Slip-and-fall injuries are a common occurrence. Such incidents are not just minor mishaps, either. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that falls are responsible for over $50 billion in medical costs yearly.
Falls are not always unavoidable accidents. Too often, such events happen because of another person's negligence. Someone who experiences a slip-and-fall accident may wonder whether hiring a lawyer is a good idea.
Cautions About Insurance Settlements
After a slip-and-fall accident, an insurance company or its representatives may contact the injured person quickly. While there is certainly nothing wrong with trying to make a profit, insurance companies primarily serve the interests of their shareholders and owners. Anyone who deals with an insurance company after an accident must remember certain precautions.
Staying Wary of Early Settlement Offers
An insurer may make a lowball settlement bid shortly after an accident, which means slip-and-fall victims do not always get the highest possible offers. Though the company may take some time to review medical records and bills, an early offer will tend to be low because every factor may not have yet come to light.
Since the average slip-and-fall settlements in California can vary between $15,000 and $50,000, the room for error in reaching accurate compensation is considerable. Insurance companies realize that many people are eager for fast cash. Such individuals may accept an offer before understanding the full extent of their damages or how much their case is actually worth.
Knowing One's Rights
The law precludes insurance companies from using specific tactics when negotiating with claimants. For example, an insurer cannot unreasonably delay payment or deny a claim without valid cause.
The company also must promptly respond when someone asks questions about coverage or the status of a claim. If a firm intentionally acts in a way that demonstrates it does not intend to fulfill an agreement or fails to act according to the contract and pertinent laws, such actions may be in bad faith. Getting help understanding when an insurance representative could be crossing a line can protect a slip-and-fall victim.
When dealing with an insurance company, people must remember that anything they say may harm their case. The insurance firm and its legal team record such information for use during negotiations or in court proceedings.
Even if an insurer's representative seems friendly, a claimant should avoid saying anything that could compromise the case or reduce the amount of compensation. Some individuals prefer to have all conversations through an attorney so that nothing that appears incriminating slips out accidentally.
Ways an Attorney May Be Able To Help
The road to recovery after a slip-and-fall accident can be long and stressful. The burden of handling the details with responsible parties may be more than a family can navigate. For such reasons, people often turn to an experienced law firm.
An attorney has the training to offer advice and support for filing personal injury claims. During a free consultation, an attorney can assess the case and advise regarding legal options. The lawyer can also answer any questions and honestly assess the chances of success.
Investigating the Facts
An attorney can also investigate the facts surrounding the incident that led to an injury. Doing so includes gathering evidence, collecting witness statements and analyzing data related to the case. With the assistance of other staff at a firm, a lawyer can quickly review all the information available and create a plan of action.
An attorney may discern additional liability factors that help ensure full compensation. For example, the owner or occupier of a commercial property may have liability, but third-party contractors may have played a role in the hazardous conditions.
A personal product or another physical item at the location may have a defect that led to the slip and fall. The manufacturer or distributor may have to answer for the unsafe conditions that led to the incident because of product liability.
Handling Negotiations With Insurers
Personal injury lawyers deal with insurance companies regularly and understand what to say and what not to say. An attorney is familiar with insurers' tactics to minimize payouts and can push for a higher settlement.
Representing a Client in Court
There is a two-year statute of limitations for filing personal injury claims. Legal action through court proceedings may be necessary to get compensation if negotiations fail. Competent slip-and-fall attorneys understand the laws here in California and the strategies to use during a trial.
A lawyer will likely be proficient at dealing with the mountains of paperwork for slip-and-fall claims. These documents range from medical reports and affidavits to witness statements and official correspondence. Organizing and presenting this information can be quite challenging while an individual recuperates from an injury, but a lawyer can help.
Factors That Determine Amount of Compensation
The initial matter is determining that another party was liable for the slip and fall. California is a pure comparative negligence state. This means the amount of damages a person can recover in a personal injury lawsuit depends on each party's percentage of fault.
For example, suppose a court finds that an individual is 20% at fault for an accident and the typical award for such an incident is $100,000. In that case, the amount the person would receive goes down 20% to a payout of $80,000.
This principle applies regardless of how much more at fault the other party may have been. It reduces the insurance company's liability and the total award to ensure fairness.
Medical costs such as doctor's visits, hospitalizations, physical therapy and medications can all contribute to the total damages due to an injury. One must also consider the cost of future medical care, including any permanent impairments or disabilities resulting from the accident.
Mental and Emotional Pain and Suffering
Mental and emotional anguish can substantially increase the amount of noneconomic damages that a personal injury claimant can receive. This distress can include fear, anxiety, humiliation, depression and shock caused by the accident. Additionally, an individual may experience severe mental or emotional distress from pain and suffering related to physical injuries from the accident.
If an individual is unable to work due to an injury caused by another party, the person may claim compensation for any wages, salary or other income lost due to the inability to work. This includes payment for past and future wages the victim might have earned had the accident not occurred. The claimant's occupation and skill level can also play a role in calculating compensation.
In a personal injury claim, damages to personal property can affect the settlement or award. Such property damage may include the cost of repairing or replacing damaged items and lost objects, such as clothing, jewelry and vehicles. In some cases, claimants may also be eligible for compensation for the cost of any diminished value resulting from the accident.
Competent Counsel for a Slip-and-Fall Case
Anyone who suffers from a slip-and-fall injury wants to do everything possible to get restitution and recover fully. An experienced lawyer usually gives a person better odds of achieving a fair deal. Contact the Johnson Attorneys Group for a free consultation if you need legal support after a slip-and-fall injury.