Many people start their free case review with a Columbus personal injury lawyer with the same statement: “I had no idea you could get hurt so seriously in a simple slip and fall accident.” The reality is that there is nothing simple about these accidents.
And if they happen because a property owner was negligent, then the victim has the right to seek compensation for financial losses and pain and suffering. This blog explains what you need to know about slip and fall claims in Georgia.
Georgia Law Requires Property Owners to Keep Premises Safe
People who have a legitimate right to be present at someone else’s property should be safe. There should be no dangers, hazards, or unsafe conditions that could lead to accidents and injuries.
This is the essence of the premises liability rule enshrined in the Official Code of Georgia 51-3-1. The law offers protection for two types of visitors.
Invitees are invited to the property for business purposes. Examples include customers in a shop and plumbers or electricians performing repairs for a homeowner.
Licensees have permission to be on the property and aren’t visiting for business purposes. The most common example is a social guest such as a friend or acquaintance.
There are no special protections offered to trespassers, beyond the property owner’s obligation to not purposefully cause them harm.
Proving Negligence in a Slip and Fall Accident
Slip and fall accidents fall under the concept of premises liability in personal injury law. To prove the owner’s negligence and your right to file a claim, you must show with a preponderance of the evidence that:
- You were an invitee or licensee at the moment when you were present at the property.
- You suffered an accident due to an unsafe condition at the property.
- The property owner should have known of the existence of the respective condition and did not remedy it.
- You suffered injuries and economic damages as a direct consequence of the accident.
What to Do After a Slip and Fall
An experienced Columbus personal injury attorney recommends taking the following steps after a slip and fall accident.
1. Report the Accident to the Property Owner
Whether it happens in a store or a neighbor’s home, one of the first things to do is let the property owner know that you suffered a slip and fall. Do not let them downplay your incident, but make sure that they know what happened.
If the accident happened in a mall or grocery store, they should have an incident report form. However, be careful about signing it. Some of these reports include a waiver of the right to take legal action in fine print.
The best policy is to retain the form and show it to a lawyer before you sign it.
2. Take Photos of the Unsafe Condition
You must hurry up and take photos of the area where you suffered the slip and fall accident as soon as it happens. Later, that condition may be fixed and you will have no evidence to support your claim.
Do not forget to take photos of your injuries. Many slip and fall accidents cause sprains and fractures, which are visible on the spot through bruising or bleeding.
3. Look for Eyewitnesses or CCTV Cameras
Most slip and fall accidents happen with many witnesses around – in stores, restaurants, car parks, etc. Even during a slow day, there should be other customers like you present there, who saw what happened.
Even store employees can serve as eyewitnesses, although they may refrain from getting involved in your case for fear of employer retaliation.
Finally, look around for any CCTV cameras. They may have recorded your accident and your lawyer can subpoena the recording.
4. Seek Medical Care Right Away
One of the core elements in personal injury law is proving causation – that is, that you suffered the injuries in the slip and fall accident. The easiest way of proving this is by seeking medical attention as soon as possible after the incident.
If the date and time on the initial medical checkup report are within half an hour or an hour after the moment of the incident, there is no room for interpretation. Your injuries were caused by the fact that you slipped on a wet or icy surface and fell.
However, if you try to downplay your injuries and only go to the hospital several days later when you start feeling pain and discomfort, you may not have a solid case anymore. The insurance adjuster representing the property owner can say that you walked away from the fall feeling perfectly fine and then hurt yourself in a separate accident.
5. Talk to a Columbus Personal Injury Lawyer
Finally, do not talk to the insurance company or file your claim without an attorney by your side. Plaintiffs who represent themselves rarely manage to win their claim – or they get a lowball settlement amount that does not cover their damages.
At Joe Durham Jr., P.C. you will find an experienced Columbus personal injury lawyer, who will analyze your evidence carefully and give you an honest legal opinion. If you have a valid case, we will represent you on a contingency fee basis – no advance fees, we get paid only after we win your case.