How to decide if you can handle a slip and fall claim on your own and when you need an attorney. See how legal help can boost your compensation.
If you were recently injured in a slip and fall accident, you might wonder if you should file an injury claim on your own or hire an attorney.
There are times when you can definitely manage an insurance claim with no legal help whatsoever. But there are also times when an attorney’s expertise is absolutely required.
It’s often difficult, though, to know when you should handle your claim independently and when you should ask a lawyer to represent you.
Luckily, there are some key factors in slip and fall cases to help you make this decision. Use these factors to determine the best approach to maximizing the insurance compensation for your slip and fall injuries.
When to Handle a Slip and Fall Claim Alone
Anyone can handle their own slip and fall claim. The real question is, can they handle it successfully?
Minor slip and fall injuries can lead to uncomplicated insurance claims. It may only take a few phone calls and the exchange of a couple of documents or letters to settle the matter in your favor.
If your slip and fall accident was straightforward and it’s clear who’s at fault, you can likely negotiate a fair settlement without any legal help. All you need is some patience and the ability to convince an adjuster of your claim’s value.
It might be in your best interest to handle your claim on your own if:
- Your injuries are minor, such as a sprained ankle or pulled muscle
- Your injuries won’t require significant, ongoing, or expensive treatment
- Your slip and fall injuries are unrelated to a previous injury
- The at-fault party’s wrongdoing is apparent, or they accept responsibility
- You don’t have any permanent disabilities or disfigurement from the fall
- It’ll be easy to prove your damages such as medical bills, accident-related expenses, and lost wages
Example: Simple Slip and Fall Claim
It was a rainy day when Linda went shopping at a local shoe store. Rainwater dripped from the awning attached to the outside of the building.
As Linda exited the store, she slipped and fell on the wet surface, breaking three of her fingers.
Luckily, her injuries didn’t require surgery or ongoing treatment. Linda had minimal pain and her fingers were fully healed within eight weeks.
The shoe store accepted liability for Linda’s injuries.
Here, Linda’s claim is straightforward and she can likely settle an injury claim on her own. Her injuries are relatively minor and the shoe store admitted that it was at fault.
Linda could hire a slip and fall attorney, but hiring one will probably not change the amount of compensation she’ll receive. If an attorney can’t increase your claim’s value, you can settle the claim on your own.
Representing Yourself Takes Work
Initially, handling your own claim might seem easy, but preparing a claim can be time-consuming and detailed work.
If you decide to represent yourself, be prepared to:
- Set aside time to work on your claim
- Collect evidence to support your claim
- Organize your paperwork
- Write an effective demand letter
- Negotiate with the insurance claim adjuster
If it doesn’t sound like you’ll have the time and effort required to handle your own claim, don’t hesitate to reach out to a slip and fall lawyer for assistance.
If you decide to negotiate with the insurance company on your own, you can seek legal help at any time during the negotiation process. Nothing is final until you sign a settlement agreement. Even if you didn’t begin your claim with a lawyer on your side, you could finish it with one.
Many injured parties initially file and pursue their claim independently, then hire a lawyer at some point during the claims or negotiation process.
What started as a simple slip and fall claim can get complicated if the adjuster won’t cooperate, or tries to blame you for the circumstances leading to your injury.
You Need Negotiation Skills
You don’t need legal representation to accept an insurance settlement. You can accept the first offer provided to you by the insurance company. However, it doesn’t mean that you are getting a full and fair settlement.
To ensure that you receive such a settlement, you need to understand your claim’s value and you’ll have to negotiate.
Most adjusters will offer a settlement at the start of your claim, to see if you’ll take it and be done. Odds are the adjuster’s first offer to you will be a very low settlement offer.
If you know what your claim is worth and you’re willing to negotiate, you can typically increase your offer. Settlement negotiations sometimes require rounds of going back and forth before arriving at a figure that both sides can agree on.
While attorneys are used to this back and forth, claimants are often new to the process. It’s important to be aware of common negotiation styles and tactics used by claim adjusters.
When a Slip and Fall Lawyer Can Help
Not every slip and fall accident leads to a quick and simple insurance settlement. Even when liability is clear, severe injury claims are best handled by your attorney.
Insurance companies don’t like to pay high-dollar claims. The adjuster will pull out all the stops to look for a reason to limit your compensation.
If any of these apply to your situation, you should get help:
- The insurance company says that your accident was your fault
- The at-fault party or insurance adjuster claims they lost evidence or destroyed it
- You can’t get the insurance adjuster to return your emails or calls
- You suspect the insurance company is acting in bad faith to make you give up on your claim
Sometimes slip and fall accidents involve factors that can hurt a claim. These factors can make your claim more difficult to prove and decrease your chances of receiving a fair settlement for your damages.
Complicating factors might include:
- Lack of witnesses or video surveillance footage
- More than one injured party
- Potential multiple at-fault parties
- Severe injuries that will take quite some time to recover from, or impact your ability to work or enjoy life for the foreseeable future
- Medical liens from your insurance company, Medicaid, or Medicare
- Shared blame for your injury
- Pre-existing injuries in the same area as your new slip and fall injuries
Case Summary: Severe Fall Injury with No Witnesses
On October 16, 2016, 50-year-old Anne McDonald was touring the Noah Webster House Museum in West Hartford, CT. The museum’s executive director invited McDonald and her friends to tour the attic.
The attic stairs were outdated, dimly lit, and lacked a handrail. McDonald sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and broke her shoulder when she fell from the stairs onto a hard wooden floor.
To complicate her injury claim, there were no witnesses to her fall, and due to her TBI, McDonald had no memory of it. The severity of her injuries and the specifics of her claim made it challenging for even the most experienced attorneys.
