What Happens in a Slip and Fall Lawsuit?
An accidental slip and fall can ruin a lot more than just your day. Falls often leave people with painful injuries, extended recovery times, lost income and mounting debt. Falls are common accidents, and often severe. Slip and fall incidents account for more than one million emergency room visits every year. The average cost of medical care for a slip and fall is $30,000 to $40,000. That does not include costs associated with lost work and long-term disability.
If you have been injured in a fall that was not your fault, you may be considering a lawsuit against the person whose carelessness led to your accident to cover those costs. Since there is no way to go back in time and undo the accident itself, financial compensation is the best option for mending the damage done by a fall.
Many people feel apprehensive about a lawsuit because they are not familiar with the process. Read on for an overview of each step of a slip and fall lawsuit, from the initial consultation with an attorney to the final resolution.
Step One: Hire a Slip and Fall Attorney
Of course, the very first thing to do after a fall is getting medical attention for any injuries you may have sustained. This is very important after an accident of any kind, even if you feel like the injury is mild or something that will improve on its own. The severity of an injury can be unclear at first and it will become harder to treat after time has passed and more damage is done.
Once that is done, it is time to find a personal injury attorney to help you with your case. You may want to interview more than one so you can be sure you will feel confident in the person representing you. Most personal injury lawyers offer free consultations so you can speak with several and then decide who you like best without spending any money. Having the right personal injury attorney on your side can mean the difference between winning and losing your case.
The attorney will be able to tell you if they think you have a valid claim and give you an idea of how complicated the process might be. Bring any supporting documentation, photos, medical records, and notes you have related to the fall. This information will help you answer the questions the lawyer poses. You can prepare a list of questions for the attorney too. For example, ask what their track record is with slip and fall cases, how do they communicate with clients and what to expect from their law firm.
Personal injury attorneys usually work on a contingency fee basis, so you will pay them nothing if your claim is not successful. Their fee is based on a percentage of the total recovery, typically 25 percent to 40 percent, and gets paid after you have recovered compensation. This allows individuals to take legal action after an accident with no financial risk. Just be sure this fee is discussed and in writing in the contract that you sign when you hire your chosen attorney.
Step Two: Begin Pretrial Preparations
Your attorney’s first task will be to understand your accident and its impact on your life. This is how they determine the complete worth of your claim. Both economic and non-economic damages will be considered, including medical expenses, lost wages, physical pain, emotional suffering and more.
Once your attorney has determined the value of your claim, they can begin working on getting you the compensation you deserve. They will negotiate with the at-fault party’s insurance company on your behalf and keep you informed of the progress along the way. They handle most of the communication with an insurance company, which allows you to stress less and focus more on recovery and healing.
Many personal injury claims get resolved at this step before a lawsuit is ever filed. The insurance company will make a settlement offer in most cases. You can accept or reject it with your attorney’s guidance. While their professional advice is important and should be considered carefully, you are ultimately the one to make decisions.
Step Three: File a Lawsuit
If the insurance company fails to make a fair settlement offer, it is time to file a lawsuit in court. The work that must be done between filing a claim and going to trial is known as the pretrial process. This period can take anywhere from several months to several years, depending on the complexity of your case.
There are three phases in the pretrial process. The judge in the case decides how much time the phases will last and assigns strict deadlines for completing each one.
- The first phase is the complaint and answer phase. This consists of filing a complaint, a document that outlines the allegations you are making against the defendant, such as how they are responsible for your fall and how the damages you sustained have affected your life. This document is served on the defendant and they are given time to answer. They will file a document of their own in response to the complaint that either accepts or rejects the allegations.
- Next comes the discovery phase. This is when each side gathers evidence and testimony to support their case. Both written and oral discovery will be used and you will be heavily involved in this process. Written discovery includes interrogatories, which are questions given to answer, and requests for documents. Oral discovery involves depositions where witnesses, experts and the parties are interviewed by lawyers.
- Finally, there is the motions phase. This can occur either before or after the discovery phase and is when the defendant asks the court to dismiss some or all of the claims made by the plaintiff. If a motion is made, your attorney will be given time to oppose it and the judge might order a hearing regarding it so they can decide on the motion.
Another option for resolution in a slip and fall case is called mediation. This is a non-trial option and can be requested at any point in the process. During mediation, you and your attorney and the defendant and their attorney will each present a case to a neutral mediator. The parties then engage in settlement negotiations as facilitated by the mediator, who acts as a referee. When an agreement for settlement is made the parties can accept or reject it before it becomes binding.
Step Four: Go to Trial
A trial for a slip and fall case is similar to any other civil lawsuit in court. A jury will be selected unless the judge is making the decision themselves. Then, each side presents their allegations and the evidence to support them to the judge or the jury. They will call on witnesses to give their testimony and each side gets to ask them questions in court under oath. Then the judge or jury deliberates and decides whether the defendant is liable for damages; this is called a verdict. If the defendant is responsible, the court will also determine how much money the defendant must pay you for damages.
However, a verdict does not always mean the case is over. The defendant can file an appeal and then the case will be reexamined by a higher court who will then choose to either uphold or reconsider the original ruling. This draws the process out even longer but is an important component of the legal system.
If the verdict is in your favor and the defendant declines to appeal, you will be paid for damages minus repayment of any liens that might exist and attorney’s fees. Your slip and fall lawsuit is now over.
Briskman, Briskman & Greenberg Can Help
The slip and fall accident recovery process is complex but it does not have to be difficult. Contact one of the experienced personal injury lawyers at Briskman, Briskman & Greenberg to schedule a complimentary consultation about your fall accident.
Having the right attorney on your side can be the difference between a frustrating experience and a positive one. An attorney raises your chance of being awarded a higher-than-average amount of money too, thanks to their negotiation skills and professional knowledge of the legal system. It is an important decision for you and an honor for us and something we do not take lightly.