Slip and Fall Cases in Georgia and What to Do When They Happen

10/23/2014

Slip and fall cases get a bad rap based on a number of fraudulent claims; however, the area of slip and fall litigation is surprisingly specialized and results in some of the higher verdicts in Georgia. This legal guide is designed to give tips on how to avoid making mistakes before calling a personal injury attorney.

Injured in Fall? Now What?

A business has a duty in Georgia to keep their premises reasonably safe for their customers. If the negligence of a business contributes to a fall and injury, the business will have policies for investigating and reporting the incident. More than likely, a manager or other employee will generate a report listing details such as the substance or hazard that caused the fall. The point to keep in mind is that, from the first moment that an employee initiates conversation with you about the incident, a risk is present that the report will be filled out to cover the employer rather than to document all the facts accurately. Instead of giving information, the key for preserving a premises liability case is to get it. Who witnessed the fall? Who are all the employees on duty that day? Is there a video? Obtaining as much information as possible will assist an attorney to investigate your case. Once the report is completed by the employee, the critical step that must be taken is to get appropriate and necessary medical treatment. Going immediately to the hospital, if that is necessary, creates a “paper trail” of the injury from the time of the fall. That documents your injury and prevents an argument by the employer’s insurance company that medical advice was not followed.

Preventing Spoliation of Evidence

If you are injured on a business premises due to their negligence, it is critical to preserve the evidence of the event. Sometimes video will be captured. In Georgia, the employer is under NO DUTY to preserve the video unless you make it clear that you intend to sue; and, that the video (or other evidence) must be preserved. If the business is placed on notice of anticipated litigation, and fails to preserve the evidence of the event, they may be subject to sanctions by the court. The advisable course is to seek an attorney for your case as soon after the fall as possible to allow the “spoliation letter” to come from the attorney and to prevent destruction of evidence.

Should You Give a Statement to the Insurance Adjuster?

No. Under no circumstances should you converse verbally or send any written communication to an insurer for the business. The insurance adjuster’s job is to obtain recorded statements or evidence TO USE AGAINST YOU. They are not your friend and have no intention to admit liability and pay your a fair settlement of your claim. If you are contacted by an insurer, that is the time (if not before) to meet with a lawyer who can guard you from efforts by the insurer to obtain evidence to use against you.

Finding the Right Attorney

The search for the right attorney should begin immediately. Look for an attorney with a proven track record of slip and fall litigation. These cases often require expert witnesses to testify regarding the conditions at the time of the fall or policies of the business to protect against hazardous circumstances. Code violations may also be an issue and an attorney experienced specifically in the area of premises liability trial work can employ the right experts and identify the issues to prepare your case for trial. Whether your case is ultimately tried, or not, there is no doubt that thorough preparation of your case by an attorney will not hurt your chances for a fair settlement or jury verdict.

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