The Essential Guide to Starting a Strong Slip and Fall Injury Claim

Learn the elements you need for a strong slip and fall injury claim, and how to maximize your compensation from the insurance company.

Whether you’re at a private home or a business open to the public, the owners have a legal duty to keep their property safe for visitors.

When you’re injured by a slip and fall on someone else’s property, you expect the at-fault property or business owner to pay for your injuries.

What you do in the first ten minutes after a fall, and throughout your recovery can make or break your injury claim.

Before you see a dime from the at-fault party’s insurance company, you’ll need to convince the adjuster that the property owner’s negligence caused your injuries.

You’ll need good evidence that covers the four essential elements of a strong injury claim.

Gather evidence that shows:

  1. Your slip and fall resulted in injuries
  2. The property owner had a duty to protect you
  3. There was an unsafe condition on the property
  4. The owner knew or should have known about the hazardous condition

You’ll also need to prove that you didn’t do anything to contribute to the circumstances surrounding your fall.

If you suffered minor injuries from a fall, you could probably negotiate a fair insurance settlement on your own. Here’s where we walk you through the evidence you need for a successful injury claim and how to notify the insurance company of your intent to seek compensation.

Document Your Injuries and Medical Care

You must prove when and where you fell, and prove the scope of your injuries to the insurance adjuster.

Evidence proving the fall occurred often includes:

  1. PhotosPhotos are invaluable to any claim. Take pictures of your injuries, torn or bloodied clothing, and the hazard that caused your fall.
  2. Weather reports – Get your hands on a weather report for the date of the accident if anything weather-related contributed to your fall.
  3. Witness statements – It helps if others can back up your story. Ask anyone who saw your fall, helped you, or who knew about the hazard, for their statement.

Never refuse or delay medical treatment after a slip and fall. Without medical records, you won’t get far with an injury claim. You must have proof of physical injuries caused by the slip and fall.

Insurance companies fight high-dollar claims. Severe injury claims should be handled by an experienced personal injury attorney to maximize your compensation. 

Collect your medical reports, bills, and records for all treatment and therapy. You’ll want copies of the full amount billed for medical services, even if your health care insurance covers most or all of the cost.

Treatment providers may include:

  • Emergency responders
  • Primary care providers
  • Chiropractors
  • Physical therapists
  • Rehabilitation doctors

Be sure to gather receipts for your out-of-pocket medical expenses, like medications, crutches, and bandages.

Example: No Recovery for a Bruised Ego

Luke wraps up a good workout at a local gym. He has a post-exercise strut and heads into a convenience store for some water. Two high schoolers are getting a fountain drink and accidentally spill some soda onto the store’s tiled floor.

Luke slips on the puddle of spilled soda. He hits the ground and fumbles around for a few moments complaining that he lost his “pump.”

The students laugh at him and head out the door. Luke gets up without any injury. He feels like a fool for being mocked by the kids.

Here, Luke cannot recover compensation for his slip and fall in the convenience store.  Although his pride took a beating, he wasn’t injured in the fall.

A bruised ego is not a physical injury. A physical injury is necessary for a successful insurance claim.

Show That an Unsafe Condition Caused Injury

By itself, a slip and fall injury is not enough to establish the property owner’s liability. For your case to succeed, the law requires you to prove that a “hazard” existed on the property.

Your injury claim must include evidence of the unsafe condition that made you tumble.

Examples of unsafe conditions that support a slip and fall claim may include:

After your fall, document the hazard that was on the property. Gather witness statements about the unsafe condition. Take photos of what you slipped or tripped on and everything in the immediate area.

Return to the injury location after a few days to take some more pictures. If the later photographs reveal that the property owner removed the hazard, the change confirms that there was a safety hazard before you fell.

In gathering photographic evidence, take pictures from different angles and close-ups of the hazardous condition. Try to indicate that the hazard was hard to see or avoid. The more difficult it was for you to avoid the danger, the stronger your claim.

Insurance companies don’t like to compensate “victims” who could have easily avoided an injury.

Prove the Owner Knew of a Danger

Slip and fall laws say that a property owner must have known of an unsafe condition before they can be held responsible for any injuries. Or, at least, the property owner should have known of the hazard.

Premises liability laws are in place out of fairness. They allow a property owner time to fix or remove a danger before they can be held liable for slip and fall injuries.

“Knowledge” of an unsafe condition can sometimes be challenging to prove. You can establish that the owner knew of a hazard with facts that show how the hazardous condition occurred.

If an owner or employee leaves a box on the floor, for example, the box could be considered a hazardous situation. Another example might be an employee allowing excessive floor wax buildup where there is high foot traffic.

Even if a business did not create the condition itself, they could be responsible if they knew about a potential hazard and didn’t take reasonable steps to fix it.

Consider a toy store where many shoppers complained to the manager about spilled marbles in the aisle. The complaints give the store notice of a potentially dangerous condition. The store can be responsible for any injuries if it doesn’t take reasonable steps to pick the marbles up.

Definition of “Reasonableness” for Preventing Slips and Falls 

Owners are not required to remove all possible dangerous conditions from their property. The owner, though, is expected to take “reasonable” steps to prevent harm to others.

If snow covers a walkway after a storm, and the owner clears the snow and salts the sidewalk, these are reasonable steps to ensure safety. The sidewalk may still be a little wet or icy, but the law does not expect the owner to dry it thoroughly.

