Recovering Compensation After a Slip and Fall Accident
According to the National Floor Safety Institute, falls result in more than 8 million hospital emergency room visits (21.3 percent) every year. “Slip and falls” make up 12 percent of those total falls.
Despite these astounding figures, many people suffer injuries after a slip and fall, yet fail to seek prompt medical attention. By doing so, they not only jeopardize their own health, they jeopardize their chance of recovering compensation from the parties responsible for their injuries.
Your Health and Well-Being
Of course, the main reason to seek immediate medical attention after a slip and fall is your own health and well-being. It is quite possible for you to slip and fall in a public area and not even realize you are injured. This may happen for many reasons, and there is usually an excuse for each one:
- “Just get me up and get me out of here!” Often when you slip and fall in a public place, you feel self-conscious and just want to get up and walk away, so as not to draw attention to yourself. This is a natural response. Your adrenalin often masks your injuries. And even though you may not feel the pain, you may have suffered a serious injury, like a bone fracture in your foot, which may be compounded by walking on it and not treating it immediately. If you fall, stay still until you can relax and determine if you are injured.
- ”I did not fall that hard.” You do not have to fall from a ladder or down a flight of stairs to be injured in a slip and fall. You do not even have to be at any great height. In fact, most slip and fall injuries occur at ground level. But even the slightest bump to the head could cause a brain trauma or slow bleed that could be fatal if not diagnosed and treated right away.
- “I just have a headache.” Just like the intensity of your fall may have been minimal, the symptoms of your injury may seem insignificant at first, when in fact, you may be suffering with a serious or even fatal condition. Often, brain trauma and internal injuries present as symptoms that, under normal circumstances, you might simply deal with or ignore. But there may be more to what you are feeling. If you fall and experience any kind of symptoms within 24-48 hours, go get it checked out.
- “It will go away in a few days.” After a slip and fall, it is not uncommon to know that you just injured yourself, but you tell yourself that you are just “sore” and that you will be fine in a few days. In the meantime, a serious injury could be getting worse. Always let a doctor determine the nature and extent of your injuries.
If you experience a slip and fall, you should seek a medical evaluation promptly. You may have suffered a serious injury that requires treatment, an injury that has not yet manifested, or an injury that could worsen or become fatal without treatment.
You Must Prove Your Injuries
If you are injured after a slip and fall that was caused by the negligence of another and you want to file a personal injury claim to recover damages, you cannot simply go to court and explain to a judge or jury that you fell, and then describe the nature of your injury and how painful it was. Although your experience may be true, it is your burden not only to prove that the other party was responsible for a hazard or condition on the premises that caused you to fall, but you also must submit evidence of your injury. This will require evidence demonstrating that:
- You actually suffered an injury
- Your injury was the result of the fall
- You incurred financial damages because of your injuries
To satisfy this burden, you will need to seek medical treatment promptly after you sustain your injuries.
Documentation is Critical
To satisfy this standard, you will need expert testimony from a physician, who will describe your injury and confirm that you did, in fact, suffer the injury you claim. And you will need documentation that supports this. Such documentation will depend on the nature of your injury but may include things like:
- Hospital records
- Admission forms
- Test results
- Procedure summaries
- Daily charts
- Diagnosis records
- Treatment plans
- MRI results
- Discharge Instructions
- Medicines prescribed
- Follow-up schedules
This is not to say that a physician’s oral testimony in court may not be admitted as evidence, but without proper documentation, when the defendant or insurance company asserts that you were not really injured, it will become a matter of “He said… She said…,” and this is not normally enough to win a claim for damages.
Timing Is Everything
The difficulty in slip and fall cases is not simply proving that there was an existing hazard for which the defendant was responsible, or even that the existing hazard caused you to slip and fall. The difficulty also lies in proving that the injury you are claiming resulted from your fall.
The longer you wait to seek medical attention after your injury, the more likely it is that the other party or the insurance adjuster will assert that the injury you are claiming happened subsequent to your fall and was not the fault of the defendant. This can be particularly difficult to overcome if you were to fall again before filing a claim for this injury. Even if you were not injured in the subsequent fall, without some documentation that you sustained the injury before your subsequent fall, there is no way to prove which fall was the cause of your injury.
Additionally, even if you are injured at the moment you slip and fall, if you delay in seeking medical treatment, the opposing party may assert that the injury you are now claiming could not have been very serious at all if you did not even feel the need to seek medical assistance right away. This also can be problematic and can affect your ability to be compensated for your injuries.