You’re out and about, but what if you get injured?
Everyone falls, trips, or is otherwise injured at some time. But do you know how to take stock of your surroundings if you’re injured in a public venue?
If you get injured in public—whether it’s a slip and fall or some other type of accident—we hope that your worst injury is to your ego. Some people feel pretty silly being “caught” taking a spill or twisting an ankle in a way that seems embarrassing, but accidents happen to everyone.
If you trip or get injured in your own home, you might seek medical attention or it could be something you can treat yourself. Unless a defective product caused the injury, it’s unlikely that you’d have any reason to file a lawsuit for your recovery costs. That’s because the person liable for an injury from a property hazard is usually the owner or manager; if it’s your own home, you’d have no one to hold responsible.
But if you’re injured in public, there are things you can do to preserve your right to a legal claim if necessary.
There are a few things to know about injuries that happen in public places.
- An injury resulting from a property hazard is handled under premises liability law. This holds the property owner liable for reasonably foreseeable injuries to anyone legally permitted to be there.
- You can file a lawsuit only if the injury cost you money. A sprained ankle that you treat at home, or a cut that only requires a Band-Aid does not cost you money. While you might be embarrassed or annoyed, those are not reasons to file a lawsuit. The purpose of personal injury law is to make a plaintiff (injured person) whole or to restore them to the financial position they would be in if the accident hadn’t happened.
- There are certain steps you can take immediately following an injury to preserve evidence to strengthen your claim if necessary.
What to do following an injury in a public location
1. Assess the situation
First, evaluate your own injury. If it seems minor, you might be able to seek assistance of passers-by or an employee of a business to help you get what you need.
2. Call for help
If it’s a serious injury, you should seek medical attention by calling 911 or requesting someone else to call on your behalf. Hopefully, a Good Samaritan will do this without asking if you’re unable to speak for yourself.
3. Find a safe location
If you’re in a roadway or someplace where a hazard continues to occur, seek a safe spot for refuge. Move out of traffic, into a nearby business, or elsewhere for shelter while you wait for help.
4. Stabilize your injury
If you (or a helper) can reduce blood loss, immobilize a body part that might be broken, apply ice if available, or take other measures to prevent further injury, you should do what you can until help arrives.
5. Seek medical evaluation, even if it’s non-emergency
Even if you don’t think you’re severely injured, it’s wise to seek a medical evaluation as soon as possible. This can be with your primary care provider, an urgent care provider, or elsewhere. If you need to file a lawsuit, the record from this visit will be a crucial piece of evidence. It could prove that your injuries were caused by this particular accident and not some other way.
In addition, some injuries don’t have symptoms immediately. If you suffer whiplash, a concussion, or something else, the effects might not appear for days, or even weeks, following the accident. It’s important to have a medical record that reflects that you visited a doctor immediately after a potential injury occurred.
6. Provide information
When help arrives, or when you reach a medical facility for evaluation and treatment, provide as much information as you can about how the injury happened, what pain or symptoms you’re experiencing, and your relevant medical history. This will help to ensure that you get proper care for your injury.
Preserve evidence in case you need it
In order to win a damage award or settlement for a personal injury claim, you need to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused your injury. Sometimes, this is obvious—if you’re a pedestrian walking properly on a sidewalk and you’re hit by a speeding car that jumped the curb, for example. Or, if you’re in a supermarket and a light fixture suddenly breaks from the ceiling and falls on your head.
But cases aren’t always that cut-and-dried. Sometimes it’s a challenge to prove that you deserve compensation. That’s where evidence becomes important, and the first minutes and hours after an injury can often provide the best evidence.
If you are able to take photos that would reflect how the accident happened, do so. That might mean photographing the position of a car after it hit you, or the broken bracket that allowed the light fixture to fall—even weather conditions can be important in a personal injury lawsuit—so that you can show exactly what led to your injury.
Of course, you might not be able to start taking photos if you were just injured, which is totally understandable. However, as soon as you are able to do so, or if you have a friend or family member who can help, you should contact the business or any entity that might have captured video or photographic footage of the accident. Most businesses delete their security footage fairly quickly unless they know there is a reason to save it; you can ask for the footage for the date and time of the accident to be saved in case it can help you in a lawsuit.
Seek out witnesses
The other thing you can do is obtain contact information for witnesses. A witness is anyone who observed anything related to the accident, whether it’s before, during, or immediately after.
Sometimes things happen that seem irrelevant or insignificant at the time, but they become important later. Therefore, if you can get names and contact information for anyone who witnessed the accident, it can be a helpful tool. You don’t need to take a statement or ask what they observed, but having the contact information can be useful in case your lawyer wants to follow up.
Contact a personal injury lawyer
Don’t assume you have no recourse after an accident, even if it’s minor. Likewise, you can sometimes recover damages for an accident, even if you share some liability for your own injury. This depends on the state where the accident happened and other factors.
An attorney can help you negotiate with an insurance company for a settlement or file a lawsuit. If you believe your injury resulted from a person, business, or other entity’s negligence, you can consider contacting an attorney to learn your legal options.