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Posted in Slip and Fall Accidents on July 20, 2021
One of the most important conversations you will have with your injury lawyer after you slip and fall will relate to the value of your case. This evaluation will account for many factors, including some that are outside your control.
But setting expectations early in a case can benefit you and your lawyer. By evaluating your case honestly and objectively, you can identify a fair settlement offer and balance the risks and rewards of going to trial.
Here are some of the factors that go into an honest evaluation of a slip and fall case.
Not every slip and fall accident will support an insurance claim or premises liability lawsuit.
In New York, owners and occupiers of property must keep their premises reasonably free from hazards that could harm guests. To win a slip-and-fall case, you must prove that your injury was caused by the negligence of the person or business responsible for the property where you fell.
Negligence requires proof of four elements, which we’ll explore in-depth below.
Owners and occupiers must keep their property reasonably clear of hazards. Owners and occupiers may include homeowners, building owners, property managers, renters, and commercial tenants. They owe a duty of care to anyone invited onto the premises, including guests, customers, clients, and tenants.
Building owners and occupiers do not owe a duty to people who enter the building without permission or ones that use entrances and spaces that are closed to them.
Owners and occupiers breach the duty when they fail to exercise reasonable care in finding and remedying hazardous conditions on the property.
Some examples of a breach of duty include:
Some accidents happen despite the exercise of reasonable care by the owner or occupier. For example, if a customer in front of you spills a drink and you slip as you try to avoid the puddle, the business might not have had time to find and fix the hazard before you slipped.
To recover compensation, you must incur some damage. In most cases, this damage includes:
Minimal damages will support a claim, but they might not make the claim worth pursuing.
The breach of duty must cause your damages. Causation has two parts.
The negligent act was a cause-in-fact if it fell within the chain of events that led to your injury. If the negligent act had no impact on your injury, it did not cause it.
For example, suppose that you saw a frozen puddle in a store’s parking lot and tried to jump over it, rather than walking around it. The store’s negligence in not salting its parking lot might not have caused your injury, since you saw the ice and could have avoided it.
The negligent act was the proximate cause of your injury if your injury was reasonably foreseeable. Proximate cause does not require that your exact injury be foreseeable. Instead, it only requires that the negligent act be the type that could foreseeably cause injuries.
The more evidence you have of negligence, the better your chances are for winning your case. Much of the evidence of negligence in a slip-and-fall case will come from the property owner or occupier.
Security camera footage and testimony from employees could establish the way that the hazardous condition arose and what the person or business did to remedy it.
Another factor that goes into the evaluation of your slip and fall case is your damages. Injury claims are not windfall events. You should not expect to receive a multi-million dollar settlement for a minor injury from which you fully recovered.
Instead, the value of your claim increases in accordance with the severity and duration of your injuries. To receive a large settlement or damage award, you must suffer serious or permanent injuries.
Your damages will fall into two categories:
Economic damages include all of the ways that your injuries affect your finances. Some common examples of economic damages in a slip-and-fall case include:
Your economic damages could also include other expenses that you incurred due to your injuries, such as the costs of modifying your home to support grab bars and taking taxis to your medical appointments.
Non-economic damages attempt to compensate you for the diminishment in your quality of life resulting from your injuries.
Some examples of non-economic damages include:
Jurors and claims adjusters can use a few theories to quantify non-economic damages. Under the per diem theory, the fact finder assigns a daily value to your pain, suffering, and other non-economic damages. They multiply that daily value by the duration of your injuries.
Under the multiplier theory, the fact finder assigns you a factor between 1.5 and 5.0 based on the severity and duration of your injuries. The factor is multiplied by your economic damages to arrive at a total damage award.
For example, if you had $10,000 in economic damages and the jury assigned a factor of 2.0, the jury will award $20,000 in total damages.
Under New York’s comparative negligence statute, a judge or claims adjuster can reduce your damages by your percentage of fault. If you bear 25% of the fault, you could only recover 75% of your damages.
For example, suppose that you slip on a broken bottle in a grocery store. But perhaps you were running up and down the store’s aisles when it happened. A jury could reasonably find that you contributed to your injuries by running in the store, and a judge could reduce your damages accordingly.
By assessing the likelihood of success and the potential damages, your injury lawyer can arrive at an honest and reasonable evaluation of your case.
But to get an accurate evaluation, you must have an open and honest conversation with your lawyer about your injuries and your actions. Deceit and exaggeration can only work against you as you fight for fair compensation.