A N.J. premises liability story
Joan and her 9-year-old son, Michael, parked their car in the Livingston Mall on a rainy day in March, 2010. They were on their way to purchase a pair of soccer cleats for Michael’s upcoming out-door soccer season. As the pair walked towards the entrance to the Mall, Joan took a terrible fall in a huge “pot hole” about 5 steps from the main entrance. Joan was dazed and badly bruised about her legs and hands. After about a minute or so, Joan got up, brushed herself off, and continued on her way to the Foot Locker for Michael’s cleats. A true soccer mom.
The next morning Joan could not get out of bed. Every part of her body hurt. Her head throbbed with pain. Dan, Joan’s husband, drove her to the emergency room at Morristown Memorial Hospital where she was diagnosed with severe contusions, abrasions, back and neck sprain, and a fractured left pinky finger. Joan was advised to follow-up with an orthopedic surgeon.
It is now 8 months later, and Joan is still receiving physical therapy for her multiple injuries. She hand a MRI of the back, which revealed a herniated disc at L5-S1. Joan is scheduled to meet with a lawyer this afternoon. The “huge pot hole” was repaired two weeks after Joan’s trip and fall accident.
What mistakes did Joan make?
Terry and I have heard this sad story way too many times during the course of our 35 years of law practice. It is a N.J. personal injury lawyer’s nightmare. Joan should have:
- Called the police immediately after her trip and fall accident
- Requested an ambulance take her to the emergency room of one of the several nearby hospitals to diagnose and treat her injuries
- Reported the accident to the Livingston Mall, instead of continuing on her way
- Taken photographs of the “huge pot hole” as soon as possible after her trip and fall accident
- Made an appointment to discuss her trip and fall accident claim with a lawyer, after seeing her doctor
Why are these 5 mistakes so important to avoid?
Why should anyone believe Joan was caused to fall by a “huge pot hole” in the parking lot of the Livingston Mall? What sane person would pick herself up from a serious trip and fall, with multiple, serious injuries, and continue about her business of shopping for soccer cleats?
The fact that Joan failed to call the police, immediately request an ambulance take her to the emergency room, and report the accident to the Livingston Mall, significantly decreases her credibility and chances of winning the compensation she deserves for her injuries. Why should we believe Joan fell in a “huge pot hole,” and did not fall somewhere else in or outside the Mall; and is seeking to recover money from a “deep pocket.” How is Joan going to demonstrate how dangerous the “huge pot hole” was without photographs?
If you want an insurance company, or a jury of your peers to believe your accident claim, it is essential you act the way a reasonable, injured person would act following a terrible trip & fall. Remember when you assert an accident claim, your adversaries will examine your behavior under a microscope, and look for mistakes. Joan made it pretty easy, yes?!