As a New York premises liability attorney, I am all too familiar with the following scenario: It is late at night, you are walking home from work. You trip and fall due to a dangerous and defective sidewalk and fall face forward with your hands out. You land hard on your right arm. First reaction is not to lie there until someone comes to find and help you. The first logical thing most would do is get up and 1) try and see if you are bleeding and if not 2) continue home as its late, dark and likely no one around. At that point you may think you can walk it off or that the pain will simply go away. One may feel shaken or embarrassed and will leave the scene without making a report or advising any responsible party of the accident. Hours or even a few days later one may realize the severity of the injury which may ultimately require significant medical care.
Though leaving the scene is a normal reaction, the lack of documenting your presence at the scene of the accident, has become a potent defense for the responsible party. They will often say that the injured party’s claim that they fell where and when they say they did should be rejected since there was no affirmative proof that they reported the accident as soon as it happened.
The City of New York has set up a telephone switchboard system in order to report accidents or dangerous conditions even after one has been injured and left the scene. You can simply dial 311or find out more information on the City of New York 311 website. The service provided will take down the date, time, location and specifics of the accident and will provide a complaint number which will be kept on file with the City of New York.
Though still circumstantial evidence and not as good a reporting the accident right when it happens, this reporting is a “real life” way of advising someone other than your loved ones that you have been injured as a result of a dangerous condition.
At Leav & Steinberg, we have often been faced with this “lack of reporting” defense and have on several occasions been able to sway the juries that the 311 reporting by the client was further evidence that they are being forthright and honest about their claim.