A case I’m now handling serves as an interesting reminder about how business owners — especially retailers and grocers — equip themselves to fight customers who claim to have been injured on their premises. It also serves as an important reminder that people injured because of a slip or fall should seek the help of a skilled personal injury lawyer.
My client visited a store and slipped because of something on the floor. She was helped up. An employee took an incident report. She was helped to her car, and she drove away. She was sore but thought rest would help her. It didn’t. When she woke the next morning, she was in more pain and sought medical attention immediately. Doctors said she had a neck injury and would incur medical and other costs to address it. My client did not delay. She did not try to tackle the nearly impossible feat of negotiating her own case with insurance companies and everyone representing the store where she fell.
She contacted Fuller Law.
Colorado already is not one of the best states in which to have a slip-and-fall because it has relatively weak legal protections for people who fall on other people’s property, making it tough for injured people to recover damages. To add to the stacking of the deck against those injured because of a slip and fall, businesses such as the one where my client fell are outfitted with high-definition cameras trained on a customer’s every move.
In this case, the store used the same powerful lenses it relies on to spot the shoplifting of a candy bar to examine everything about my client — all with the intent of fighting her personal injury claim. Was she aware of, and paying attention to, her surroundings? What were her facial expressions? Were her shoelaces untied? Could anything else about her shoes — or anything about her clothing, posture or personal behavior have caused her fall? The store also produced intensely focused footage of her being helped up, walking to her car and driving down the street until she was out of range.
Guess what the store did not produce: Footage of my client’s fall. A personal injury lawyer can take steps to prevent a property owner from getting rid of such evidence — but this happens only if a lawyer is retained very early in the process. Because I was retained early in this case, I was able to use what I believe was the deliberate destruction of evidence to help my client not be taken advantage of.
The store’s failure to present the footage of my client’s fall when it could present footage of everything else about her — right down to the brand of shoes she was wearing —was critical in our negotiations and helped us successfully resolve her case prior to trial. The takeaway is that property owners often go to great lengths to deny responsibility for personal injury on their premises.
The store’s close-up video of my client also firmly underscored these things:
To have a slip-and-fall claim, you must have been injured — and you must have documented your injury and the circumstances leading up to it. Take photos in the moment if you can — or insist that someone else at the scene do so.
When you are on a business’ premises — especially those of a large commercial retailer or grocer — expect your every move to be recorded while you’re inside and outside, and for as long as you’re within the range of the owner’s video cameras. Slip-and-fall cases are more difficult to pursue in Colorado — so it is very important to find a highly skilled personal injury lawyer to help you navigate the legal complexities and recover the damages to which you are entitled. This deck already is stacked against you — and you likely will not like the outcome if you wait 2-3 weeks after the injury happened before speaking to a lawyer about it.