Take control of your slip and fall claim by organizing essential documents. Handle your paperwork like a pro to build a stronger injury claim.
Organization is an essential factor in any successful endeavor, whether you’re running a business, trying to earn good grades in school or managing a busy household.
Organization is especially important when it comes to slip and fall injury claims.
Pursuing injury compensation after a fall usually means filing a claim with the property owner’s homeowner’s or liability insurance company. Before you see a dime for your injuries, it’s up to you to prove the owner created a hazard on their property or failed to remove one.
A well-organized slip and fall document file keeps important information about your claim at your fingertips during critical settlement negotiations. You can bet the insurance adjuster is looking at their company’s file on your claim while you’re on the phone.
Organized documents are just as important when you’re hiring a personal injury attorney. The more information you bring to your initial consultation, the easier it is for the attorney to evaluate your claim.
Preparing Your Slip and Fall Claim File
The first step in organizing your documentation is to find the right materials to create a claim file.
An injury claim file doesn’t have to be fancy to be useful. You can find budget-friendly supplies at your local grocery, big box, office supply stores, and online retailers.
The system you choose should allow you to organize multiple documents into specific sections (e.g., medical records) so that you can access them with ease.
Keeping It All together
First, you will need a way to keep all the sections of your claim file together.
Filing options include:
- Letter-size file box or plastic container that you can easily move
- Magazine file holder
- Hanging file box with folders that can be color-coded
- Large plastic accordion-style file folder with several sections
- Large three-ring binder
The amount of injury-related paperwork will grow throughout the claims process. Make sure you select an option that is expandable or that will hold many documents.
Depending on what style you choose, you may need to purchase folders or dividers separately. If you use a binder, you’ll need tabbed dividers and a hole puncher. Hole-punch zip-top bags or large envelopes to hold photographs and receipts.
Create Claim File Sections
You will also need to get labels for each file folder or section if the container does not include them.
Clearly label each section within your file. You can use a label maker, type your section names, or handwrite your labels.
Label the sections to include:
- Medical Records and Bills
- Wage Verification
- Incident Reports
- Photographs and Video
Organizing Slip and Fall Documents
Attorneys and insurance adjusters have a neatly organized file for each injury claim that comes across their desk. You can use the same organizational setup as the pros to help handle your injury claim with confidence.
If you’ve recovered from relatively mild injuries after a fall, you can probably negotiate with the insurance company on your own.
Severe slip and fall injury claims should be handled by an experienced personal injury attorney to get the full amount of compensation you deserve.
Label the front of your file. Include your full name, injury date, the name and contact information for the insurance company’s point of contact, and your claim number. However, don’t put information on the outside of your file that you want to keep private. You can keep the information inside the front cover of your file.
Keep contact info handy. It’s a good idea to have a contact list in the front of your file box or binder.
Include the name, address, phone, fax, and email for:
- The location where you were injured
- The property owner’s insurance company
- The claims adjuster handling your claim
- Your attorney
- Your medical care providers
Consider color-coding your filing system. For example, Cindy receives 13 medical bills from 8 different providers. Instead of combining them into one folder for medical bills, she assigns a folder for each provider. All of these folders are red so that she knows they are medical bills.
File regularly. Schedule a specific time of day or week to file your documents and make it a habit. Immediately after going through your mail might be an ideal time so that important documents don’t get lost or damaged before you file them.
Retain the original copy of each document in your file. Never hand over an original document, or your only copy, to the insurance adjuster. Make copies for your compensation demand packet.
Never write or highlight on an original document, including bills and receipts. Make copies for marking up or for sharing with the insurance company.
File in chronological order. File the newest document in the front of its folder or section.
Keep your claim file safe. Ensure you store it away from any children or pets who may damage or lose the documents. Maintain your privacy by storing your claim file away from prying eyes.
Including the Right Documents in Your File
Whether you intend to hire a personal injury attorney or not, organizing a file with the right documents is a necessary step for building a strong slip and fall injury claim.
Soon after you file an injury claim, you will start to receive correspondence and notices from people and companies connected to your claim, like the property owner and their insurance company.
You’ll want to keep copies of all this correspondence in a dedicated section of your injury claim file. If you decide to hire an attorney, keep their written communication in here as well.
If an attorney represents you, the insurance company should not be contacting you directly. Forward copies of all correspondence to your attorney for handling.
You might receive written communication via email, facsimile, or through the postal service. Check your mail and email daily so as not to miss any critical or time-sensitive notices.
For email correspondence, print out a paper copy for your claim file. You can additionally create a specific folder in your email program to save claim-related emails.
The correspondence section of your claim file should include the original of all communications sent to you and copies of letters sent by you.
You correspondence section should include:
- The insurance company’s reservation of rights letter, saying they can deny the claim pending investigation
- Your notification letter to the at-fault party and their insurance company
- Letters of protection to medical providers promising to pay once your claim settles
- Your demand letter to the insurance company
- All correspondence to and from the insurance adjuster
- Any other letters, notices, or emails
No matter the type of correspondence, file it in the order you received it, with the newest communications in the front.
Medical Bills and Statements
Medical bills and records are crucial to your slip and fall injury claim. Without proof of a physical injury, you have no claim.
Injury compensation calculations are largely based on the total of your medical expenses. Gather and organize all injury-related treatment bills and receipts. Your medical bills should reflect the full cost of your treatment, even if health care coverage paid most or all of the expenses.
Medicare, Medicaid, and private health care insurance companies can file a subrogation lien against your settlement to recover what they spent on your behalf, so make sure you include the full amount of medical expenses in your injury claim.
File every medical bill or statement you receive from a medical provider in date order. Be sure to include every type of medical bill, not just the ones from your doctor or the emergency room.
