Frequently Asked Questions - What Evidence Should You Gather To Prove Your Slip and Fall Case?
The moments immediately following your slip and fall are crucial evidence gathering opportunities that can help establish and determine liability. This evidence must be collected and not be missed, especially if you intend to bring forth a personal injury claim against the defendant.
Of the utmost importance are photographs of the accident scene in its entirety. You should also photograph the slippery substance up close so the attorney can look for evidence of drag marks, track marks or shoe imprints. Evidence of such will lead to the inference that the dangerous condition was present for quite some time seeing as there was so much traffic through it, and, therefore, the store did not adequately exercise due care in the maintenance of their premises. Photographs will also show any wet floor caution signs, or lack thereof, which may also point towards negligent behavior on behalf of the defendant. Photographs may also showcase other dangerous conditions beyond the slippery substance, “secondary hazardous conditions”. You may be unaware of such conditions, but your attorney is trained to seek out these conditions which can further prove negligent behavior on behalf of the defendant, such as poor lighting, obstructions in your travel path, etc. Another aspect of the slip and fall that you should photograph, believe it or not, is your footwear. In certain cases, it will strengthen your case to know that you were wearing adequately safe shoes and did not cause your own fall due to walking in dangerous shoes. You should take photos of the top, sides and soles of your shoes. If possible, it is recommended that you hold onto your shoes in case your attorney might want to use them during trial. If you are physically unable to take photographs due to your injuries, have a friend, family member or good Samaritan near you take photographs for you.
You should also immediately take photographs of any and all visible injuries, no matter how small you may think they are. Is it wise to take any injury photos as soon as possible to document them before they heal and then are no longer visible, i.e. lacerations, abrasions, bruising, etc. If you slipped and fell onto your hip and it caused massive bruising, take photographs of the bruising before it heals! Even a photo of a bruise will be helpful as it indicates just how hard your fall was. But if you wait too long and allow the bruise to heal and disappear, then you have no evidence of its existence. If you were transported to the hospital or went to the urgent care for stitches, be sure to photograph your laceration prior to any suturing and then again after the sutures are in place. Documenting every step of your healing process will only strengthen your injury claim. If you were placed in a walking boot because you sprained your ankle, take a photograph of you in the boot. Up close photos of your injuries are great but be sure that you also take some with your face in the photo as proof that the injured party in the photo is indeed you. This will be especially helpful if your case needs to go to trial.
Beyond the photographs of the accident scene and of your injuries, immediately thereafter, it is imperative to file an incident report with the store. Do not accept any liability during your written statement. In fact, be as brief as possible. The purpose of the incident report is more so to establish the credibility of claim and to initiate your claim.
Also, it is important to know the store manager’s name at the time of your fall, along with any employees that were present or assisted you. You should also gather notes of any and all witnesses of your fall. Most people wish to help someone in need and will agree to give you their name and phone number in case you need them to issue a statement on your behalf at a later time. You should then provide all of this information to your attorney’s office so they can collect the witness statements for your case.
Next, is the store’s video surveillance. The store is highly unlikely to provide this evidence to you and may not even want to provide it to your attorney’s office unless served with a subpoena. The reason for this is the video surveillance may very well depict the store’s negligence. So, they will want to hold that evidence for themselves as long as they can. The only reason a store will provide their video surveillance up front is if they believe it shows absolutely no negligence on their part and are under the impression that the plaintiff (you) were the sole cause of the incident. However, an experienced personal injury attorney will immediately place the defendant on “spoliation” notice. This formally demands the store to take all measures possible to preserve any and all video and photographic materials in their possession that might be considered necessary for your claim. So, should a lawsuit be necessary, the defendant will need to produce these materials during discovery. It also threatens that the destruction of such crucial evidence materials will be deemed intentional and highly prejudicial and the attorney will pursue all legal punitive measures allowed under Florida law against them.
Following the crucial initial stages of the investigation wherein you gather evidence to help prove negligence on behalf of the defendant, then you move to gathering medical records to help prove your sustained injuries. Medical records are the most vital pieces of evidence in proving your injuries in a personal injury case. Without medical records documenting your injuries and notating that your injuries were related to the slip in fall in question, you will not have a strong personal injury claim. In order to ensure that your medical records accurately reflect all of your injuries and the intensity and seriousness of your injuries, be sure to be as detailed and explicit as possible to all of your physicians. Start from the top of your head and work your way down to the bottom of your feet describing any and all of your injuries so that nothing is missed, and all of your injuries are properly documented in your medical records.
Once you are completely finished with your medical treatment, your attorney’s office will gather all of your medical records for you and compile them together. All of the collected evidence, including your medical records, will be presented to the insurance company to begin settlement negotiations, or if your case is in trial, they will be presented during discovery to the defense counsel.