Premises liability accidents leave our clients with difficult injuries, including head injuries, whiplash, back pain, and more. The good news is that Vermont law allows visitors to sue the property owner in many cases, especially where the owner invited them onto the property but did not ensure it was reasonably safe. To make a successful claim, however, you need evidence. The Vermont personal injury lawyers atLarson & Gallivan Law can help by investigating a claim on your behalf. In this article, we identify some of the major pieces of evidence forpremises liability claims and suggest ways to preserve it.
Photographs of the Hazard
Our clients have been hurt in various premises liability accidents:
- Slip and falls
- Trip and falls
- Falling merchandise
- Electrocution accidents
- Furniture tip-over accidents
- Food poisoning
If you fell, for example, try to get a picture of the hazard that caused you to lose your footing. That might be ice on a sidewalk or in a parking lot, snow inside the door of a store, or trash and debris. A photograph helps establish that the hazard really existed. There’s always a risk that the owner might remove the hazard and then claim you fell because you were careless. A photograph preserves the existence of the hazard that caused you to fall.
Similarly, if a heavy piece of merchandise falls on you, take a picture of the item on the ground and the shelves. These photographs help people visualize the accident, including insurance adjusters and attorneys.
Eyewitnesses provide critical evidence. Witnesses can speak to insurance adjusters about what they saw. Their testimony is especially important if you don’t have a phone to take a picture of the hazard or you’re too injured to get a photograph.
Talk to people and ask for their phone number, email, or another method of contact. Witnesses often need to come into a law office and give an official statement months later, and we need some way of contacting them.
What happens if you’re too injured to move and speak to anyone? That’s okay. But remember to hire an attorney quickly, since we will need to probably visit the accident scene to find out more about who was there the day you were hurt.
Many stores haveclosed-circuit television, which is installed to help combat shoplifting. This is great evidence to have because it can help us establish the presence of a hazard and how long it existed. Store owners have a duty to walk through their aisles and check for hazards, like spilled liquids or trash on the floor, and then clean it up in a reasonable amount of time. They can’t let spilled liquid sit on the ground for hours and do nothing.
You can ask the store owner to preserve the video, or you can hire an attorney. We’ll coordinate with the store to make sure they don’t erase anything or record over the evidence.
Similarly, some homeowners have security cameras, including cameras for their front door. You might have slipped and fallen on their steps, porch, or walkway, in which case we can seek to use video evidence for your claim as well.
A store might create an incident report for accidents on their premises. You should request a copy or have your lawyer request a copy for you. It can contain important pieces of information, such as admissions on the part of the store that a hazard did exist, as well as possible prior complaints.
Your attorney might also request information about prior incidents at the location. A store which has had multiple accidents is on notice to improve their maintenance. This is especially true if violent crimes were committed at the location due to insufficient security.
You are also an important witness to any accident. Some people are so confused they have no idea what happened, but others will remember clearly pulling an item off a shelf, only for the shelves to collapse. Try to sit down at a quiet moment and write down your memories of the accident. Be as detailed as you can.
One issue will be comparative negligence. For example, a store might claim you were looking at your phone as you walked inside. They might even claim that you were partially at fault because you weren’t paying attention to where you stepped. Your legal team can use this information when building a claim.
A receipt can help show that you actually were in the store at the day and time you claim. For example, you might have just purchased some shampoo and soap at the drug store and were on your way out to the parking lot when you slipped and fell near the door. Save your receipts. We can use them in the event the store tries to claim you were never on their property.
Take Out Food
You might have gotten food poisoning at a restaurant. If you took a doggie bag home with you, remember to preserve the food. Don’t throw it out, because we might need to have it tested to find out if it contains salmonella or another pathogen.
In addition to establishing how the accident happened, we also need to prove the severity of your injuries. Medical records do the job nicely. This is one reason we recommend that people go to the hospital soon after being hurt. As soon as you walk into the emergency room or doctor’s office you are creating a paper record. We can use any diagnostic test results to show a fracture, back injury, or head injury.
When meeting with a lawyer, remember to write down the names of all doctors, specialists, and hospitals you visited. Your legal team will want copies of medical records to help flesh out a claim for compensation.
Call for More Help
Larson & Gallivan realizes how important evidence is for premises liability claims. We have negotiated many claims successfully for our clients. To find out more, contact one of our Vermont personal injury lawyers by calling 802-327-8458.