Your slip and fall injury claim should result in fair compensation. Avoid these common mistakes when negotiating a slip and fall settlement.
The cost of injuries attributed to slip and fall accidents in the U.S. is $13-$14 million per year.¹
Insurance companies pay some of this money to injured victims when they agree to settle a slip and fall claim. Insurance adjusters, though, are not eager to settle claims. They’ll look for any excuse to deny or minimize claims to protect the company’s bottom line.
If you’ve fully recovered from relatively minor injuries, and decided to negotiate your own slip and fall claim, get ready. You want to avoid costly mistakes during negotiations. Let’s get you tuned in on what to avoid when working with a claims adjuster.
Your communications with an insurance company represent one of the most common areas that can generate mistakes in slip and fall settlement negotiations.
The main ways to avoid mistakes when talking with an adjuster are to remain calm and avoid lengthy communications. Keep matters short and sweet and stick to the facts of your case.
With an eye towards reducing payouts, insurers will pick apart everything you say to find a reason for denying your claim. This scrutiny means you have to pay attention to what you say at all times.
Never speak irrationally or out of anger or frustration. The adjuster might say things that upset you, but you have to keep your composure when speaking.
Stopping to think before you speak is the best way to avoid traps. For example, a common error is to tell an adjuster you’re “fine” when asked how you’re feeling. The adjuster will interpret “feeling fine” to mean that you’re exaggerating your slip and fall injuries.
Be very careful if you’re asked to give a recorded statement. If you already gave a statement, avoid agreeing to questions from the adjuster that might contradict your previous statement.
If an adjuster asks you a question, take a moment to understand the question. If you are uncertain, ask the person to repeat the question in another way.
When you answer, always keep your response narrow. In other words, keep it short and simple. Don’t over-inform or offer opinions. It’s best to say less. It’s alo okay to say , “I don’t know” or, “I’ll have to check my records and get back to you.”
Insurance companies want you to say that you were partially or fully responsible for your slip and fall accident. Fault means that their client is off the hook for your injury.
Further, in states with comparative negligence laws, the partial fault for an accident can result in a drastically reduced settlement amount or no settlement at all.
Understanding Contributory and Comparative Negligence
In states with pure contributory negligence laws, injured victims receive no compensation at all if they were as little as one percent to blame for the slip and fall event. Only four states and the District of Columbia work under a pure comparative negligence system.
Fortunately, most states have a modified comparative negligence laws. In general, these laws reduce a person’s payout by the percentage of their fault for the accident.
For example, if a person was 25% responsible for falling, then their potential settlement amount gets reduced by 25%.
It’s critical in speaking with an adjuster that you avoid any hints or speculations that you helped cause your injuries.
Avoid saying things like:
- “I wasn’t looking where I was going”
- “I guess the bottoms of my shoes were pretty worn”
- “I’m such a klutz these days”
Don’t give in to an adjuster who tries to bait you into saying something that suggests you caused your injuries.
A “pre-existing injury” is an injury that you had before your slip and fall-related injury. The injury typically involves the same part of your body that you injured in your fall.
If an injured victim mentions a pre-existing injury, an adjuster will likely use that information to say that the victim’s latest injury was just an exacerbation of the first one. The adjuster will use that information to reduce any settlement offers.
If you had a pre-existing injury, discuss it with your doctor and learn how that injury and your slip and fall injury are related.
When possible, have your doctor commit this discussion to writing and then provide a copy to the insurance company.
Common slip and fall injuries with a pre-existing condition include:
When negotiating with an insurer, injured persons should have a clear idea as to what their slip and fall claim is worth. Worth means an amount of money that a victim wants to settle their claim for.
Gather evidence of your slip and fall damages before calculating your claim value. Ensure all of your expenses add up to actually equal the amount you want in compensation.
Again, adjusters want to pay you less than what your claim is worth. They will typically start out with a lowball settlement offer.
Don’t get insulted, but don’t get pushed into settling for an amount way less than what you believe you’re entitled to.
Remember that you can ask for the following in an injury claim:
- Medical costs
- Future medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Future lost earnings
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Certain non-economic damages, like pain and suffering
If you’ve experienced any of these, or will in the future, stand firm and ask for the true amount of your loss.
If an adjuster continues to say that your claim is worth less than what you believe, calmly explain your position with real dollar values and figures.
If you’re missing a wage loss statement or some medical bills, to support your claim, then gather the appropriate documents before your next round of negotiations.
Avoid any tendency to overestimate your claim’s value. Injured victims are entitled to compensation, but they have to make sure any payment request is reasonable.
While it’s embarrassing to land on the floor in public, you won’t get far demanding a million dollars if you only had a few bumps and bruises.
Over-inflated figures may hurt a claimant’s credibility. They can also lead to an out-right claim denial.
Insurance companies should help make people injured in a slip and fall whole. Whole means put in the same or similar position that they were in before their accident and injuries.
But insurers are under no obligation to help injured victims make a profit off their accidents.
Insurance adjusters work for insurance companies. Adjusters get paid by these companies, and thus, gain from making sure the companies stay in business and make money.
With adjusters bent on supporting their employer, it follows that they won’t be working with your best interests in mind.
Insurance companies won’t joyously hand over a lump of money for a slip and fall injury.
Injured persons should not believe the idea that an adjuster is looking out for them. Watch out for promises or guarantees. No matter how “nice” or sympathetic an adjuster acts, they are not your friend.
