Slip and fall claims are usually settled out-of-court as the plaintiff can speak directly to the owner of the property about the hazards the victim may have faced. Through discussions and talks, both parties can mutually agree to the expenses that the victim might need. The ensuing financial assistance can prove helpful to the victim, especially if he faces difficulty in continuing his employment due to the accident.
What do we mean by a ‘Slip and Fall’ ?
Injury or financial loss caused due to a slip and fall on the premises of another person’s business or property can be legally claimed in accordance with the tort laws in US. For example, if a person who is shopping in a store, slips and falls down because of a wet floor, he can claim compensation from the owner of the store.
Due to the technical nature of slip and fall cases, a majority of plaintiffs and defendants try to reach at an out-of-court settlement. For a formidable slip and fall lawsuit, the following things should have occurred:
◉ The slip and fall must have occurred on someone else’s property.
◉ The slip and fall should have resulted into physical or mental injury, monetary losses, etc.
◉ The owner or his partner/employee should be at fault.
Broadly, injury caused due to the negligence, mistake or fault of the owner of a property can be classified as a slip and fall case.
As we mentioned before, most slip and fall cases are settled out-of-court. This is because of the complexity involved in establishing the true nature of events that led to the accident. Consider the following example to understand the ambiguity involved in slip and fall cases.
John slips and falls down in ABC Shop. He realizes that he slipped because the floor was wet. However, on closer inspection, John notices that only a small portion of the floor is wet, and the remaining portion is fine. He blames the owner of ABC Shop for causing physical injury to him and asks for a compensation.
The owner of ABC Shop, Smith, defends himself by stating that John slipped because of his own negligence. He claims that out of so many people present in his shop, only John fell because he was negligent. On the issue of a portion of floor being wet, Smith defends himself by stating that the water might have been spilled by someone only a few moments before John fell, and as he was busy tending to his customers, he cannot be held responsible for showing negligence.
Examples such as this are common in slip and fall cases. In the above-mentioned scenario, John will try to establish that it is Smith’s responsibility to ensure that his premises do not pose a threat to the customers. Smith, on the other hand, will defend himself by stating that he had little or no time to clean the floor as otherwise, the floors are mopped at regular intervals by his employee.
One of the most important aspects of a slip and fall claim is proving liability. The plaintiff’s counsel needs to gather concrete evidence to prove that the fall was not because of his client’s negligence, but because of the carelessness of the defendant. Considering the above-mentioned example, John’s counsel will try to gather information about the following:
◉ The date and time of the accident.
◉ Exact location of accident.
◉ Weather conditions on that day.
◉ The footwear John was wearing that day.
◉ Whether John was under the influence of any medicine/alcohol.
◉ Was John carrying anything at that time?
There are several other methods that the plaintiff’s counsel can use to prove liability. The ambulance and police records can be checked. People who were present at the accident site can be requested to narrate the incident.
Constituents of the Settlement
In most cases, medical expenditure constitutes the total amount of the settlement. Amount that becomes payable to the plaintiff may also constitute the following elements.
◉ Personal Injury Settlement: A personal injury settlement, basically constitutes the amount of medical expenditure that has been incurred by the injured party.
◉ Damages: It might happen that during the fall, a person’s property is damaged. Usually, the plaintiff’s laptop/cell phone or a similar personal asset is damaged during the accident. The defendant is also supposed to compensate for such expenditures and damages.
◉ Others: The plaintiff may also incur some expenditures such as ambulance charges. The plaintiff may also sue the defendant for loss of wages in case he is not able to go to work.
Out of the above-mentioned points, not all are always applicable, and the court rarely orders a hundred percent compensation.
Mode of Payment for Slip and Fall Settlements
There are several ways in which the settlement amount is paid. This settlement can be paid in two ways – either as a lump sum or as a structured settlement. A lump sum means that the whole amount of compensation is paid in a single go. A structured settlement is a different kind of payment, where the entire amount that is to be compensated is paid over a span of time, with the help of several installments.
In the event of a slip and fall, it is always wise to hire an attorney, as he will assess the situation and guide you through the whole settlement process. An attorney will also assist in proving the accident and help arrive at an amount that can be claimed as compensation.