Another way a property owner can “reasonably” protect others is by posting a warning sign or cordoning off dangerous areas.

If there’s a spill on the floor and the staff is unable to mop it up immediately, they owe a duty to place “wet floor” signs or cones to alert you of the danger. The failure to post a warning may create liability for your injuries if you slip and fall.

Proving the property owner’s “knowledge” is probably the hardest part of building a slip and fall claim. But you can do it.

Surveillance video can be compelling evidence in a premises liability claim. You or your attorney should send a written demand for the preservation of any evidence, including security or surveillance footage taken on the date of your injury.

The video can show an employee creating a hazard, or it may indicate other customers reporting the hazard.

The surveillance video could show the timing of events, proving there was a considerable delay between the time a hazard occurred and when the owner removed it. A long delay can show the property owner did not take reasonable steps to make an area safe.

Incident reports are also a great way to show that a business knows of a danger. Stores typically generate these reports if someone falls on their property. Incident reports give the details of the event, including its cause. A history of incidents reports with accidents similar to yours can show a company knew of an unsafe condition and didn’t fix it.

Don’t expect a business owner to hand over copies of their surveillance footage or incident reports without a subpoena.

Draft Important Claim Letters

You or your attorney need to send two crucial claim letters to get the ball rolling on receiving compensation for your slip and fall injuries.

Notification Letter

Your first important letter serves to notify the property owner’s insurance company that you intend to seek money for your injuries. You may have to send the notification to the property owner to get their insurer’s information.

The notification letter includes:

  • The letter date
  • Your full name and contact information
  • The date and location of your slip and fall injury
  • A general account of what happened
  • A brief description of your injuries
  • The property owner’s name and contact information

Notify the insurance company of your intent to file an injury claim early in the claim building process. You don’t have to wait until your medical treatment is complete.

Keep it simple. It’s too early to argue the merits of your claim or to discuss settlement.

We’ve made it easy for you with our sample Slip and Fall Notification Letter.

Demand Letter

When you’ve fully recovered, if you’re handling your own claim, you’ll send a demand letter to the property owner’s liability insurance company. Make your demand after you’ve finished your medical treatment and know the full extent and cost of your injuries.

The letter is more detailed than a notification letter and represents your formal demand for injury compensation.

A good demand letter includes:

  • A statement of facts describing the accident
  • An explanation of why the property owner is responsible for your injuries
  • A description of your injuries
  • An accounting of the damages you’ve suffered

Gather Your Evidence

Before you write the demand letter, gather and organize your evidence. In addition to your medical records and witness statements, you’ll need:

Gathering evidence is an ongoing part of pursuing your claim.

You’ll want to reference your evidence in your demand letter and include copies of key documents in the demand packet.

Calculate Your Claim Value

Before you draft a demand letter, you’ll need to calculate the value of your personal injury claim.  Once you have an idea of your claim’s value, you’ll know how much compensation to demand from the insurance company.

The value of a claim includes both “special damages” and “general damages.”

  • Special damages are concrete and are usually easy to calculate. They include compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other hard costs from your fall.
  • General damages can be more challenging to calculate because you won’t have bills or receipts. However, there are ways to establish the value of your pain and suffering after a slip and fall.

Unusually large or outlandish general damages claims can weaken your negotiating position with the insurance adjuster.

Prepare to Defend Your Claim

When building a strong personal injury claim, you should think big picture. Look to the future and prepare for everything that will soon come your way.

Be Patient. There are many uncertainties in filing a personal injury claim. For example, you may not know when an insurance adjuster will return your call. You may hear of differences in the laws that control your case. Sometimes, you may have difficulty dealing with the adjuster’s negotiation style.

Despite these realities, you must remain patient. Patience will help you keep a calmer head that makes wiser decisions. Allowing yourself to act out in anger or fear leads to costly mistakes.

Get 100% ready: Know your claim in and out. You stand a better chance to prove to an adjuster that you’re entitled to compensation if you know every fact relevant to your case.

Review records and photos if you need to get reacquainted with specific details.

Most claims settle after a few rounds of give-and-take with the adjuster. Still, it’s good to know your options if negotiations fail.

Knowing the professionals who might get involved in your claim resolution will boost your confidence. Besides the claim adjuster, it doesn’t hurt to know more about:

You’ll need to cross every ‘T’ and dot every ‘I’ moving forward. Make sure all your evidence adds up and that there are no glaring weaknesses in your case.

Seek Legal Advice: Consultations with an experienced personal injury attorney are usually free, and there’s no obligation to hire the first attorney you meet. Most injury attorneys work on a contingency basis, meaning they won’t get paid unless they settle your claim or win your case in court.

If you have severe or potentially permanent injuries, you’ll need an attorney to get the full value of your injury claim.

You’ll also need legal advice for complicated claims, like when you have a pre-existing condition, or the adjuster says you share fault for your injuries.

Your attorney can handle every step of building your claim, including gathering and organizing evidence, writing the demand letter, and negotiating your settlement.

Even if you end up handling your own claim, a legal consultation will prove worthwhile. It costs nothing to find out what a skilled attorney can do for you.

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Dustin Reichard, Esq. is an experienced attorney with 20 years of work in the legal field. He’s admitted to the Illinois State Bar and the Washington State Bar. Dustin has worked in the areas of medical malpractice, wrongful death, product liability, slip and falls, and general liability. Dustin began his legal career as a JAG... Read More >>