies are looking to limit the costs that they have to pay for an accident, and will often ask you to sign papers in which you state that you have no intention of filing a claim against them. They’ll often tell you that they will pay your medical bills if you sign the papers. However, even though this may initially seem like a fair offer, you’ll often find out that these "medical bills" are merely for initial treatment. What if you sign these documents, only to find out that you need surgery or have permanent injuries?
The bottom line is that you should contact a personal injury attorney before you talk to the insurance company or sign any kind of documentation. Otherwise, you may forfeit your rights to be compensated for your medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages. Once the attorney pursues your personal injury case, they will work to prove that there was negligence by the property owner in allowing dangerous conditions to exist that caused the incident to occur.