After litigating thousands of premises liability cases, here’s what stands out the most: time is of the essence.
Moving quickly to record the details of the incident and preserve evidence are essential to building a winning case, especially with the added complexities of proving liability.
Here’s how we do it.
Pick Up The Phone
After a client has been retained, an attorney or member of staff assigned to the case reaches out to the client within 24 hours to review the facts and circumstances of the incident. A detailed question set enables the legal team to identify potential gaps in the case early on and direct onsite investigators as needed.
General information is gathered to confirm the exact location of the incident, find out what precisely caused the incident, and ascertain the injuries sustained and medical treatment received. More detailed questions include:
-What direction were you walking?
-What were you looking at when the incident occurred?
-Was anyone else around?
-What kind of shoes were you wearing?
If you’re in a public space, chances are you’re on camera. Between security systems, Ring doorbells, and smartphones, it’s likely that a slip and fall was captured. In the initial conversation with a client, our legal team determines if they photographed any scenes of the incident or if there were any witnesses nearby that may have.
Video footage is essential, but many businesses have automated procedures in which it is overwritten after a certain period of time. Time is of the essence in ensuring that proof of the fall and the defect which caused it will be available. Sending out spoliation letters to the defendant and nearby businesses should be done as soon as possible.
Send An Investigator
Often, the injury itself was the only thing on the client’s mind, resulting in little evidence gathered. That’s when moving quickly becomes especially important. When the facts of the case warrant it, partnering with third-party investigators ensures that evidence such as photos, videos, or measurements are collected as soon as possible after the intake.
While visiting the site, investigators can also search the area for nearby businesses or homes that have video surveillance systems and footage that may be useful. In some cases, the investigator will meet with the client to capture high-quality photos of the injury itself instead of relying on poor or unclear images from the client.
Go On The (Medical) Record
To keep the case progressing and identify gaps early on, requesting all medical records as soon as possible is key. Aside from the evidence, emergency room reports can also provide insight into what the client disclosed to healthcare providers at the time. Did they describe the incident similarly? Are there any contradictions in these reports to their intake? Finding the potential problems right away gives the legal team more time to build a stronger case against the defendant.
Partnering with a third-party record requestor to navigate the paperwork and regulations surrounding medical records also makes it possible for the legal team to focus their efforts on other elements of the case.
Every Minute Counts
In certain states, some entities may be required to be put on notice in as little as 60 days. With this and the concern of lost or decayed essential evidence, timely processing of a premises liability case is the most important factor to building a winning case.
With the extra level of attention and investigation required for such cases, it’s essential to work with investigators, collect evidence, and engage with experts early. These processes enable our legal team to determine if the defendant should have been aware of potential dangers despite any obviousness of the defect will and ensure any defendants will be unable to evade liability.
By having robust legal teams to focus on each case and by partnering with third-parties where necessary, we can ensure that our clients have top representation. When an entity causes harm by their negligence, we’re here to hold them accountable and ensure our clients are compensated for what they’ve lost.
This article was written based on an interview with Morgan & Morgan attorney Rebecca Sweeney, with additional insights from attorneys Tyler Kobylinski and Alexander Zodikoff.