While the law establishes the rule for premises liability, you may still not have the right to claim compensation for your injuries. For instance, if you were trespassing or committing a criminal act, you won't be able to sue for damages. However, if you do have the legal right to be on the property and you can show that the property owner was negligent, you may be able to make a successful claim for damages with the help of an experienced personal injury attorney.
Before you call a personal injury attorney for help with your case, there are certain steps you should take immediately after the accident to ensure your case is as strong as it can be.
Collect Evidence at the Scene
Immediately after the accident, you should begin collecting evidence of the accident. This includes taking photographs of the area in which your accident occurred. You should take close-up pictures of anything that played a part in causing the accident, such as a wet floor, a hole in the ground, or a damaged handrail. Pictures will go a long way toward helping you prove your case, so get as much visual documentation as possible.
Gather Contact Information
You can also help your attorney prepare for your case by collecting the names, addresses, and phone numbers for any witnesses to the incident. Additionally, you should collect the same contact information for the property owner and also obtain information about his insurance coverage.
These details will help you and your lawyer file a claim more efficiently. If the case goes to trial, the process will run more smoothly if you already have information about witnesses to your accident.
Ask for a Copy of the Police Report
When the police arrive to investigate the accident, they will also take photos and they will interview those involved in the accident. This means their official report will outline both sides of the same story. You should request a copy of the report to ensure your statements are accurate, but also so you and your lawyer can examine what the property owner had to say about the accident.
This will make it easier to prepare for your claim and a possible civil lawsuit by helping you see how the property owner plans to defend himself.
Seek Medical Attention
Whether you feel injured or not, you should submit to a medical evaluation as soon as possible. While some injuries, such as a broken wrist or sprained ankle, may be immediately apparent, it can take other injuries more time to manifest symptoms. Traumatic brain injuries, neck injuries, and spine damage are all very serious conditions, which can take hours or days to manifest. A medical exam can identify signs of these injuries much sooner than you would observe them through feeling the symptoms.
Additionally, waiting to undergo a medical examination or to receive treatment will be viewed unfavorably by the insurance company and the courts. Often, people try to maximize their injuries to obtain a higher settlement by delaying treatment. The law calls this contributory negligence and it can negatively impact your case. If your case goes to court and the defense can establish your contributory negligence, you may be limited in how much you can receive for your damages. In some situations, the judge may dismiss the case altogether.
Contact an Attorney
Once you've taken the time to undergo a medical evaluation and begin treatment, you should think about how you want to proceed with your case. Shortly after the accident, a representative from the property owner's insurance company will contact you. They will try to get you to sign off on an early settlement offer, knowing that you have no further right to seek compensation once you accept an offer.
While this will be a way to get a quick cash settlement, it won't be enough to cover all of your damages. The insurance company will typically try to save as much money as possible by offering a settlement, before the full extent of your injuries and required treatment is known.
The best thing to do is to refer the insurance representative to your personal injury lawyer. Legal experts, such as the professionals at Mayerson Injury Law, will be familiar with the negotiation process and will use their expertise to get you a fair and just settlement offer. If the insurance company is reluctant to negotiate, the case may have to go to trial. In that case, your lawyer will know how to prove the property owner's liability. He or she can develop a strong strategy, using the evidence and witness information you provided, so you'll have a better chance of a favorable outcome in your case.
If you’ve been injured on someone else’s property, contact our firm at (610) 492-7155 for a no-fee consultation to discuss your case.