10 Tips for Negotiating Hard Costs After a Slip and Fall Accident

Use these tips to get the insurance company to cover all your expenses after a slip and fall accident on someone else’s property.

Settling personal injury claims without an attorney can be tricky, but you can do it successfully with a little negotiating know-how.

Premises liability claims for slip and fall injuries are some of the most common types of insurance claims. Slip and fall accidents happen every day, caused by wet floors, icy sidewalks, and other hazards that could have been prevented by the property owner.

When you’ve been hurt by a property owner’s carelessness, you expect them to pay for your damages. Most of the time that means dealing with the owner’s insurance company.

Unless you were injured on government property, you can probably successfully negotiate minor injury claims directly with the insurance company. Government claims and severe injury claims should be handled by a skilled personal injury attorney for the best outcome.

The first phase of negotiations is to seek compensation for “hard costs,” meaning the expenses you incurred as a result of your injuries. The second phase involves negotiating compensation for the pain and suffering you endured as a result of your slip and fall injuries.

We’ve put together a list of tips you can use in the first phase to successfully negotiate your medical bills and other hard costs with the insurance adjuster.

Tip 1: Don’t Leave Before Reporting the Accident

Accidents happen fast. One minute you’re heading over to a display of summer fruits, and the next minute, you’re flat on the floor in a puddle of water.

It’s embarrassing to fall down in public. Looking up from the floor to see strangers staring at you can be mortifying. Resist the temptation to struggle to your feet and limp straight out the door.

Leaving the scene of the accident without a word will make it difficult to link your injury claim to a dangerous condition at the property. The insurance company may outright deny a later claim.

Immediately report the accident to management.

Be sure to let management know you’ve been injured. Get the names of the manager and staff, and ask the manager for the store’s insurance information. Also ask to file an official incident report, which creates a written record of what happened.

Tip 2: Watch What You Say at the Scene

After a sudden violent fall, especially in a public place like a convenience store or business’s sidewalk, the shock and embarrassment can easily mask symptoms of injuries.

It’s easy to say the wrong thing when you’re embarrassed and shaken up from a fall, and you might even feel sorry for the manager who rushed over to help you up.

Don’t make statements that could compromise your injury claim, such as:

  • “I’m okay; just my pride was hurt.”
  • “I should have watched where I was going.”
  • “That’s what I get for wearing new shoes.”

The insurance company will question the building personnel and other witnesses to the accident to see if you made any “admissions against interest,” meaning they can use what you said against you.

If the property owner or manager asks if you’re injured, it’s okay to say, “I landed hard,” or “I’m not sure if I’m okay.” If they persist, you can say, “Please stop asking me if I’m all right.”

Tip 3: Seek Immediate Medical Attention

Never refuse or delay medical treatment after a slip and fall injury. If too much time passes between the injury and treatment, the insurance company may decide to deny your claim, arguing your injuries were not caused by their insured.

If someone called 911 when you fell, let the paramedics evaluate you at the scene. If paramedics want to transport you to the emergency room, don’t argue. Trained emergency responders know that shock and distress can mask symptoms of serious injury.

When circumstances don’t warrant an ambulance, you must see your primary care doctor or go to an urgent care center, preferably the same day as the fall.

Tell any treatment providers exactly when, where, and how you were injured. Your medical records must link your injuries to the slip and fall accident.

Tip 4: Ask for Surveillance Film Footage

Most buildings open to the public, like retail stores, bars, restaurants, and government buildings have security cameras that film activity in parts of the property. If there is video footage of your injury event, it will be key evidence in your claim.

The sooner you ask for surveillance footage, the better. These cameras often run on a “loop,” meaning the footage is only good until the next “loop” when the video is recorded over. Some security camera systems only retain images for a few days.

Tell the building owner or manager that you want copies of all footage from the day of your injury, and you expect them to “preserve” the footage from that day.

Follow up with written notice of your injury claim and demand for “preservation” of any evidence related to your injury claim, including security camera footage for the day of your slip and fall accident.

You might not be able to get your hands on the footage without a subpoena. However, your written request should be enough to keep them from destroying camera footage that can support your claim.

Tip 5: Gather Medical Records and Bills

You’ll need to request copies of medical records and bills from every provider who diagnosed and treated your slip and fall injuries, including:

  • Ambulance services
  • Hospital emergency room charges
  • Emergency room physician bills
  • Imaging facility bills for X-rays, CT scans or MRIs
  • Radiologist bills
  • Primary care doctor bills
  • Specialist doctor bills, like an orthopedist
  • Chiropractic services
  • Physical therapy bills

Also gather receipts for all out-of-pocket expenses, such as:

  • Medications
  • Bandages
  • Medical equipment like crutches, neck braces, canes and wheelchairs
  • Parking fees and mileage for travel to medical appointments

Get the full bill for every medical expense, even if your private health insurance paid some of the bill. You’ll seek compensation for the total cost of your expenses, not just what you paid out-of-pocket.

