When you’re a guest on someone’s property, whether in a social or business capacity, your host has a duty to protect you from harm. They must address dangers such as loose staircases or rusty equipment to maintain a safe environment for their visitors. If you get hurt while visiting a client’s or associate’s property, you may have grounds to bring an injury claim against them.
Should you find yourself in such a situation, follow these steps to ensure your rights are protected:
1. Make note of witnesses.
Premise accidents almost always involve falls, so it’s important to note whether anyone saw it happen. A witness can be anyone who observed the accident; they don’t have to be affiliated with the property owner. Perhaps a friend or colleague was on site with you and can attest to the circumstances leading up to the accident. Or maybe you noticed a group of passers-by across the street just before the fall. It doesn’t matter what their relationship is to you, only that they can substantiate your claims.
Thanks to frivolous, opportunistic lawsuits that have been brought against major companies, people are skeptical of premise accident cases. Insurance companies will blame the victim or claim the injuries occurred in a previous accident. Witnesses can serve as a buffer against such tactics, especially in cases where the injuries — and the ensuing medical bills — are significant.
Despite widespread cynicism about slip-and-fall cases, people’s lives are derailed by such accidents. Our firm is currently helping a woman who fell in an airport and endured two shoulder surgeries following the accident. Doctors have told her she’ll experience related health issues for the rest of her life, and her medical bills are already astronomical. Her situation is not uncommon, but our culture has shifted in such a way that the burden of proof is on the victim. The more evidentiary support you can provide your attorneys with, the stronger a case they’ll be able to make.
2. Report the accident as soon as possible.
You may feel shaken or disoriented in the immediate aftermath, but try to document what happened. Did you fall into an unmarked hole? Trip over nails poking out of the floorboards? Were there unmarked pipes or equipment obstructing the path? Take in as many details as possible, because specificity will be important to making your case.
If the property owner didn’t witness the fall, track them down and explain what happened. In most cases, the owner or a property manager will ask you to fill out an incident report. It’s very important that you comply, because this is your first opportunity to substantiate the accident. Companies often use these reports to prioritize maintenance needs, so you may be able to prevent someone else from falling down that same hole. Of course, if you are badly injured, your first step should be to seek medical attention. You can recreate the circumstances leading up to the accident later, especially if there are witnesses.
3. Do not delay medical care.
It should go without saying that your health should be your top concern following any accident. But many people — especially thick-skinned Texans — shrug off their injuries because they have to get back to work. Not only is this dangerous from a medical perspective, but your case will suffer as well. Most insurance companies use delays in care as proof that the plaintiff wasn’t injured. If the delay is longer than a few days, juries become skeptical as well. They may decide that even if you were injured, it wasn’t severe enough to warrant compensation.
We always advise seeing a doctor, no matter how minor you judge the injury to be. Without medical training, you don’t know how badly hurt you are. For your own safety and for the good of your injury claim, seek medical assistance as soon as you’re able.
Hiring An Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
The hours and days following an injury can be overwhelming, which is why we recommend hiring experienced counsel. A good attorney will guide you through these steps and provide reassurance when you face pressure from defendants and insurance companies. Accident cases can be complex, and the information-gathering process is intensive. Having strong counsel during this period can make all the difference in your case’s outcome.
However, the most important piece of advice we can offer is to act immediately. Many of our clients are tough and self-sufficient, and we respect their Texan work ethic. But there are far-reaching implications for how you handle an accident, and it’s important to bear those in mind. If you suffer an injury that requires multiple surgeries and years of physical therapy, you don’t want your family to bear those costs. Acting swiftly puts the burden on the responsible party and eases your suffering, and that of your loved ones, as much as possible.
By: Kay Van Wey | September 5th, 2017