Don’t overlook bills from:
- Mental health providers for injury-related issues
- Radiology departments, and separate bills from the radiologists who read the test results
- Ambulance or life-flight care at the scene
- Hospital bills including those for surgery or inpatient stays
- Chiropractors and physical or occupational therapists
- Out-of-pocket expenses for medications and medical devices
Include receipts for replacement services. For example, if you had to hire someone after the injury to do things you usually would do yourself, like mow the lawn, shovel snow, or care for your children.
Also, retain the proof of any transportation or food expenses related to receiving medical care.
You’ll need copies of your medical records to link your injury to the slip and fall event and to justify the type and amount of medical treatment you were given for your injuries.
If you hire an attorney to handle your slip and fall claim, they can help you obtain these records.
Any medical provider who sends you a bill should have corresponding medical records detailing your care. However, you won’t get copies of your medical records unless you ask for them in writing.
Under the law, you must consent to receive copies of your medical records or to send them to a third party. So, make sure you complete a consent form. The doctor or hospital might have their own request form you must use.
To make sure you’re not missing a document, make a list of your medical care, surgeries, therapies, and treatments since the accident. Go down the list to make sure you have a medical report or record for every listed activity.
Property Damage Documentation
Property damage is not as typical in slip and fall claims as it is in other claims. However, a slip and fall can cause damage to personal property.
Items such as watches, wedding rings, other valuable jewelry, eyeglasses, cell phones, shoes, and clothing can sustain damage in a fall.
You will need documentation to prove the expense of replacing or repairing damaged items. Include in your file purchase receipts, professional valuations, and any bills for the repair or replacement of your property.
Proof of Lost Wages
After a slip and fall injury, you may need to take time off work to heal or attend medical appointments.
If you seek compensation for lost wages, you will need documentation from your employer supporting your claim for wage reimbursement. Ask your employer for a written statement detailing the number of hours or days you did not work and your wages.
If you’re self-employed, you may need prior-year tax returns, profit and loss statements, evidence of lost assignments after your injury, or other ways of showing your loss of income.
This section of your files will likely be the smallest, but it is no less important.
Documentation of Your Slip and Fall Accident
Your injury claim must establish that the property owner was responsible for your accident. You will want to include in your file any documentation showing or even suggesting that the property owner caused your injury.
If you have access to witness statements and the witness’s contact information, place them in this section in alphabetical order by last name.
If you hire a lawyer, they will want to speak to any witnesses. The at-fault party’s insurance company will likely want to contact them as well.
Other documents to include in this section are:
- Any applicable police reports
- Incident reports from the property owner where your fell
Photos and Videos
Pictures and videos are essential pieces of evidence in your claim. Today’s technology makes it possible to easily capture photographic evidence for your slip and fall claim. Most cell phones take great pictures.
Whenever possible, get pictures or videos at the scene of the slip and fall. Include any notable conditions in the area, such as an icy sidewalk or a freshly mopped floor lacking a caution sign.
Take pictures and videos of your injuries as soon as possible after the fall and throughout your recovery.
When taking photos and videos, be aware of the lighting conditions and use the settings on your cell phone’s camera, like the flash option, to take the best picture you can.
Never edit the pictures or apply filters. You don’t want to be accused of falsifying the images.
Print pictures in color using quality paper.
Write the following on the back of the image:
- The date of the photo
- Who took the photo
- A brief description of what it shows
You should also save this evidence in digital form on your computer.
Your Personal Notes Are Vital
Detailed notes can make a significant difference in a slip and fall claim. A legal notepad, journal, or even a simple notebook will work. You can also type your notes.
No matter what you use to write your notes, make sure to include them in your file.
As soon as possible after the accident, write down a description of what took place. Waiting too long to document your case could cause you to forget details or recall things incorrectly.
Your notes should be dated and detailed. Take notes often throughout your claim. You can update prior notes if necessary.
Your notes may include:
- Your daily pain levels, sleep disturbances, anxieties, and side effects from treatment
- The date, time, and details of all phone or in-person conversations with the insurance adjuster, medical caregivers, the property owner, your attorney, and anyone else connected with your claim
- A running log of settlement offers and counteroffers, and notes regarding your negotiations
- Descriptions of your limitations during recovery, like if you need help with personal care, meals, pet care or other tasks, and who helped you
Your notes can serve as vital evidence in support of the pain and suffering portion of your compensation demand.
Keep in mind that, as evidence, your notes can be reviewed by the insurance company and a jury. Don’t include language or opinions in your notes that you wouldn’t want read out in court.
Maintaining a Slip and Fail Claim Calendar
Along with your claim documents, keep a calendar that tracks essential events and appointments related to your accident claim. Check your calendar every day until your claim settles.
Key dates for your calendar:
- Note each of your medical appointments, therapy dates, and when you send or receive
- Whenever you and your claims adjuster agree to make contact, write it on your calendar. You can hold your claims adjuster accountable by keeping track of when you spoke with them.
- The expiration of your state’s statute of limitations is another date to mark on your calendar. The statute of limitations is the deadline to either settle your claim or file a lawsuit.
For example, in California, the deadline is two years from the date of the injury. If you are unable to settle your claim and decide to file a lawsuit, you must do so before this date. If you do not, you will lose your right to compensation.
The insurance company will not remind you of the statutory deadline. It’s not their responsibility to ensure your claim settles before time runs out.
Get the Legal Help You Need
Don’t wait until the statutory deadline is looming to contact a personal injury attorney. Your attorney will need time to gather evidence and build your case before filing a lawsuit.
The good news is that many personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation and are willing to work on a contingency fee basis. Your attorney won’t get paid unless they settle your claim or win your case in court.
Getting the legal help you need doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Leave your checkbook at home, pick up your injury claim file, and meet with a knowledgeable attorney to learn how they can help.
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