Q: I tripped on an uneven floor while shopping and broke a rib. What should I do to protect my interests?
“Premises Liability” cases are a big part of my law practice. These cases can include almost any kind of fall resulting in injury while legally on someone’s property. While these cases sometimes involve a fall at a “residential” property, usually the case is against a “business owner” who has failed to properly maintain their property in a safe and reasonable manner for their customers (“invitees”).
Most of my clients describe their initial emotion as being terribly “embarrassed after a fall in public. This is human nature. However, do not make the mistake of leaving the premises without notifying the property owner of your fall. Insist that an Incident Report be filled out by the property owner even if you need to return in a day or two in order to complete it. Try and at least get a Report started before you leave the premises. If your injuries prohibit this, ask a family member or witness that was with you to work with the property owner immediately to memorialize the accident in written form.
Pictures. Pictures. Pictures. In my humble opinion, these cases are almost impossible to pursue if you do not obtain quality photos of the precise area where you fell. If you’re with a friend or family member, request that they take photos with your cell phone depicting the dangerous condition (e.g. substance on the floor; crooked flooring; torn carpet; etc.). If you tripped on something that is unlikely to change (e.g. uneven sidewalk; a step-down with no painted warning; etc.), consider a return visit in the days following to take a photo using a “ruler” or “tape measure” or common object (nickel; dollar bill; etc.) to depict the “size” of the defect.