With the frigid Canadian weather now upon us, falls are happening more often as the plummeting temperatures create hazards associated with ice, snow accumulation and winter slush being tracked into buildings, lobbies and other highly foot trafficked areas.
While an experience injury lawyer can help advise you on the specific steps needed to help advance yourclaim, here at Hennick Law, we’ve compiled a short list of some of the most common mistakes we see after fall injuries that people aren’t often aware about.
MISTAKE #1- NOT TAKING PHOTOGRAPHS:
This is one of the most common mistakes made after a fall injury. Timely photographs depicting the ground conditions are key. Don’t rely on the establishment to have closed circuit television to capture the fall or ground conditions. The onus is on the claimant to prove its case, not the establishment. Even if there is closed circuit television, it may not capture the needed details from a close enough distance. Additionally, closed circuit television footage may get overwritten by new footage every so often or even lost. It’s always best to have timely photos of your own to capture the hazard. Picture these being blown up on a big screen in the courtroom to persuade the court of the hazards. Without these, proof will be more difficult.
MISTAKE #2- NOT SECURING EYE WITNESS INFORMATION AND DETAILS PROMPTLY:
Often times, the last thing on your mind after a fall is getting the contact details of those who witnessed it. Unfortunately, this can come back to haunt you later when you need people to back your story. What will you do when the party you’re claiming against alleges you were running, not keeping a proper lookout and that the ground was not wet, was in good condition or that it was well salted etc? Having an independent witness to back up your story at the time can be very helpful. If you’re fortunate enough to have eye witness information, it is very important to get them to put their account into a signed statement early on for your reference. After all, over time witness memories fade, witnesses move away or in some cases die. Having their accounts preserved in writing can be very helpful in addition to jogging their memories years later if they must testify at trial. If they’re not available to testify, their statement can still be relied upon.
MISTAKE #3- NOT PROVIDING PROMPT NOTICE OF THE FALL
It’s always helpful to provide timely notice of the fall to the establishment where you had your fall. Failure to report the incident may create difficulties later when weeks or months down the road you decide to pursue action. By that point in time, the ice may have melted, the ground repairs may have already been done, the employees may have no recollection of what happened and surveillance footage in all likelihood may have been overwritten. It’s helpful to have timely investigation notes documenting the incident such as incident reports, investigation notes or security log notes noting the deficiencies in internal memos which would be producible during the course of litigation. Reference to the incident occurring in the offending party’s internal records is more persuasive, especially when the notes and reports are generated soon after an incident. If they didn’t know about the incident because it wasn’t reported, then there would not likely be timely notes of your incident available. Lastly, in cases against municipalities involving sidewalks, failing to report the incident in writing within 10 days can prevent you from pursuing a claim at all. Don’t be a victim of this mistake.
MISTAKE # 4- NOT SEEKING TIMELY MEDICAL ATTENTION
Even if you were fortunate enough to dodge the above mistakes, don’t make the mistake of avoiding treatment for too long if you were hurt. After all, establishing the fault of the responsible party won’t matter if you cannot establish you have an injury because you didn’t seek treatment. The longer you wait, the larger the treatment gap becomes and the greater the difficulty you will have connecting the medical visit to the fall. What if after the fall you had a car accident before visiting the doctor or another fall in between? This may pose challenges for you in proving your injuries were “caused” by the fall and not the other intervening events. Timely and consistent treatment right after the fall is the best way to get the help you need and preserve the medical proof necessary to help advance your case. After all, the law isn’t about truth, it’s about proof.
MISTAKE # 5- SIGNING A DOCUMENT
Never sign anything after a fall injury until speaking with an experienced injury lawyer. Whether it be a statement or a full and final release, you can be permanently limiting your legal rights. By signing a statement, you may be bound by the contents of that statement, even if you weren’t the one who wrote it or in the proper frame of mind to be providing one. Insurance companies may ask you to meet and to sit down and provide a detailed statement from you without any legal representation by your side. They won’t even encourage you to seek a lawyer in most cases. What you say or omit in your statement will be used against you later. Lastly, signing a full and final release will forever release the responsible party from any responsibility and close your case. It will be nearly impossible to reopen your case once you sign this (of course the insurance company would love you to). In a nutshell, don’t sign anything without seeking legal advice
BONUS MISTAKE # 6- NOT CALLING HENNICK LAW
Just kidding! You don’t have to call us after a fall injury but we’re always here to help you after a fall injury if you need us. It is our pleasure to help you if you’d like to reach out. Most importantly though, be safe and have a happy holiday season with friends and family. Since you’ve made it this far into the article, we thank you for your time and encourage you to share this information with dear family and friends to help others avoid these common costly legal mistakes after a fall injury.