Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Slip and Fall, Grocery Store.

Slipping and falling is a blooper reel norm. When the shock of seeing someone fall passes, and they appear O.K, the laughter usually follows. I don't know why people, myself included, find falling funny, but we do.

Sandy did not find it funny when she slipped and fell at a grocery store.

While passing through the second set of automatic doors, she slipped on what appeared to be melted snow. There was a carpet, however it was not at the door but about three feet past it. It was in that three feet that Sandy, a mother of two fell.

Poor Sandy landed on her wrist. Nothing appeared to break. Her wrist was sore, and she banged her elbow, but other then that everything appeared in order.

People rushed over to her and helped her get up. Someone commented on the pool of water. Another went and got a staff member, who in turn got the Manager.

So there is Sandy, bump on her elbow, wrist, and pride, about to talk to the Manager. What should she do?

Sandy, the number one problem with slip and fall cases, is not taking the proper steps at the time of the incident. To ensure you are compensated for any injury that you suffer as a result of the negligence of another, you need to line up your ducks.


Witnesses. Look around to anyone who saw the fall. Ask them to stand by. Ask them specifically did you see what just happened? Ask them, Do you mind waiting for a minute and helping me fill out an incident report? If they are in a rush, then ask for their card to contact them. You can never have too may witnesses.

Area. Take a quick scan of the area. Look for what may have caused you to fall, any rugs, signs etc. Try to understand exactly what happened. It is difficult, especially after just having your bell rung, but you need to look for anything immediate around you. Ask your witnesses if they noticed anything about the area. Make a mental note.

Report. It is essential that you report the incident to the store staff immediately. Ask that an incident report be filled out. If your witness was co-operative, then they should fill out their own section of the report. When filling out the report, be specific, but concise. Do not dress it up. Stick to the points. Try to highlight the cause and effect. ALWAYS ALWAYS indicate you will be seeking medical attention.

While you are filling in the report, if they offer you ice, or pain medication, you are not obligated to take it. If you do not want to take their offer of meds, or ice, instruct them that you will wait till you talk with your doctor about what the appropriate course of action should be. As a mater of common sense, ice reduces swelling, and if applied early can reduce the recovery time. So be smart, rather then stubborn.

After you give the report, have the Manager sign it, and ask for a copy. Tell the Manager you will be in touch with them after you seek medical advise. Also specifically ask what the process for handling these types of incidents is. If it is a chain, they have a policy. If the manager does not know the process, ask him to call head office and find out.

Follow-up. Go to the doctor. Make sure you understand what the immediate and long term effects of the injury are. Once you have a complete understanding, you can either

a) Contact a lawyer
b) Contact the store directly.

It is always a good idea to talk with a lawyer experienced in slip and fall. However if you decide not too, then you can contact the store directly. Show them the doctors reports, and the invoices on your losses, and ask to be compensated. At that point they will probably assign it to their insurance team. Their insurance team will then try to settle with you.

A few words of caution.

1. Once you accept any settlement, the issue is most often closed. You can not re-open it. That is why you should always understand what the long term medical risks are.

2. Don't expect to get a million dollars from them. Your compensation is directly proportional to the injury and level of injury you sustained.

3. You may be partly responsible. For example if you brought the snow in with your boots, and slipped on it yourself. That is why witnesses are very important.

4. Be careful of the Statute of Limitations. There is usually a period of time for which you are supposed to start a lawsuit. If it is passed that time, you can not use the courts to collect. For a slip and fall it is anywhere from 1 - 3 years depending on your location (State/Province/Country).

5. If you are not sure, talk with a lawyer.

Slipping is horrible. But when you do the right things at the time, you improve your chances of being compensated. Be calm, and confident. Don't be forced into signing something. Finally, you should ALWAYS see your doctor after a fall, no matter how trivial you think it was.

Copyright © 2009 Peter MacSweeney.
All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author is forbidden. Contact the author through the comment form for all inquiries, including media.

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