Not having full confidence in an insurer doesn’t mean that people should treat them rudely or disrespectfully. An adjuster is likely acting in a certain way because they’re doing their job.
Try to stay on your guard at all times. Focus on the meaning behind words and questions.
Avoid growing comfortable while communicating with an insurer. Being too relaxed makes it much easier for the adjuster to get you to say things they can use against you. Never discuss family matters or financial pressures. If the adjuster thinks you’re desperate for money, they will wait it out rather than offer more to move negotiations along.
While you can’t trust adjusters, you’ll want them to believe in you. Injured victims only gain when an insurance company believes in their side of the story.
Never lie to an insurance company. Lying can result in an claimant losing credibility. A lack of trustworthiness might hurt any reasonable settlement. Adjusters will offer more to settle if they know the injured person would be a credible witness in court.
Also, injured persons should never exaggerate information or injuries. Exaggeration works like lying. It results in a loss of credibility and the possibility of a low settlement.
Accident victims must present or describe their injures truthfully. You can gather facts from medical records or incident reports to show an adjuster the true extent of your injuries.
The burden is on you, the claimant, to provide the evidence necessary to prove that a property owner caused their slip and fall accident and injury.
In general, claimants have to show that an owner:
- Had a duty of care to avoid causing injuries to you and others
- Violated that duty by creating an unsafe condition or failing to take reasonable precautions to avoid one
- Directly caused your injuries through this violation
The injured victim must also show evidence of their injuries and the extent of their losses.
A property owner or manager doesn’t have a responsibility to keep customers or visitors safe from all dangers. But they do have to prevent harm to visitors from a condition or object that is likely to be dangerous.
Slip and falls victims must show:
- The property owner knew of an unsafe condition
- The owner failed to fix it
People injured in a slip and fall sometimes simply state that the property owner is liable without providing any support. An adjuster will likely deny a claim in these situations.
Accident victims have to do some leg work and find every bit of evidence to show that an owner was aware of a dangerous condition and chose not to correct it.
Evidence that helps show this includes:
- Surveillance videos
- Incident Reports
- Pictures of the accident scene
- Witness statements
Some common dangerous conditions include:
- Broken decks, stairways, or handrails
- Damaged, unlighted, or icy sidewalks and parking lots
- Cluttered common areas
- Fire alarms that are either broken or without batteries
- Wet floors
Even if you can prove that a property owner owed you a duty and that you fell because of an unsafe condition, you still need to prove the extent of your damages to succeed with a claim.
Evidence of your injuries can include:
- Pictures and videos of your injuries
- Medical records
- Broken or damaged footwear
- Bloody or ripped clothing
- Damaged jewelry or eyeglasses
As for medical records, injured persons want to make sure they get records from every person and entity that provided medical care. Get copies of documents from doctors, emergency rooms, ambulance services, and therapy providers.
After you get evidence showing your injuries, you’ll need to go one step further and show how those injuries caused real-time losses.
Slip and fall hard costs may include:
- Medical costs
- Future medical expenses
- Lost wages
Hard costs are also called economic damages. Economic damages have a stated dollar value.
Most slip and fall cases also involve non-economic damages. These damages are often challenging to prove as their value isn’t already determined.
Examples of common non-economic damages are:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Disability or disfigurement
- Physical impairment
Showing how your injuries impact your life will serve as good evidence for these losses.
An injury journal is a great way to show impact. Accident victims can write down how they’re feeling physically and emotionally, their physical limitations, and any activities or events they missed out on due to their injuries.
Slip and fall victims who have recovered from minor injuries can usually negotiate with insurance adjusters on their own. Minor injuries may include a sprained ankle or wrist.
In these cases, the injured person will calculate their settlement demand by adding up their medical expenses, lost wages, and a minimal amount for pain and suffering.
But not all slip and fall cases are minor and uncomplicated. Some slip and falls result in serious, high-dollar injuries.
Some of the more serious types of injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Herniated Discs
- Spinal Fractures
- Hip Fractures
- Rotator Cuff Tears
- Knee injuries
If you were seriously injured in a slip and fall, you’ll need the help of an experienced slip and fall injury attorney.
Injury victims should contact an injury lawyer if their slip and fall case involved a serious injury, a complicated set of facts, or a significant amount of losses.
Severe injury claims are often complex and may require several legal issues, such as comparative negligence and causation issues. The sad fact is, insurance companies routinely offer lower settlements to claimants without representation.
Attorneys have the legal know-how to get important evidence you can’t easily get on your own, such as a store’s surveillance camera footage, incident reports, and expert witness testimony.
Slip and fall attorneys can help claimants with:
- Obtaining medical records
- Gathering evidence you can’t get on your own
- Contacting witnesses
- Identifying and calculating losses
- Negotiating with the claims adjuster
No Money Upfront
A favorable part of working with a lawyer is that you don’t need any money upfront for help. Reputable slip and fall lawyers provide free consultations.
Free means it won’t cost you a dime to find out your legal options.
If you decide to hire an attorney, they work on a contingency fee basis. In other words, they don’t receive payment until you receive a settlement. Once they negotiate fair compensation on your behalf, they’ll receive a prearranged percentage of the money.
Don’t mistakenly assume that hiring an injury attorney will add to your financial woes. A lawyer can actually produce the opposite effect. It’s amazing how fast some claims settle once an attorney gets involved.
Avoid costly mistakes. Reach out to legal counsel today to discuss your slip and fall injury claim.
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