However, by piecing together the testimony of those with her in the museum, her attorney established how dangerous the attic stairs were.
The attorney was also able to have McDonald evaluated by one of the best brain injury medicine specialists in the United States. The expert testimony supported the scope and severity of McDonald’s slip and fall injuries.
Her attorney settled her case in July 2020 for the museum’s insurance policy limit of $2 million.
Benefits of Hiring a Slip and Fall Attorney
Most slip and fall injury attorneys offer free initial consults. You have the option to meet with several lawyers before deciding if you want to hire one. You aren’t required to hire any of them. But if you do hire one, select the attorney who best suits your needs.
When you hire a reputable slip and fall attorney, you can expect that they’ll add the following to your case:
Money for Upfront Legal Expenses
One benefit of hiring a slip and fall lawyer is that they can advance the money necessary to build a strong case. For example, the success of severe injury claims often hinges on expert testimony, and experts are expensive.
Depending on your case, the following legal expenses might be incurred:
- Discovery expenses such as document reviews and the cost of obtaining medical records
- Payments for expert testimony
- Accident reconstruction services
- Travel for depositions
- Deposition expenses
- Court document filing fees
Technical and Hands-On Experience
Slip and fall lawyers have the legal education and experience necessary to navigate the claims process and negotiate settlement offers. Often, their negotiation skills can provide maximum compensation to an injured victim without the need of going to trial.
Your attorney will be familiar with the legal landscape in your community, from the county clerk to the courtroom style of the judge. Injury attorneys also get to know the different insurance companies, and know what to expect from each company.
Your attorney’s first-hand experience with the insurance company’s tactics can help you get the compensation you deserve for your slip and fall injuries.
Claims without sufficient evidence will not result in a favorable settlement. Slip and fall lawyers know what evidence is necessary to prove the elements of negligence in your case. Your attorney can get to important evidence you won’t be able to get on your own.
For example, your attorney can subpoena a store’s surveillance camera footage for the day of your fall, and copies of their incident reports for prior years. The store would never hand over that kind of evidence without a court order.
Uncovering Sources of Compensation
Some slip and fall injuries fall under multiple insurance policies. However, finding these policies is challenging without legal experience.
Your attorney will know where to look to uncover all sources of compensation that might apply in your case. If successful, finding other sources can increase your settlement or court award.
Holding All Parties Liable
More than one party may be liable, or legally responsible, for your injuries. Personal injury attorneys maximize compensation in many ways, including identifying all potentially liable parties.
Suppose you slipped in a hair salon on some shampoo that a hairstylist (who was working as an independent contractor) spilled on the floor. An employee saw what happened but took no action to clean it up or warn anyone.
Here, you could pursue legal claims against the salon owners, the independent contractor, and possibly the employee as well. The more parties held accountable, the more money you could collect for your injuries.
Increased Claim Value
Slip and fall victims who have legal representation are taken seriously by insurance adjusters. They know that the chances of getting you to settle for less are slim when you have a good lawyer.
Also, insurance adjusters will usually increase their settlement offers when an attorney becomes involved. The adjusters want to avoid exposing their companies to a personal injury lawsuit, which could damage their reputation.
A More Neutral View
After an injury accident, it’s only natural for you to feel a range of emotions. You might feel frustrated, hurt, anxious, or angry. These strong feelings can make it hard to negotiate your own insurance claim.
A personal injury attorney can bring an objective or more neutral view of your accident to your claim. Your legal counsel isn’t swayed by personal feelings or opinions when considering and representing the facts of your case.
Relieving You of Communication with the Insurance Adjuster
Once a lawyer represents you, the insurance company and adjuster can no longer speak to you without going through your attorney. They still have the right to seek information from you and ask questions, but they must get the answer from or through your lawyer. If they wish to speak directly with you, your lawyer must approve it and represent you during the conversation.
Not having to speak with an adjuster takes the pressure off many claimants. It also protects you from saying something that could hurt your claim.
Filing Your Lawsuit on Time
If you decide to represent yourself, one of the most crucial things you need to understand is the statute of limitations. Each state has a statute of limitations or deadline for personal injury victims to file lawsuits. For example, in California, the statute of limitations is two years from the injury date.
It’s up to each injured person or their attorney to know when this deadline is. The insurance company is not going to tell a claimant what it is or remind them of it.
If you miss this deadline, you lose your right to seek compensation, no matter how badly you were hurt.
Personal injury attorneys are extremely familiar with the statute of limitations that apply in their clients’ cases. They take every necessary step to make sure they aren’t risking this statutory deadline.
Making Your Decision
Now that you know the important factors to consider when thinking about handling your own injury claim, you can make your decision.
Review your slip and fall case and ask yourself:
- Is your claim complicated?
- Did you suffer severe injuries because of the fall?
- Do you dislike negotiating or working with insurance companies?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, then you’ll want to hire a personal injury attorney to help you with your claim. If the answer is “no,” then you’ll likely succeed with your claim on your own.
If you decide to represent yourself, invest some time looking into good negotiation strategies. You can use this information as a guide to empower you and ensure that you receive the best outcome possible after a slip and fall injury.
If you want to meet with an attorney to discuss your claim, remember that most injury attorneys offer a free consultation. Since most work on contingency fees only, you won’t need to pay them anything until and unless you receive compensation for your damages.
Suppose your personal injury attorney negotiates a settlement or wins a court award on your behalf. In that case, they’ll receive a portion of your compensation as payment for their services.
Whether you decide to represent yourself or want to hire someone else for the job, don’t wait to find out what a skilled slip and fall attorney can do for you.
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