Georgia law protects the rights of invitees who are injured by a property owner’s failure to keep its premises in a safe condition. An “invitee” is the legal word for a customer, someone who is on the premises at the invitation or for the benefit of the premises owner. When you go to a retail store or a restaurant, you are essentially an invitee. When a customer slips and falls at the establishment, the owner may be liable for the customer’s injuries under certain circumstances. In order to recover, an injured party must prove that the premises owner knew or should have known about the hazard or defect that caused the customer to fall. This requirement can be difficult since a premises owner is not an insurer of the customer’s safety. However, when a fall occurs, there are certain steps that a customer can take to protect his/her rights and to establish the premises’ owner’s negligence.
- Do not automatically say you feel okay. Oftentimes, because of embarrassment or the emotional roller coaster of falling, you aren’t as aware of the pain. Also, many injuries, especially soft tissue injuries, develop over time.
- Document what caused you to fall. Take a picture of what caused you to fall. If there is a foreign substance on the floor, take a picture of it. If you are in too much pain, and if you have a companion, ask them to do it for you.
- Check your clothes. Many times liquids can be completely absorbed by the clothing that you are wearing.
- Keep your shoes. Make sure to keep the shoes that you were wearing at the time of the fall. It is best if you can stop wearing them, but if not, be sure and take a picture of the condition the shoes were in.
- Get a copy of any incident report. If the employer fills out an incident report, make sure to get a copy of it before you sign it. If they do not want to give you a copy, then do not sign the report.
- Get the names of all employees who are assisting you.
- Is there any video of the area of your fall. If there is, tell the employees to make sure that it is saved or preserved for you to review.
- Identify witnesses. If there are individuals around who saw you fall, get their names and contact information to call them later. Witness testimony that can corroborate your own version of events is critical evidence that can often persuade a store owner to accept liability.
- Do not sign medical authorizations. If you are in pain, it is okay to have the store call emergency for you. However, do not sign any authorizations for the store to obtain copies of your medical records. This allows adverse parties to have access to your private and protected health information.
- Do not give a recorded statement. Wait until you have contacted your attorney before you give any recorded statements about the incident.
Georgia law also makes a distinction between slip and fall and trip and fall. Technically, slip and fall involves a fall that results from a foreign substance on the floor, like water, or some other spilled liquid or food. A trip and fall usually involves a stationary or “static” condition like a ramp, a step or a walkway. However, the same general principles apply:
- Take a picture of the obstacle
- Ascertain if video exists of the incident and have it preserved
- Ask for a copy of any and all incident reports
- Get the names of any representatives or employees who assisted you
- Get the names and contact information of any and all witnesses
- Keep your shoes
- Don’t sign any medical authorizations or give any recorded statements until you have contacted your attorney.
By taking some simple steps, you can protect your rights and strengthen your claim. For experienced guidance and answers to your questions about a personal injury claim, please contact us. From offices in Atlanta, Georgia, we serve clients throughout the surrounding communities.