Winter has arrived in New York, giving us all an opportunity to be mindful of weather-related hazards like slips and falls. However, risks of slipping, tripping, and falling at home, work, or private and public spaces exist year-round.
No matter if it’s an open hole or slippery sidewalk, a slip and fall accident can result in serious, life-altering injuries, and a variety of economic and non-economic losses for both victims and families. Should you or a person you love become involved in a slip and fall accident, your ability to pursue legal action and recover damages depends on many factors – including whether a responsible party (i.e. business owner or property owner) failed to warn potential victims or fix hazards they knew or should have known about.
While the merits of a slip and fall claim depend greatly on the unique circumstances at hand, such as how long the slippery substance was on the surface prior to the accident, perhaps as equally important to preserving one’s right to legal action and compensation are the steps taken in the aftermath.
Slip & Fall Accidents: Types of Cases & Why They Matter
Slip and fall accidents come in many shapes and sizes. Some examples include slips, trips, and falls involving:
- Staircases, elevators, or escalators
- Slippery or uneven sidewalks and walkways
- Excessively wet floors from cleaning services at the workplace
- Parking lot falls
- Unsafe buildings or worksites
- Worn or raised flooring
- Insufficient lighting / lack of warning signs
- Slippery floors in food and retail establishments
While slips and falls can look very different, and although they may occur in various places, claims filed over slip, trip, and fall accidents generally focus on the alleged negligence of some responsible party. Depending on the facts of a case, that could mean claims against property owners, companies providing cleaning or janitorial services, general contractors, or others who may have caused the slippery or otherwise hazardous condition to exist. These claims are usually based in:
- Premises liability, for the failure of property owners and lessees to uphold their legal duties to address and remedy potential hazards which endanger people on their property and which they knew or should have known about.
- Labor Law liability for contractors and owners, regarding the responsibility of employers, contractors, property owners, and others in a workplace to provide safe working conditions, and their violations of New York’s Labor Law (i.e. NY Code § 23-1.7 or NY Labor Law 241) regarding preventable hazards which may lead to workers slipping, tripping, and falling.
These legal concepts matter when it comes to evaluating the merits of claims and a victim’s ability to pursue compensation for preventable harm and losses. Take the following examples:
- If you were injured at a grocery store, did the store fail to clean up a spill it knew about or fail to warn shoppers with postings or signs?
- If you were injured at work, did your employer, a contractor, or another party such as a cleaning company create an unreasonable worksite hazard?
These are all very important questions which experienced lawyers can help you answer. Of course, what you do prior to reaching out for legal help can help you protect your rights following a slip and fall.
6 Steps to Take After a Slip & Fall
- Seek medical attention: Immediate medical attention is always the most important step to take, even if you feel “fine” or feel you can “tough it out.” Medical evaluations ensure any injuries you suffered can be diagnosed and treated immediately, can help rule out serious medical emergencies you may not have been aware of (such as internal bleeding or traumatic brain injuries), and prevent defendants and insurance companies in any future potential claim from arguing you were not injured because you didn’t seek medical attention, delayed a medical evaluation, or failed to follow up with your doctor. This can also help to document your accident through medical records.
- Report the accident: Regardless of where the slip and fall accident occurred, you will want to report it to the appropriate party. This may include a store or park manager, business owner, property manager, landlord, or employer / supervisor. You should ask managers or owners to make a written report that contains details about the incident, your statements, witness reports, contact information, and any other relevant information, and request a copy of that report for your own records.
- Document the accident scene: If possible and without causing yourself any harm, do all you can to document the accident scene, either at the time of the incident or after you’ve been evaluated and treated by medical professionals. Write a description of what occurred while details are fresh in your mind, take photographs of the location, surrounding areas, and the specific hazard (i.e. a raised floor board, an icy walkway, or an open hole), and make record about if and when that hazard was pre-existing, or addressed after your accident.
- Gather information: Gathering information about your accident can prove invaluable if you choose to pursue an injury claim over another’s negligence. In addition to documenting the accident scene, do all you can to collect contact information of all parties involved, any witnesses who saw what happened, and managers or building / property owners. Secure a copy of an accident report if one was made, and preserve any correspondence (letters, voicemails, e-mails, etc.) between you and the parties involved. Also, find out if there is surveillance footage and ask them to preserve it.
- Be wary when corresponding: Though you may receive calls or e-mails from parties who generally care about your well-being, it is often the case you’ll receive calls from company reps, property owners, or insurance carriers who are already looking for ways to protect themselves against future liability. Be careful when communicating with these parties, as they may be looking to quickly settle a case or find out information before you fully understand the nature of your injuries and scope of losses, or use what you say against you (even if they interpret something you didn’t intend). You have a right to decline making statements to an insurance company or property owner, and can work with an attorney instead who can handle communication on your behalf.
- Speak with an attorney: Perhaps the most important step you can take following any type of slip and fall accident is to discuss your case with an experienced lawyer. At The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., we’re available 24/7 to help victims and families learn about their rights, the potential merits of their claims, and their available options for seeking compensation. Backed by decades of experience and extensive resources, our legal team allows you to leverage the insight required of any legal journey ahead, and fight back against corporations and insurance companies that want to pay you as little as possible.
Want to discuss a slip and fall accident? We’re here to help. Call (212) 577-9325 or contact us online 24/7 to request a free consultation.