With the incredibly snowy winter we’re having here in the Metropolitan area, people are slipping on icy sidewalks and stairways and suffering very serious injuries. In New York, in order to be successful in a slip and fall accident, you must be able to establish that the landowner had “notice” of the dangerous condition of the walkway or stairs prior to the accident. Notice can be either “constructive”; that is, that the landlord or property owner “knew of should have known” of the icy conditions–i.e. the landlord has his or her office there and could observe the dangerous conditions, or “actual”, meaning that the property owner knew of the snow or ice by virtue of a letter, e-mail or phone call specifically informing she or he about the snow and ice conditions.
If you are the victim of a slip and fall on ice or snow, make sure that you do the following:
1. Take photographs of the area where you fell from numerous different angles (have a friend or relative do this for you after learning of the accident). This is critical, as particularly in snow and ice accident cases, most of the time the conditions have changed or have disappeared within hours after the accident, making it much more difficult to prove your case if the case proceeds to litigation.
2. Obtain the names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of all witnesses to the accident. This is another critically important factor in proving cases, as defendants and insurance companies frequently utilize the defense that the accident either did not occur at all or did not happen where the injured person says it did.
3. Report the accident to the property owner, and if possible, obtain a copy of the accident report.
4. Report the accident to the police, and request a copy of the police report.
5. Keep any damaged property or clothing in a safe place as it will be evidence in the case.
6. Seek hospital and medical treatment immediately. It is vital that you make sure that the triage nurse correctly describes the happening of the accident and that you confirm this before leaving the hospital. We are seeing an increase (either for reasons or carelessness or more sinister reasons) in admitting notes which distinctly blame the accident on the injured person without any foundation, for example: “patient reported that while late for work, he slipped on the driveway and broke his left arm”, or “while attempting to answer her cellphone, patient didn’t observe the ice on the sidewalk and fell, landing on her right hip.” In both of these cases, the admitting notes were completely inaccurate, but once you leave the hospital, try to convince the insurance company of that fact.
As for don’ts, there are two critical ones to remember. First, do not sign anything from an insurance company for the property owner. For example, they will often contact you before you are aware of the extent for your injuries, offering to pay for your medical bills in exchange for your signature on a “release” which will end your rights to bring a claim or lawsuit. Second, do not agree to give a recorded statement on the telephone to the insurance adjuster. These insurance representatives are trained in asking questions to elicit answers which attribute the fault of the accident to you.
Contact the Westchester County Slip And Fall Accident Lawyers at the White Plains, New York Law Office of Mark A. Siesel online or toll free at 888-761-7633 for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury trial lawyer to discuss your case in detail. We will fight the insurance companies and defense lawyers to maximize your compensation for your injuries, medical expenses, lost earnings and loss of enjoyment of life.