There are some basic things you should do after you have been injured as a result of a slip or trip and fall - even if you are not certain that you have a claim. It is much easier to collect important information and take certain steps at the outset then to try and do it weeks or months after the fall.
- Provide Notice Immediately: if you think you have slipped or tripped on City property, notify the City of the circumstances right away (i.e., date, time, and location of fall along with a brief description of your injuries). Most City clerks have email addresses and/or facsimile numbers so written notice can be given this way. This is essential since the Municipal Act, 2001 requires that notice be given to the City within 10 days of the incident. There are some limited circumstances in which this notice period can be extended, but it's better to avoid that problem altogether if possible.
- Precisely Identify the Location of the Fall: as time goes by (even just hours or days) the accuracy of our memories generally fade. It is typically essential to precisely identify the location of a slip or trip and fall in the legal context. So make sure to gather as much information as you can about the location of your fall - and do it as soon as you can. This includes the date and time the fall occurred, the street or intersection, the municipal address, and any unique characteristics that might help pinpoint the location - such as the location of doorways, planters, traffic lights, bicycle stands, and so on.
- Preserve Your Footwear: footwear in a slip or trip and fall is evidence in a lawsuit. The property owner will often argue that the injured person was wearing inappropriate footwear at the time of the incident in order to avoid being found at fault (e.g., high heels in the middle of winter on a sidewalk during a storm). So it is important to stop using the footwear you were in at the time of the incident and bag those shoes or boots for future inspection. Even if, for example, you were wearing proper winter boots when you slipped on ice, if you continue to use those boots for months or years after, the sole will wear down over time and may not help you as much as they should in resolving your claim.
- Take Photographs: at times it is simply not practical to take photographs of where you fell. For example, you may be in excruciating pain and require immediate emergency medical assistance. Taking a photograph is the last of your concerns. However, at other times taking a photograph (or having someone else do so) of the location of the fall is possible - and this can prove to be extremely helpful in resolving the claim at some point down the line. Even returning to the scene of the fall several days later to take photographs can be quite helpful - particularly if the cause of your fall remains present (for example, a broken step, a missing interlock brick, or a crumbling curb). It is best to take many photographs of the area, including close up and wide angle shots, and shots from different vantage points, in order to provide the viewer with an accurate understanding of the circumstances giving rise to the fall.
- Collect Witness Information: if someone witnessed your slip or trip and fall, make sure to obtain their contact information (full name, address, and telephone number). A witness' evidence as to what occurred can be quite powerful and, much like photographs, can go a long way toward quickly resolving a claim.