Complicated slip and fall claims can be hard to win on your own. Find out when you’ll need help to get fair injury compensation.
Some types of cases are harder to win, in and out of court. Every slip and fall claim is different. There may be more than one at-fault party, evidence of fault may be hard to find, or the victim may be accused of causing the incident.
Trip or slip and fall accidents can lead to steep medical bills, disability, and even death. When someone else’s negligence causes harm, the victim is entitled to financial recovery. But negligence can be more difficult to prove in some types of slip and fall accidents, making them harder to win.
Difficult Types of Slip and Fall Cases Include:
- Cases Complicated by Lack of Evidence
- When the Victim is Partially to Blame
- When Multiple Parties Are Negligent
- Cases With High Non-Economic Damages
Insurance companies and courts require accident victims to provide proof of the slip and fall event, in addition to proof linking their injuries to the fall. Without evidence, anyone could say that they suffered an injury due to a property owner’s negligence.
Evidence is vital because it backs up the victim’s story and protects the property owner from unfounded claims.
In some injury claims, such as car accident cases, evidence isn’t hard to come by. There are other passengers, drivers, and bystanders to serve as witnesses. Law enforcement investigates the crash and submits a police report, proving the accident happened and its severity.
Evidence is not always as readily available in trip or slip and fall cases. There may not be witnesses or cameras. Aside from your injuries, evidence that the property owner breached their duty of care may not exist.
In trip and fall cases, it can come down to your story versus the property owner’s story. As the party bringing the claim, the burden is on you to prove what happened.
Without evidence, you’ll have a hard time proving:
- The property owner or employee knew or should have known about a danger
- You fell on their property
- Your injuries are directly connected to your fall
Evidence in a trip or slip and fall claim can vary depending upon where the fall occurred, who was in the area at the time, and if other people have fallen there before.
You might have a valid trip and fall injury claim, with no idea how to get the evidence you need to satisfy the insurance company or a jury. That’s where an experienced personal injury attorney can save your claim. Your attorney will likely find evidence that you’d have a hard time getting on your own.
Case Summary: Jury Awards More Than $2 Million Despite Missing Evidence
Craig Walters was shopping in a Kroger grocery store located in Douglasville, GA. While near the store’s deli area, Walters slipped on some crushed fruit on the floor and fell on his back. He suffered a spinal injury that required back-fusion surgery and the placement of rods and screws to help stabilize his spine.
Walters had almost $135,000 in medical expenses and couldn’t work.
Through his attorney, Walters filed a lawsuit against Kroger. During the discovery phase of the case, Walters’ lawyer asked Kroger for video footage of the accident scene. A surveillance camera was located inside Kroger near the deli area.
Kroger said that it didn’t save the video footage because it didn’t show the area of the store where Walters slipped. In time, though, the grocer did hand over a sample of the footage, but the sample supported Kroger’s position. The footage that was handed over did not capture the area where Walters fell.
As the case developed, one of Walter’s attorneys asked a Kroger store manager for a live feed of the camera, for the date and time of the accident. The feed actually showed all the details of the accident, including when the fruit fell to the floor, how long it was there, and Walters slipping on the fruit and falling
Kroger essentially lied about the video and deliberately erased it. They also provided the lawyers with a phony sample of video footage.
A judge found that Kroger was 100 percent responsible for the accident and a jury awarded $2,365,238.40 to Walters. The award included compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and the cost of bringing the lawsuit.
Fault is sometimes shared between a victim and a property owner, or the property owner will try to shift blame to an innocent victim.
Comparative or contributory negligence is a common defense raised by the property owner in personal injury cases. If the defense works, and you were partly to blame for your fall, most states will still allow you to receive compensation for your injuries. However, the amount you recover is reduced according to your share of fault.
For instance, if you were in the grocery store talking on the phone when you slipped on a wet floor and fell, the store will say you have some fault for the accident because you weren’t watching where you were going. If an insurance adjuster thinks you were 10 percent to blame for the accident, you might receive a settlement offer for $9,000 instead of $10,000.
A victim might share fault for their damages if they were:
- Distracted or otherwise not paying attention
- Wearing inappropriate footwear
- Ignoring warning or caution signs
Insurance adjusters will always look for reasons to blame the victim for their injuries.
Some of the most complicated injury claims involve a perfectly innocent slip and fall victim and two or more at-fault parties. Without an attorney, your claim could drag on for years, with each party blaming the other for the hazardous condition.
Every state has a statute of limitations for injury claims, meaning if you haven’t settled your claim or filed a slip and fall lawsuit before the statutory deadline, you could forfeit your right to any compensation.
Slip and fall claims with more than one at-fault party often end up in court to sort out how much compensation you should get, and who should pay.
Joint and Several Liability: Deciding Who Pays and How Much
Joint and several liability is a legal doctrine that comes into play in personal injury cases where more than one party is to blame for causing a victim’s injuries.
Let’s say you are badly injured by tripping over extension cords stretched across the floor in a hotel conference room. If the extension cords were placed there by a tech company renting the conference space, both the hotel and the tech company could be equally liable for your trip and fall.
Depending on the state, joint and several liability laws would allow you could collect 100 percent of your damages from just the hotel and leave them to seek reimbursement from the tech company for their share.
