You’ve just been involved in a slip and fall accident , or you were in a bad car accident. Obviously, you must seek medical attention. However, there are several important do’s and don’ts to be aware of, and if possible, some of these must be done right away, or the opportunity is lost.
Get the names of any witnesses. This can’t be stressed enough. Especially if you are involved in a fall down accident, where the condition you fell on, be it ice, spilled liquid, or even a banana peel at the supermarket, might not be there ten minutes from now, or in an intersection accident, where you and the other driver both claim to have the green light, identifying witnesses and getting their names and phone numbers is critical. Armed with the names of objective witnesses who observed the large patch of ice, who saw the condition of spilled detergent and heard the supermarket manager say to her employee: “I thought I told you to clean that up an hour ago”, or who saw that you had the green light, your case is much stronger.
If you are physically able, and have a camera phone, or access to a camera quickly, take photographs of the condition. That icy patch could be gone in a half hour, either by the owner rushing out to place salt on an icy sidewalk or the store owner finally deciding that he will clean up that produce aisle.
Invariably, when you report your accident, an adjuster from some insurance company will call on the premise that he or she is just concerned about “how you are doing”, and they’d like to record a statement from you “with your permission.” You must, and this cannot be stressed enough, hang up the phone and refuse to do so. This adjuster has been trained in the art of asking questions designed to place the blame of the accident solely on you–i.e., so you were running really late for school, work, or your dental appointment, and you weren’t paying as much attention to the ground as you might normally do, huh?” You must hang up the phone, and let your attorney handle this call–this is what we are trained to do.
If you fell down in an apartment building due to some dangerous condition, try to identify the ownership of the building–this will assist your attorney immeasurably when settlement efforts have failed and a lawsuit must be started. Frequently, maintenance men will either identify the building owner or direct you to a plaque on the wall that provides the name, address and phone number of the owner or managing agent.
Never negotiate a case before going to the lawyer’s office. I cannot reiterate how many clients have made the mistake of agreeing to a small settlement, signing a release which prohibits them from ever suing, only to find out that they have been taken–the case was worth a lot more money than they settled for. Companies like Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and other big chains pride themselves on having a skilled claims department, with adjusters who know how to persuade, manipulate and settle cases on the cheap, with the injured person thinking they avoided paying a lawyer, only to find out later that their case was worth fifteen times what they settled for.