It is estimated that fewer than 5 percent of slip and fall cases go all the way to trial. Most are resolved short of trial, with many being settled out-of-court. Your case may be more likely to go to trial if there is an unwillingness to settle, if you were seriously hurt, or if you were partially to blame for your injuries.
Why do so few slip and fall cases go to trial?
More than 95 percent of slip and fall cases settle, or get dismissed or dropped. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, only 3.5 percent of all personal injury, or “tort,” cases went to trial in 2005.1 Another study found that:
- 3 percent of tort cases were resolved through a jury trial or a bench trial,
- 32 percent of them were resolved via settlement, and
- 39 percent were dismissed.2
The rarity of a slip and fall trial is likely due to several reasons:
- lots of slip and fall accidents happen every year, so personal injury lawyers and insurance companies have developed a smooth process for resolving them,
- the large number of slip and fall lawsuits have provided insurers and plaintiffs’ lawyers with a good idea of how much compensation victims deserve,
- insurance companies that represent the property owner are generally hesitant to take a case all the way to a verdict that could cost them a lot,
- victims are eager to settle in order to pay off their medical bills, and
- both the victim and the defendant generally prefer to know how much compensation will be paid, rather than put the case to a judge or jury to decide.
What factors can make my case more likely to go to trial?
The 2 most important factors in whether a slip and fall case will go to trial or will settle out of court are:
- the eagerness of the parties to settle, and
- whether you were partially to blame for your injuries.
Some other factors include:
- the extent of your injuries,
- whether you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) or will still need medical care in the future,
- whether the defendant is an insurance company or an individual property owner, and
- your intent to take the case to trial.
The legal advice from a slip and fall lawyer can help fall victims better understand the legal process of pursuing a lawsuit and recovering a slip and fall settlement or verdict. In some accident cases where it was an obviously dangerous condition and the property owner clearly breached his or her duty of care to keep you safe, your slip and fall attorney can recover a high settlement amount by simply filing a demand letter. The timeline to settle a slip and fall case can be anywhere from a few months to a few years.
Eagerness of the parties to settle
If both you and the defendant – often the insurance company representing the property owner – are eager to settle the case, it will be unlikely to make it to trial. Parties that want to settle are more likely to compromise. The defendant will be more willing to give a fair settlement offer. If you are eager to settle the claim, you will also be more willing to compromise. This usually involves accepting a settlement offer that may not fully compensate you, but is still fair and adequate.
However, if either you or the defendant does not want to settle, it can push the case towards trial. Defendants who do not want to settle will not offer reasonable settlements to end the case. This can force you to either take the case to trial or accept a settlement offer that drastically undercompensates you. If you insist on a settlement that the defendant thinks is too much, and you do not budge from that number, the defendant may refuse to settle and take its risks at trial.
If there is the possibility that you were partially responsible for your slip and fall accident, it can make it more difficult to reach a settlement and can bring the case to trial. Your state’s shared fault rules will make a big difference.
In most states, premises liability law looks to whether it was reasonable to expect the property owner to fix a hazardous condition or warn people about it.3 The law also looks to whether it was reasonable to expect the victim to notice the danger and to avoid it. These are factually-intense issues. Small details can matter.
Importantly, if you were even partially to blame for your fall, it can reduce the amount of compensation you are entitled to recover.
A couple of states, like Virginia,4 use contributory fault rules for situations where the victim was partially to blame. In these states, if you were even 1 percent at fault, you will not recover any compensation.
Most states, however, use comparative fault rules. In these states, the jury will determine your percentage of fault. Your compensation will then be reduced by that amount.
Some states, like California,5 use pure comparative fault rules. There, your compensation will be reduced by whatever percentage of responsibility you brought to the accident, no matter how high. Other states, like Texas,6 use modified comparative fault rules. In these states, your percentage of recovery drops by your percentage of fault. However, you will be barred from recovering anything if you were more than half at-fault.
For example: Mary slips on an icy sidewalk, falls, and gets seriously hurt. The jury finds that she is entitled to $100,000 in compensation, but also that she was 60 percent to blame because she ignored a sign warning her of the condition. She would recover $40,000 in a state that uses pure comparative fault rules, but would recover nothing in modified comparative fault or contributory fault states.
Because the jury’s determination of your share of fault can drastically alter how much compensation you recover, your appearance of responsibility can make a case more difficult to settle. The defendant may be willing to take the case to trial rather than make a settlement offer that you think is fair or adequate. This makes slip and fall cases that involve shared fault issues more likely to go to trial.
What are some common slip and fall injuries?
There is a misconception that slip and falls are a trivial type of accident, and that the victim of a slip and fall will not suffer as serious of an injury as someone in, for example, a car accident. That is not the case, though. Some common slip and fall injuries include:
- tendon or muscle strains,
- ligament sprains,
- neck injuries,
- head injuries, including concussions or even more severe traumatic brain injuries (TBIs),
- back injuries, including spinal cord fractures,
- pelvic fractures,
- hip fractures and dislocations,
- knee injuries,
- broken legs,
- fractured ankles,
- broken collarbones,
- broken bones in the arms or elbows, and
- fractured wrists.
Some of these serious injuries can create a strong case for compensation. By establishing an attorney-client relationship with an accident lawyer and invoking your rights under your state’s personal injury law, you can file a slip and fall claim that demands the compensation you deserve.
What kinds of compensation am I entitled to recover in a personal injury case?
If you slipped, fell, and got hurt, you deserve compensation for all of the losses that stemmed from the incident. This includes your:
- costs for medical treatment, including anticipated future medical expenses,
- lost wages from missed work, including any lost earning capacity due to any disabilities from the accident,
- pain and suffering, and
- loss of consortium for the suffering that your family or loved one was put through.
A personal injury attorney from a reputable law firm can help you file a personal injury claim and pursue the financial compensation that you are entitled to receive.
- Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report, “Civil Bench and Jury Trials in State Courts, 2005” (October 2008).
- National Center for State Courts, “The Landscape of Civil Litigation in State Courts” (2015).
- See California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) No. 1001.
- See Coutlakis v. CSX Transportation, Inc., 796 S.E.2d 556 (2017).
- Li v. Yellow Cab Co., 13 Cal.3d 804 (1975).
- Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code 33.001.