What to Do After a Slip and Fall on Your Property
If a slip and fall accident occurs on your property, there are several steps you should take to prepare for the potential of a lawsuit. While laws may vary depending on where you live or the type of property you own, these steps apply to most common slip and fall scenarios.
Contact Your Insurance Carrier
Upon discovering that a slip and fall occurred on your property, immediately notify your homeowner insurance carrier of a potential claim. Most insurance policies have strict notification timing requirements, so it is better to head any denial of coverage issues off at the pass as soon as possible. A phone call to your insurance agent followed by a mailed letter describing what happened will suffice.
Investigate and Record the Accident Site
The next step is to investigate the slip and fall itself. If you did not see the accident actually occur, try to find co-workers, employees, friends or neighbors who may have witnessed the slip and fall. Write down what they tell you, and make sure you have up-to-date contact information for any witnesses you speak with. Take pictures of the area in which the slip and fall occurred. If the injured party is contemplating a lawsuit, it is highly likely that they will have taken their own pictures or had their lawyer do it for them. In the age of cell phone cameras, pictures have a way of appearing out of thin air. Do not put yourself in the unenviable position of relying upon the photos of an adverse party.
If you saw the slip and fall accident personally, do not be afraid to assist the person who fell and do not be afraid to ask them questions. People are much more likely to tell the truth immediately following an accident than they are days, weeks or months down the road. Make sure you get contact information from the injured party. It is perfectly normal to assist someone after a fall, especially if they are injured. And it is also perfectly normal, in this day and age, to protect yourself if you feel a lawsuit is a possibility. Even friends and family can—and often do—bring lawsuits after slip and falls. The more information you collect at the time of the accident, the better protected you will be.
Prevent Future Slip and Fall Accidents
While it is possible for people to slip and fall absent some type of hazard, the more common scenario is that some condition on your property contributed to the accident. If you know of a hazard, fix it. Once you are on notice that there is a hazard on your property, the law usually demands that you take steps to correct the problem before someone else gets hurt. Do not put yourself in the position to be sued multiple times for the same hazard. Fix sidewalks or concrete. Shovel snow or remove ice. Tighten loose steps or rails. Whatever the hazard that caused the fall, fix it as soon as possible.
There is no way to tell whether someone will bring a lawsuit or some other type of action after a slip and fall. If you take the appropriate steps after a fall occurs, you will put yourself in the best possible position to defend any potential action taken against you.