Three of the most important things to know about the compensation amounts available in slip-and-fall cases are that:
- your compensation amount will decrease if you were partially to blame for your injuries,
- the compensation is meant to make you whole, again, and is rarely awarded to punish the defendant, and
- the compensation amount is usually settled out of court, through a negotiation process.
If you want to recover the compensation you deserve, you should strongly consider hiring a slip-and-fall attorney from a reputable law firm. With the legal advice of a slip-and-fall lawyer, you can maximize the payout of your injury settlement.
1. Shared fault rules
Each state’s personal injury law has rules for when more than one party is responsible for an accident. These shared fault rules will apply in a slip-and-fall case if you were partially responsible for your injuries. They generally reduce the compensation amount by your percentage of fault.
For example: Marcia is playing a game on her smartphone while she walks through the department store. Because she is distracted, she does not see the large puddle of black motor oil on the white floor. She slips on the wet floor, falls down, and gets hurt.
While each state has its own shared fault rule, they fall into 3 categories:
- contributory negligence,
- pure comparative negligence, and
- modified comparative negligence.
Most states follow one of the comparative negligence rules. Under these rules, your compensation amount is decreased by your percentage of fault. The only difference between the 2 types of comparative negligence is what happens when you are primarily at fault:
- in pure comparative negligence, your compensation is always reduced by your percentage of fault, no matter how high it is, while
- in modified comparative negligence, you are barred from recovery if you were primarily at fault.
Among states that use modified comparative negligence, some bar recovery to victims found 50% or more at fault. Others draw the line at 51% of fault.1
For example: Marcia files a slip-and-fall claim against the store. The jury finds that she has suffered $100,000 in losses, but also that she was 60% at-fault. If Marcia’s case is in a state that follows pure comparative negligence rules, like California, she would still recover $40,000. If she is in a state that uses modified comparative negligence rules, she would recover nothing.
In states that use contributory negligence, if you were at fault, at all, you will be denied recovery. Because this rule is regarded as very harsh, very few states use it.2
For example: Gertrude is shopping in the grocery store. As she passes by the frozen food aisle, she sees a puddle of ice cream. 15 minutes later, she returns to that aisle. She has forgotten about the puddle, slips, and falls. The jury decides that she suffered $10,000 in damages, but that she was 5% at fault because she forgot about the puddle. Contributory negligence rules would bar her from recovering any compensation, at all.
2. Compensation available in slip-and-fall accidents
The compensation that is available in a slip-and-fall case is almost always limited to your losses. The goal of compensation is to compensate you, not to make you better off than you were, before.
However, the extent of those losses is not confined to your medical expenses. Compensation is meant to cover your:
- medical bills,
- costs of reasonably anticipated future medical care,
- lost income and wages,
- reduced earning capacity,
- pain and suffering,
- loss of consortium, and
- other expenses stemming from the accident, like the costs of a wheelchair ramp or other home improvements related to your accessibility needs.
It is only in very rare cases that slip-and-fall victims recover punitive damages. These damages go beyond compensating you. They make the defendant pay for egregious conduct related to the case, like intentionally destroying evidence of liability.3
3. Settlements usually happen out of court
Very few slip-and-fall cases make it to trial. Most of them are settled out of court. These settlements often reflect a compromise between what each party’s lawyer thinks the case is worth. The settlement amount is the result of intense negotiation that is based on the lawyer’s experience with prior, similar cases.
The driving factors in these settlements are generally:
- the extent of your losses, and
- your responsibility for the accident.
The severity of your injuries is likely the biggest factor in your claim. If you suffered a catastrophic injury, the defendant will likely be more interested in settling in order to avoid a potentially massive verdict in the personal injury case. If you were clearly partially to blame, the defendant and its insurance company may only offer a small settlement amount. Having a personal injury attorney handle these negotiations can make a big difference in the outcome of the personal injury claim.
How does premises liability work in a slip-and-fall lawsuit?
A slip-and-fall case is a type of premises liability case. These claims seek to hold property owners, occupiers, or managers liable for unsafe conditions on their premises.
The details of premises liability laws vary between states. Many states’ laws are similar to California’s, which require you to prove the following elements of the case:
- the defendant owned, leased, occupied, or controlled the property,
- the defendant was negligent in the use or maintenance of the property,
- you (the plaintiff) were harmed, and
- the defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing your injuries.4
In slip-and-fall cases, you have to show that the defendant’s negligence led to the unsafe condition that caused you to trip or slip. Those unsafe conditions can take a variety of forms, like:
- puddles of slippery liquid,
- icy sidewalks,
- loose carpeting in walkways,
- uneven flooring,
- protruding objects,
- broken stairs or railings, or
- a lack of warning signs for dangerous conditions.
What are some common slip-and-fall injuries?
Slip-and-fall cases are often wrongly perceived as trivial accidents that only cause minor injuries. If you are older and unable to break your fall, your injuries can be extremely dangerous or even fatal.
Some common and serious injuries include:
- broken or fractured wrists or hands, as you tried to break your fall,
- neck injuries,
- back injuries, including spinal cord injuries,
- head injuries, concussions, or even traumatic brain injuries (TBIs),
- leg or foot injuries,
- serious hip injuries,
- bruises, and
- lacerations or cuts.
Many of these injuries require extensive medical treatment. The medical costs, alone, can quickly go into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. When the injuries drastically reduce your quality of life, attorneys and insurance adjusters may use a multiplier to calculate your non-economic damages, like pain and suffering. This can substantially increase the average settlement amount offered to end the personal injury lawsuit. Also see our article on the typical slip and fall settlement.
- See, for example: NRS 41.141; Kaatz v. State (Alaska, 1975) ; Li v. Yellow Cab Co (1975) 13 Cal. 3d 804.
- See, for example: Alfa Life Ins. Corp. v. Colza (Alabama, 2014) Woolridge v. Abrishami (; Proffitt v. Gosnell (Court of Appeals of North Carolina, 2017) 257 N.C. App. 148.
- See, for example, Tellez-Giron v. Conn’s Appliances, Inc. (United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, 2018) Case No. 1:17-cv-01074 WJ/SCY.
- California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) No. 1000.