A Florida store’s carelessness may cause your injury. If so, you may be able to get money for your damages (e.g. medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.).
- Gas stations and convenience stores
- Car dealerships
- Hotels, resorts and motels
- Day Care Centers
- Movie theatres
- Cruise ships
- And much more.
What types of “accidents” result in Florida store injury claims?
The most common store accidents are:
- Slip and falls
- Trip and falls
- Pallet or shopping cart runs over someone’s foot
- An employee pushed a shopping cart or something else into you
- An object fell on you
- Many other types of accidents
There are certain steps that you must take to maximize your claim to get paid for your medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering and other damages.
1. Call 911 if Necessary.
If you call 911, the conversation on the phone call will be recorded. You should then send a written request for the 911 audio recording and written transcript. If the conversation on the 911 call is favorable to you, send it to the adjuster immediately.
The 911 call can possibly show the severity of your injury. In order to be successful in a personal injury case against the store, the store’s carelessness must have caused your injuries.
If you complain of pain to the 911 operator shortly after your accident, this can help refute the store’s argument that your injuries are unrelated to the accident.
One of the biggest battles in many personal injury cases is that the store will argue that your injuries are unrelated to the accident. This is particularly true if your injury is neck pain, back pain, any other type of pain, herniated disc, bulging disc, or any tear (rotator cuff tear, labrum tear, ankle ligament tear, meniscus tear, etc.).
This is because it is possible that a tear can be a longstanding condition caused by overuse.
If you have a fracture, the store claims adjuster is less likely to argue that your injuries are unrelated.
If you are heard screaming this can have a positive effect on the store’s claim adjuster. If you sound like you are in a lot of pain on the 911 call, this may increase the value of an injury case.
The 911 call can be an important part of your injury case. It can help document that the incident did happen at the store. Although most cases settle before a trial, if your case gets to a jury then you want as much evidence to support your case as possible.
It is possible that someone else, such as a store employee or manager called 911 so you should be sure to request the 911 call even if you did not call 911. If you do not call 911 and do not immediately report the claim (discussed further below), your case has possibly already dropped in value.
Your case may even get worse if video does not exist.
2. Take an ambulance to the hospital (if necessary).
If you were injured then taking an ambulance to the hospital may increase the settlement value of a case because it shows that you were in pain. Just like calling 911, taking an ambulance to the hospital shows that your injuries may likely be related to the accident.
You should give your health insurance card to the paramedics, and request the medical bills and records from the paramedics as soon as possible after the accident.
You will need to sign the paramedic company (often fire rescue) a signed patient authorization and check to get your medical records. As soon as you get your medical records and bills from the paramedics, send them to the claims adjuster for the store.
This will help him or her set the reserve and document your claim, which may expedite settlement of your claim.
3. Report the Accident.
You should report the accident to the store manager as soon as possible. Reporting the accident is a big factor in an injury case.
If you report the accident to the store, you have an argument that the store should preserve the store surveillance video of the incident scene.
But the best practice is to send a written request to the store to preserve all surveillance footage of the incident.
Once you report the accident to the store, the store manager may contact the claims department and they will open a claim for you.
4. The store will begin investigating immediately.
The store’s manager will quickly begin investigating the facts surrounding your incident. He or she will then send the incident report to a claims adjuster for further investigation.
Just because a store manager or employee is nice to you after to the fall does not mean that the store (or its insurance company) will accept liability and pay for your damages (e.g. medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering, etc.).
The store manager will not be the one who will be handling your injury claim. The store manager will likely have no power to settle your injury claim.
The claim will get assigned to a claims adjuster for the store. There is a high likelihood that the store will not, at least before a lawsuit, give you the surveillance video or any pictures of your accident or incident scene.
You should begin your investigation immediately.
5. Take pictures of the dangerous condition.
You should take video and pictures of the substance, debris or object that caused your injury. There are more than 2 big reasons to take pictures after the accident.
You need to take pictures because you have the burden of proving that the store’s negligence caused your injuries. Just because you fell at the store does not make them automatically responsible to pay for your damages.
Tip: The only exception to this is that if the store has an insurance policy that has “medical payments coverage” (Medpay), then the store will pay for your medical bills up to a certain amount regardless of fault.
