The Importance of Reporting and Documenting a Slip & Fall Accident
It is not enough to allege what caused you to slip; you need corroborating evidence to prove that the injury you sustained was because of action or inaction of others. What did the property owner do that it shouldn’t; what didn’t the property owner to that it should have.
It is critical that you detail the condition(s) that caused the fall. Often, the condition is transient; here one second, gone the next. For example, snow and ice melt, and spills evaporate or are cleaned. So, it is extremely important to take date and time stamped pictures and video; record the name and contact information of any witness; and report the incident in writing to the property owner as soon as possible.
Failure to do so can negatively impact your potential claim, even possibly eliminating the ability to pursue one.
Two Most Common Situations In Which Slip and Fall Accidents Occur
Slip and fall accidents occur most often indoors at a commercial business. Staff mopping the floor and other maintenance procedures are often to blame. A business will be at fault if an employee fails to warn a customer of the danger presented by a wet floor.
A business will be at also be at fault if the business or its employee has actual notice of an unsafe condition and does nothing about the danger in a timely fashion. However, the business may not be at fault, unless the unsafe condition was present for an unreasonable period of time.
Alternatively, in some situations, a business will be found at fault if the danger was foreseeable based on the business’s self-service “mode of operation,” and the business failed to take reasonable measures to prevent or eliminate the unsafe condition. A classic example of this would be grapes on the floor in the fruit and vegetable section of a supermarket. Customers handling produce in the fruit and vegetable section often drop some on the floor. A grocery store should have a plan to frequently monitor the floor for spills. The failure to do so can create a dangerous condition for patrons.
Another danger is water tracked inside from rain or snow. Until recently, a business could not be liable for harm suffered by a customer from a slip and fall on water tracked into premises by another customer. However, in 2019, some Massachusetts courts held that businesses must reasonably remove water that is tracked in by other customers, and if they do not, then they can be found at fault.
There are many ways to that a landowner may be responsible for harm suffered by a patron or passerby in a private parking lot, driveway, sidewalk or walkway. These claims can be complicated. Years ago, it was necessary for plaintiff to prove that injuries resulted from a landowner’s failure to remove an unnatural accumulation of snow or ice. For example, a plaintiff would have to prove the existence of water pooled by a broken gutter, unlevel parking surface, or pothole as the cause of the accumulation of ice or snow to succeed with a claim. Or a plaintiff would be required to prove that a landowner allowed snow or ice to excessively accumulate in one area. In 2010, Massachusetts highest court eliminated the need to prove the existence of an unnatural accumulation in order to establish liability against a premises owner. Nevertheless, these claims remain difficult. What is required is to prove that the landowner acted unreasonably in preventing the danger caused by snow and ice.
There is a myriad of situations in which a slip and fall accident could have been preventable, but for the negligence of another. Immediately after any accident, it is important for an injured person to obtain medical treatment. After that, an injured person should consult with an attorney as soon as possible to learn about and protect their rights. You should not delay in contacting an attorney, as there are very specific notice requirements that sometimes must be given in as little as 30 days, and failure to do so can potentially eliminate your ability to make a claim for your injuries.
For more information and a detailed conversation about slip and fall accidents, please listen to episode six of the PSRB Lawcast.