Contrary to popular belief, slipping & falling on someone's property -whether private or business property- does not automatically entitle you to compensation. You must prove that the property owner was, in some way, negligent. This guide provides needed tips for success after your next slip & fall.
1. The Law Regarding Slip & Fall Incidents in Massachusetts
To prove liability in a slip and fall case, whether it's business or private property, you need to establish that the property owner (or an employee in the case of a business) was negligent. To do this, one must show that the condition causing the fall was unreasonably hazardous and that the condition was (1) directly caused by the property owner or an employee of a business, or (2) if the hazardous condition was caused by someone else, or created naturally, that the condition existed for a sufficient amount of time whereby a reasonable property owner (or employee) should has discovered the condition and remedied it before it caused injury to a lawful visitor on the property. The tricky part with these cases is with respect to the plaintiff's burden of proof. The person who fell (i.e., the plaintiff) must prove their case. It's not enough that you simply fell on another's property. You must establish by a preponderance of the evidence what exactly caused you to slip or fall, that the condition was unreasonably hazardous, and that the property owner (or an employee) knew of the hazardous condition, caused it, or that they should have known of the hazardous condition based on evidence supporting the fact that it existed for long enough whereby they should have discovered it and addressed the issue prior to your fall. If it's a condition that a property owner or employee cannot immediately remedy upon discovery, then they should at the very least adequately warn lawful visitors of the hazardous condition so that it may be avoided. But whether it's a condition that the property owner or an employee caused, knew of, should have known of, or failed to warn about, - who's thinking about gathering all of this needed evidence immediately after suffering an injury due to a slip and fall? That's exactly why the title of this legal guide is "What You Need to Know 'Before' Your Next Slip & Fall in Massachusetts". The following sections will tell you exactly what to do immediately following a slip and fall incident.
2. Report the Incident and take Photographs!
I can't stress this enough: take photographs of whatever caused your fall before the property owner has a chance to fix it or clean it up! Also, be sure to report the incident to the property owner (e.g., call the police and an ambulance if on private property, or complete an incident report with the owner or manager if it's a business). I can't tell you how many seriously injured potential clients walk into my office and tell me that they have no idea what it was that they slipped on or caused them to fall, they have no photographs demonstrating the condition as it existed on the day of the fall, and they failed to report the incident to the business manager or property owner. Ouch! It's like three strikes and you're out! That leaves proving your case with only your memory as to what happened and, hopefully, some witness testimony if anyone was with you at the time. Can this be done? - yes, but it's a lot harder to be successful this way. You would have a much stronger case with evidence that the fall actually occurred where and when you allege (i.e., it was reported and there's a record of it), you know what exactly caused you to fall (e.g., uneven pavement, water leaking from a refrigeration unit, a broken shampoo bottle in the soap and shampoo aisle of a store or supermarket, etc), and if you can prove both of the above with photographs taken immediately after your fall (if your injury prevents you from taking the photographs yourself, then ask someone there to take them for you - or send a friend or family member to the location to take photographs for you as soon as possible).
3. Get Prompt Medical Treatment for Your Injuries
To be compensated for a slip and fall incident, you must establish damages (i.e., that you were injured). Doing so requires medical documentation of your injuries. So if you were injured, or even think you may be injured, seek medical attention right away. Not only is it important for your health, but it's also important to document any injuries in the event that you later decide to pursue a claim for compensation. A diagnosis from a trained medical provider, immediately or very soon after your slip and fall, will prove helpful down the road if a legal claim to compensate you for your injuries becomes necessary. Follow any advice given by your doctors, and be sure to seek any recommended follow up care.
4. Consult with an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
If you were injured, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your area right away. This is especially true for slip and fall cases. It is important to have a trained professional on your side to promptly collect any available evidence that you were not able to collect on the scene yourself (including witness statements), and to help make sure that both the incident and your injuries are properly documented. Initial consultations are free with most law offices, including mine, and most personal injuries law firms, mine included, work on a contingency fee basis (meaning the lawyer or law firm only gets paid if you do). With most Massachusetts personal injury firms, the fee collected at the end of the case is usually somewhere in the area of 33 1/3% of whatever they are able to recover for you. It costs you nothing up front, so you really have nothing to lose by taking advantage of the training and skills that can be provided by an experienced personal injury lawyer. Don't make the mistake of trying to do it alone. Studies strongly support that injured slip & fall victims are paid more often, and will almost always collect more money, when represented by counsel. An experienced personal injury lawyer can fight to make sure that any compensation you receive for your injuries is not only fair, but for the maximum amount possible. The insurance company that insures the property where you fell will have highly experienced lawyers on their side, and you should as well.
- FRANCIS SHEEHAN & another vs. ROCHE BROTHERS SUPERMARKETS, INC., & others
- Massachusetts law about snow and ice
- EMANUEL PAPADOPOULOS & another vs. TARGET CORPORATION & another
- Slip-and-fall injury claims made easier in Massachusetts
- Scritórius di Adivokasia di Christopher Sullivan, P.C.
- Sullivan Injury Law - Slip & Falls