There are strict time limits within which you must send the store your bills and records in order to qualify for Medpay coverage. I discuss this further below.
You should take several pictures of the entire accident scene. You need as much documentation as possible. In some cases, proving that the store was negligent may be easier than others. For example, if a store employee ran over your foot or toe with a shopping cart, then this may be a much easier case than if you slipped and fell on a substance on the floor.
But even though the former case may be easier, you should still take a picture of the shopping cart. It can help show the size and possibility that the cart caused your injury.
Do not just take 1 picture!
So how do you take pictures of the substance or object that caused your injury? We will use a slip and fall on a substance at a store as an example of how to take good pictures to help preserve evidence in your case.
Take a close up picture to capture the substance as well as to see whether it has any characteristics that may help you prove that the substance was on the floor for an unreasonable amount of time before your fall (discussed further below).
Take a picture from a little further away if there are additional drops of liquid (see picture below).
Take a picture that captures the entire area as seen below.
In addition, you should take at least a picture of the incident scene from at least 8 angles (North, Northeast, South, Southwest, East, Southeast, West, and Southwest). You should take pictures of the incident scene even if the substance is cleaned up after your fall.
The pictures can also help refresh your memory if the store changes its layout, which does happen from time to time. If you can date and time stamp the pictures that is great. If possible, take a video recording of the area as well.
6. Write down every possible fact about the incident…and more.
You should record every possible fact that you can remember about the events beginning on the 12 hours before the incident and the entire day of the incident. There is a 99.9% chance that your memory will fade. The easiest way to do this is by answering a personal injury questionnaire in addition to a specific questionnaire if you slipped, tripped or fell at the store.
Chance favors the person who is injured at a store and is prepared to handle their accident claim properly. Once you are done with your medical treatment, send a written demand package to the adjuster. It should be a letter that outlines how the accident happened and why you believe the store is responsible for your injury and damages.
The demand package should also include all of your medical bills and records that support your case. In your demand letter, you should give the adjuster a deadline within which is must respond to avoid you filing a lawsuit.
7. Do not speak with the claims adjuster.
Whatever you do, do not speak with the claims adjuster for the store. This statement is true no matter high nice they are. Do not mistake nice for quickness to write you a check. A have had the nicest adjusters deny liability and offer me nothing (before I filed a lawsuit) in cases where I represented people who were injured in a store.
Adjusters are highly experienced at handling store accident claims and they understand what you must prove in order to get your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.
Now let us take a look at a few of the most common types of accidents at a Florida store.
8. Slip and Fall Accidents
Florida slip and fall cases are similar to other cases where a customer is injured in a store except that in some Florida slip and fall case you may have to show that the dangerous condition that you slipped on was on the floor for an unreasonable amount of time before you fell. Find out if you have a case if you slip and fall at a Florida store.
Find out more about Florida slip and fall accident claims.
9. Trip Over a Box or Container and Fall in a Store
Find out if you have a case if you trip and fall over a box or a container in a Florida store. These cases can be similar to slip and fall cases unless a store employee placed the box or container on the floor.
10. Trip on an Uneven or Raised Tile at a Florida Store.
All things equal, if you trip and fall on a piece of tool or flooring that is not level with the surrounding floor, you may have an easier than a slip and fall. This is true because in a trip and fall on uneven tile case, the store, mall or business establishment created the dangerous condition.
Be sure to measure the change in elevation. You can use a stack of pennies or measuring tape. Find out if you have a case if you trip on raised or uneven tile and fall at a store or mall in Florida.
11. Time Limit to Sue
If a store’s negligence caused your injury while you were a customer in Florida, then you have 4 years to sue (from the date of the accident) the store to get money for your medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and other damages. If you miss this deadline
If the store has an insurance policy that has “medical payments coverage” (Medpay), then you likely have only 1 year (pursuant to the policy) to give your medical records and bills to the store’s claims adjuster.
You should always request the store’s insurance policy in writing and confirm the time limit. There are many reasons why you should always request the store’s insurance policy in writing if you are injured their.
If you miss the Medpay bills and records submission deadline, your claim to get your bills paid under the Medpay coverage may be forever barred.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2015 and has been completely revamped and updated.