According to the National Safety Council, in 2020, over 6 million people were treated in the hospital for injuries related to slip-and-fall accidents. It only takes one fall to alter your life as you know it. This article will discuss the nature of slip-and-fall litigation, the process, and how much each stage can cost. Then, we'll explore injury cases, including broken bones, herniated discs, and concussions, and their settlements. Follow along to better understand what it looks like to sue for your injury and why it may be best to have an attorney on your side.
Do I Need a Slip-and-Fall Attorney?
While an attorney is not necessary, hiring one can significantly reduce the stress and uncertainty of a lawsuit. Anyone can file a lawsuit and represent themselves in the trial. However, slip-and-fall cases require thorough evidence to prove fault and knowledge of negotiation to ensure you are compensated for your damages. Studies show that cases where an attorney was employed are likely to secure more money for damages.
Slip-and-Fall Lawsuit Settlements: What To Expect
No matter the outcome, settlement, or trial, there are a few steps that you’ll need to navigate during your lawsuit. Below, the steps are broken down alongside an estimate of how much it might cost you.
Without thorough supporting evidence, there is no possibility of a successful case. Documentation of all your injuries will need to be provided by a professional. Make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to assess your condition. Depending on the extent of your injury, this can be very expensive. There may be diagnostic tests, x-rays, surgeries, hospital stays, and medication to pay for. Be sure to keep documentation of these costs, as they can be included in your lawsuit in order to seek compensation.
Most law offices offer free consultation to look at your case and figure out if the lawyer you are interviewing is a good fit to represent you. Take advantage of this free service to ask questions and gauge the attorney's experience. This is where you will get an idea of how much attorney fees might cost you and how they will be paid for.
Hiring an Attorney
Once you find an attorney that fits your needs, a contract will be drawn up, and the attorney will be hired. Most attorneys work off contingency fees, meaning they only receive payment if your case is successful and you are awarded damages. This payment structure is usually a set percentage of the money awarded from a successful case. Make sure you have a clear idea of what is included in the attorney fees and whether they will take their cut before or after other expenses (like medical bills) have been paid.
A settlement may happen at any point before trial. Your attorney will contact the defendant’s insurance company to discuss fault and the evidence they have to support it. If there is enough evidence right off the bat, then the defendant's insurance company may move to settle the case and avoid litigation. The at-fault party will make a settlement offer. Discussing the offer with your attorney is a good idea but remember that whether or not to accept is ultimately up to you.
Filing A Claim
This is the stage where the litigation begins. The investigation period is initiated once the claim is filed with the court. Both parties can begin to request and exchange information. The cost will vary from state to state, but on average, filing a lawsuit costs anywhere between $50 and $200.
Service of Claim
Once filed, the complaint must be served to the defendant. This is most often done by hiring a process server. Think Seth Rogan at the beginning of Pineapple Express, dressing up to deliver divorce papers and the like. This charge falls under your realm of responsibility and often costs between $20 and $100 for standard service. The cost could be higher if the job is more complex or you’re in a time crunch.
If the settlement is unsatisfactory and you deny it, the trial process will continue. At this stage, the judge will set a timeline for the litigation process, and the complaint will be sent to the at-fault party detailing your injuries, expenses, and damages. The at-fault party will reply with their side of the story. Information is exchanged during the discovery period, and motions can be made by either side to have information or the entire case thrown out. If you use an attorney, all costs, including investigation, case-building, and your lawyer's time, should be included in your contract. Ensure that you have clearly outlined what you will pay for and how it will be paid during the hiring stages.
Mediation & Negotiation
The settlement will still be an option throughout the pre-trial phase. There may be many points where your attorney negotiates with the at-fault party to try and resolve the case, especially as new information is brought to light by the investigation stages of pre-trial. The lawyers from both sides may meet and negotiate terms for a settlement, or both parties may meet with a neutral third person called a mediator. If the dispute cannot be settled with third-party mediation then the case continues on to trial. The costs during this phase are included in the overall fee structure of your lawyer contract.
If no agreement can be reached, the dispute will go to trial. The trial phase will include testimonies from both sides presented to a judge or jury who will decide fault and award damages. If an expert witness is needed to help provide context for your injuries or the circumstances surrounding them, you may need to pay for their time. In slip-and-fall cases, evidence provided by your medical team is often sufficient proof of injury. Similar to our two previous points, the fees here are included in your attorney’s contract. If you are successful in your case and damages are awarded, any money won will first go to your attorney to pay off medical bills, attorney fees, and other liens. The leftover sum will be yours to help offset time away from work or other financial losses.