In other states, joint and several liability laws say that each at-fault party is only liable for their percentage of fault for the injury. In the hotel example, these states would only require the hotel to pay 50% of your total compensation award, rather than the full amount.
In any event, claims involving more than one at-fault party are frequently more complicated as each party tries to push more blame onto the other.
Case Summary: $1 Million Award for Slip and Fall with Two At-Fault Parties
In 2017, Lisa Ruede fell on a wet staircase at the Metro Café Diner in downtown Atlanta’s Peachtree Center. The stairs were slippery and in disrepair.
She suffered a head injury causing her to briefly lose consciousness. She also received a shoulder injury that required surgery with a large surgical incision.
Spring Street Restaurant Group, LLC owns the Metro Café, and ACP Peachtree owns the building where the café is located. Both were at-fault parties to the lawsuit.
The facts of the case showed that the stairs were slippery due to leaking water from the Metro’s air conditioning system. As a result, ACP Peachtree blamed Spring Street for the accident and otherwise tried to avoid any fault.
Ruede’s attorneys gathered evidence that revealed ACP had a long history of servicing the air conditioner in question. Spring Street then, tried to shift full blame for the incident onto the shoulders of ACP. The court eventually found both parties at fault.
In December 2019, the court awarded Rueda $1,171,441, assigning ACP Peachtree 85 percent of the liability and 15 percent to Spring Street Restaurant Group.
Here, having two at-fault parties blaming each other for the conditions that caused the slip and fall made this case very complex. However, Ruede’s attorneys were still able to obtain a fair settlement for her claim.
There are two general categories of slip and fall injury damages; economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are measurable losses such as medical bills, lost wages, and other out-of-pocket expenses. They have a predetermined value and can be verified. If your emergency room bill was $1,250, you should receive $1,250 in compensation for it.
Non-economic damages don’t have a price tag already attached. Their value is difficult to determine and can be a sticking point in settlement negotiations.
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of a body part or function
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Disruption to the victim’s usual way of life
Some trip and fall accidents can cause serious injuries. Victims may suffer complicated fractures and other types of injuries with long-term consequences. Severe injuries take a substantial non-economic toll on fall victims and their families.
It’s more difficult to get a fair settlement for any non-economic personal injury damages simply because they are subjective. How do you put a price tag on the way an injury has changed your life forever?
Personal injury lawyers prove substantial non-economic damages by hiring experts, such as those specializing in specific areas of medicine, mental health, or the long-term care of catastrophic injury patients. Their expert testimony can show just how impactful your non-economic damages are to your life and well-being.
Case Summary: Multi-Million Dollar Award for Pain and Suffering
Kelly Hendrickson was shopping in the garden department of a Las Vegas Lowe’s store. She slipped on water, hitting her head on the concrete floor. She suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and permanently lost her senses of taste and smell.
She filed a lawsuit against Lowe’s and eventually won a $16.4 million court award.
The award included the following compensation:
- $1,900,000 for medical expenses
- $30,000 for lost income
- $2,500,000 for pain and suffering
- $12,000,000 for future pain
During the trial, Kelly’s attorney used a medical forensic neurology specialist to testify as to her lost senses of taste and smell.
In particular, the neurologist testified that her damage was so severe that Kelly often has “smell hallucinations” that cause her to smell aromas that aren’t actually present. Since the smells are coming from the brain, there’s no treatment to remove the false scent.
According to the expert, a further complication is that her loss of smell could also impact her ability to survive if there were a gas leak or a fire. The neurologist also explained that while not being able to taste robs the victim of the pleasure of eating, it also presents a danger because it decreases the likelihood she’ll be able to tell if the food she consumes is contaminated or rotten.
The loss of certain senses involves uncommon damages that are difficult to prove. By using a medical forensic specialist, Hendrickson’s legal counsel proved why her lost and damaged senses could seriously impact the rest of her life.
If you’ve recovered from minor injuries, and only want to be reimbursed for your medical costs and a few days of missed work, you can probably settle your slip and fall claim on your own.
However, if you or your loved one sustained significant injuries, or your case has become complicated, you’ll need a good accident lawyer to get a fair injury settlement.
Established law firms know how to locate medical experts and other professionals that can help prove your injuries and damages. Some premises liability cases turn into a battle of experts, especially when the at-fault party disputes the severity of your injuries.
You’ll need a strong legal advocate to stand up against allegations that you share the blame for your trip and fall injuries. Your attorney can push back against accusations that you brought the accident on yourself.
Similarly, a good attorney will ensure that you aren’t caught in the middle if more than one party created the circumstances leading to your trip and fall. You want all liable parties held accountable to maximize your recovery.
You might not know the full value of your slip and fall claim when your injuries result in significant emotional distress and other non-economic losses. When you work with an attorney, they’ll know what your claim is worth and use their negotiation skills to maximize your settlement.
Most experienced slip and fall attorneys offer a free consultation and are willing to work on a contingency fee basis. With this arrangement, you won’t owe any legal fees unless the attorney settles your personal injury claim or wins your case in court.
You don’t have to settle for less. Find out what a good attorney can do for you.
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