Tip 6: Account for Lost Income

The insurance company won’t compensate you for lost income unless you have a doctor’s order to excuse you from work and a lost wage statement from your employer.

Your employer’s wage statement should be on company letterhead. Make sure it details the days you missed, your rate of pay, and explains any overtime opportunities you missed while restricted from working.

You’re also entitled to recover the value of any personal leave or sick days you had to use because of your injury.

Tip 7: Be Ready to Prove Negligence

Getting hurt on someone else’s property does not automatically entitle you to compensation. You will have to prove that the property owner or manager was negligent.

If you prove negligence, and a business or individual is found liable for your injuries, they must compensate you for the costs you incurred and the pain and suffering you endured.

Property owners are only responsible for your injuries if you can show:

  1. They knew or should have known of a hazard
  2. They neglected to take steps to remove the hazard or protect others from harm
  3. You were injured because of their negligence

You’ll have to prove the property owner’s negligence was the direct and proximate cause of your injuries. In other words, you must show that if not for the owner’s negligence, you would not have been hurt at all.

Prove your case with evidence such as:

  • Witness statements, like another store patron’s testimony that they had complained about the hazard hours before you were injured
  • Photographs and videos, such as surveillance video that shows store employees stretching an electrical cord across an aisle without any warning signs
  • Building code violations, such as tattered carpeting, missing handrails, or broken stairs

The insurance adjuster will try their best to limit their insured’s liability for your injuries, often by trying to pin some of the blame on you.

For example, if you fell at a bar or nightclub, the adjuster might say you fell because you were intoxicated, or might not have been injured as badly if you weren’t already unsteady on your feet.

A signed statement from friends that you were the designated driver, lab work from the hospital with no evidence of drugs or alcohol, or your tab for the night showing you only had a glass of wine with dinner are all examples of evidence showing you did not contribute to the circumstances of your injury.

Tip 8: Justify Your Medical Bills

The insurance company will only agree to pay the bills for reasonable medical care and recovery expenses. Adjusters are always skeptical of soft-tissue injury claims, especially when chiropractors are involved.

When you’ve seen a respected physician, who ordered a few x-rays or scans to rule out more serious injuries, followed by conservative treatment, the adjuster is likely to sign off on those bills without question.

On the other hand, if you were diagnosed with a few bruises and a sprained ankle from the slip and fall, the adjuster will not be willing to pay for six months’ worth of massage and whirlpool therapy.

Insurance companies have the latest information on the “standard medical practice” for diagnosis and treatment of common injuries. Extensive therapies that feel good may not be “medically necessary” from an insurance standpoint, and you might be on the hook for those bills.

Study your medical records and learn what the medical terms in your doctor’s notes mean. You should be able to tell the adjuster how you were injured by their insured’s negligence, the scope of your injuries, and why the tests and treatments ordered by your care provider were medically necessary.

It helps to create a “medical care summary” of your records. Your summary will be like a timeline of what happened at each medical appointment that justified further testing or treatment. Your timeline should include the date of each event and the name of the medical provider who made each decision about your care.

Tip 9: Don’t Take it Personally

Your slip and fall claim is just another day in the office for the insurance adjuster. Their job is to resolve your claim quickly, for as little money as possible.

They won’t hesitate to offer you a ridiculously low-ball settlement just to test the waters. Don’t take it personally.

If you lose your cool, you might give the adjuster the kind of information they can leverage against you. They would love to know if:

  • You are struggling financially
  • You aren’t sure of your claim’s value
  • You are in a hurry to settle before the holidays, your vacation, or some other event

A low initial settlement offer is a common step in the negotiations process. Because you’ve done your homework, you’re prepared to move forward without getting rattled.

By continuing to negotiate with patience and persistence, you can usually get the adjuster to agree to pay your reasonable medical bills and other hard costs.

Tip 10: Consult with a Personal Injury Attorney

Lots of slip and fall victims consult an experienced personal injury attorney from the start, but it’s perfectly okay to decide to talk to an attorney at any time throughout the negotiation process.

Sometimes negotiations break down, or the adjuster throws a curveball you weren’t expecting. If this happens, don’t hesitate to get the help you need.

Most injury attorneys don’t charge for their initial consultation, and there’s no obligation on your part.

It costs nothing to find out what a skilled personal injury attorney can do for you.

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>