Average Settlements for Slip-and-Fall Accidents
This section looks at the four most common types of injuries associated with slip-and-fall cases. The table below lists the average settlements for each type of injury. In the paragraphs below, we have explained why settlement amounts vary and provided examples of cases and their corresponding settlements. As we dive into a few examples, you will notice that factors such as the extent of injury, medication, medical equipment, rehabilitation, loss of work, and lifestyle are big influences on the settlement amount.
Type of Injury
Average Settlement Range
$15,000 - $100,000
Traumatic Brain Injury
$100,000 - $1,000,000
Spinal Cord Injury
$100,000 - $1,000,000
$3,000 - $10,000
Aside from scrapes and bruises (which tend not to be worth a lawsuit), broken bones were present in 87% of slip-and-fall cases for victims over the age of 65. We’ve all thrown out a hand to steady ourselves after slipping, but it is precisely this action that often leads to broken bones. Broken bones often cause victims to miss work for recovery or rehabilitation, resulting in a loss of income. For example, a client who slipped and fell in a business could not work for 2 months following their accident, putting them in a tough financial situation with new medical bills and no income. The business had not posted a sign for the slippery floor despite multiple patrons slipping earlier that day (this was recorded with video cameras on the premises). Because management was aware of the risk and did nothing to warn their shoppers of its potential danger, they were deemed at fault for the accident and ended up paying $250,000 in damages to the victim.
Broken bones have a wide range of settlements, depending on where the fracture is located and how deeply it impacts your ability to carry on after the injury. In the example above, since the fault was clear and the injury prevented the victim from working, the settlement was higher to help cover the costs of medical bills from surgery, rehabilitation appointments, and lost income.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), slip-and-fall accidents are the second leading cause of TBI each year. While TBIs have been linked to death in more severe cases, it is very common for TBI victims to undergo complete lifestyle changes as a result of their injuries. For example, a businesswoman suffered a fall from a leaky awning outside of a business. She was severely concussed and suffered seizures as a result of her injury. Her once sharp brain had begun to fail her, and she could no longer fulfill her duties at work. Due to the extent of the injury and the changes it brought to her personal and professional life, she was awarded over $10 million in damages. This was one of the highest-ever reported cases in that state.
In these examples, you will find that the more severe or permanent the injury, the higher the payout is needed to offset the changes to your life. The settlement will be on the lower end if the victim suffers a mild concussion without lasting side effects. However, the payout will likely be higher for those who suffer life-altering injuries.
Spinal Cord Injury
According to the National Floor Safety Council, slip-and-fall cases are the second-most common reason for spinal cord injuries. With most cases ending in severe injury, even the least severe could require you to miss work for recovery and rehabilitation. More severe cases may mean extreme changes to your life and long-term medical care. As stated above, the more serious and permanent the injury, the higher the settlement. This is due to medical bills, long-term care, medical equipment, or adjustments to your home and lifestyle.
In one case, the victim was shopping at their local Wal-Mart when they slipped and fell on a liquid substance in one of the aisles. The victim sustained multiple injuries, including a herniated disc in the lumbar spine, and needed months of physical therapy, MRIs, and steroid injections. Though the corporate giant ultimately denied responsibility, the case ended up settling for $45,000. This settlement may look lower than the other examples because the recovery did not include surgery, which propels medical costs into much higher ranges.
The most common neck injury associated with slips and falls is “whiplash,” something you likely associate with car accidents. It can result from any quick and violent movement, such as a sudden fall. With neck injuries, there is a potential for a long healing process and chronic pain post-injury, but because the treatment is far more simple, the settlement payout tends to be lower. The average settlement for soft tissue injuries of the neck is around $7,000. It’s important to note that neck injuries are often common alongside other injuries, such as TBI or herniated discs. Therefore the settlement may be higher. A recent case where the only injury sustained after the fall was whiplash resulted in a settlement of $3,000. The victim only presented their medical bills from an emergency room visit and follow-up appointments and did not have sufficient evidence for further compensation.
How To Find a Slip-and-Fall Lawyer
If you have suffered a fall and are searching for a lawyer, check out Expertise.com’s Slip & Fall Directory. We’ve combed through customer referral databases and double-checked licensing and credibility to bring you a list of the top attorneys in your area.
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