Then and Now for a Personal Injury Attorney – Slip and Fall

I have often blogged of the history of technology from the perspective of a lawyer who has practiced his craft from 1972 to 2017. Compared to that, these two examples are unremarkable. You won’t be surprised, but we should all be amazed.

  1. Yesterday the subject of voicemail came up. My client said she had transcripts of all her voicemail. I knew this was possible, but we were surprised when she showed us the messages, verbatim, left by my staff for her. Clients with iPhones can now send us both the audio-file and a transcript. This may be more useful in family court than civil court,  but it is a good thing to remember.
  2. Today we met with another client who was seriously injured by slipping and falling at the entrance to a large discount retail store in the area. She had gone back and taken a few photos.
  3. I turn down most “slip and fall” cases. Juries, and therefore insurance adjusters, like to hold people accountable for their own falls. “Why didn’t she look where she was going?”
  4. But, the existence of (nearly invisible) ice at an entrance, the busiest foot traffic area of  the store, is usually a pretty good basis for a claim, especially if the claimant was wearing good, well treaded, shoes, as she was.
  5. It is not the same standard for a private residence where the visitor is called a “licensee”, a person who is presumptively there primarily for their own benefit.
  6. Therefore, a person injured at a friend or neighbor’s home has a much more difficult standard to meet. And many homeowners do not have liability insurance.
  7. Business “invitees” are presumptively there because the store, or its company invited them to be there. It is the store who controls the walkways, the store that has the resources, to keep the primary walkways clear.
  8. So, I ask my paralegal to find the store on Google Earth. “No problem. “
  9. “What are the coordinates (longitude and latitude) of the entrance?”
  10. “I am not sure which entrance she used.”
  11. “Hmmm..? Can’t you use street view?”
  12. “I don’t know.” Click.
  13. Suddenly we descend from a quarter of a mile above the store to find ourselves staring at the store entrance!
  14. There is the newspaper vending machine that is also in our client’s photograph. Zooming in, we can see a crack in the pavement where she fell. It is almost as if we had a drone!
  15. We get a wide-angle view, a close up from the left, and a close up to the right. I will still stop by and take my own photo, but was a great start to getting a clear photo of the injury scene.
  16. 20 years ago I spent $300-$400 on a detailed weather report for the 24 hour period leading up to my client’s fall. We had minute by minute data on the drizzling rain the day before, the incoming cold front, the time , within a few moments, that the entrance surface froze, and the number of hours that the sidewalk remained unsalted, @ 18, before my client stepped on “black ice” and ruined her knee.
  17. Did others’ fall? We don’t know. Perhaps there were a dozen “near misses”. I do know a jury decided that the county’s largest employer had been asleep on the job, and that no one spread salt where it should  have gone.
  18. That’s the kind of “responsibility” a WV jury can understand!
  19. It will probably cost us $500.00 to get the hourly data and narrative that we need from .
  20. If favorable, it can make our case. And, if not, better to know in advance.

This post was written by Burton Hunter

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