Frequently Asked Questions - How long Do You Have to Report a Slip and Fall?
Slip and fall accidents occur unexpectedly and can have devastating consequences. A quick trip to the local grocery may result in a visit to the emergency room if a property owner fails to maintain the store in a reasonably safe condition. Since slip and falls occur quickly and unexpectedly it is not always possible to immediately report the accident to the property owner. In some instances, it is not even possible to report an accident to the property owner because they are not on the property. While a slip and fall accident should always be reported as soon as possible, failing to immediately report a slip and fall does not preclude the injured party from bringing a civil lawsuit at a later date to be compensated for their injuries. Generally, however, it is best to report a slip and fall accident that resulted in an injury as soon as possible for several reasons.
Slip and fall accidents are frequently caused by a foreign transitory substance in an area where visitors travel. For example, a puddle of water in the middle of a grocery store aisle or oil in the waiting room of an automobile repair store. Reporting a slip and fall as soon as possible may prevent additional visitors to the property from injuring themselves as well. Also, reporting a slip and fall accident as soon as possible starts a paper trail that may be important to a future civil lawsuit for damages. The precise time of a fall is often a point of contention in slip and fall lawsuits. A negligent property owner may attempt to claim the area where the injured person fell had been inspected shortly before the fall in attempt to avoid liability. The length of time a dangerous condition was on the floor, and whether or not the property owner knew, or should’ve known, the dangerous condition was on the floor is an important aspect of every slip and fall case. Therefore, an individual who has suffered a slip and fall injury while on another person’s property should always attempt to make a written statement. A copy of the statement should also be requested to verify its accuracy and to ensure it is available if needed at a later date.
In addition to preventing additional falls and obtaining a written accident report, it is important to report a fall as soon as possible in order to preserve any evidence that may be needed later. As previously mentioned, slip and falls often involve a transitory foreign substance. By definition, these dangerous conditions are somewhere they do not belong and need to be remedied. If possible, the cause of a slip and fall injury should be photographed so it can be used as evidence later if necessary. Spills are often quickly cleaned by the property owner or the property owner’s employees. Should litigation be necessary, the property owner or the property owner’s employees may try to diminish the dangerousness of the spill or even deny it existed at all. Photographic evidence not only helps to corroborate the injured party’s testimony but can also serve to prevent the defendant from denying the existence of the hazard. Not all slip and falls, however, are caused by a transitory foreign substance. Slip and falls also commonly occur due to a property that is in disrepair. In instances where damaged property causes a fall, such as a broken handrail or faulty walkway, it is often important to document the condition of the property before it is repaired. An attorney experienced in premises liability cases can ensure the evidence is preserved long enough for it to be properly inspected. While photographs of the dangerous condition are important, experts may also be necessary to inspect the property to determine if it adheres to state and local building codes.
Although reporting a slip and fall accident as soon as possible is generally advised, there are many instances where it is simply not possible. The property owner or the property owner’s employees may not be on site to take a report. Additionally, slip and fall accidents can cause severe and permanent injuries. Often times the injured party is in no condition to make a report or document the hazardous condition that caused the fall. Failing to immediately report a slip and fall will not prevent an injured party from bringing a claim in the future. If possible, however, it is advisable to return to the scene of the fall personally, or send a representative, to report the fall at a later date. Even if the fall is never reported to the property owner it is still possible to bring a civil lawsuit for damages as long as the lawsuit is brought within the statute of limitations.
A statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum period in which a lawsuit must be filed. The statute of limitations varies depending on the type of claim. The statute of limitations also varies from state to state. If a claim is not filed within the statute of limitations deadline the right to file a lawsuit may be lost forever. The purpose of the statute of limitations is to prevent defendants from being forced to defend themselves from causes of action that occurred so long ago that the defendant is unable to obtain the evidence necessary to properly defend against the suit. If you have sustained an injury due to a slip and fall it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible to prevent your claim from being barred by a statute of limitations. Fortunately, the statute of limitations in Florida for a slip and fall injury is four years. However, many steps need to be taken before a slip and fall lawsuit is ready to be filed. The injured party’s damages must be known as completely as possible and evidence must be gathered while it is still readily available. Therefore, an attorney should be consulted as soon as possible after suffering a slip and fall injury to ensure your future case is as strong as possible.