3 important things to know about slip and fall compensation amounts are that they can decrease if the victim was partially at fault, they aim to cover the victim’s losses, and they are often settled out of court. A skilled personal injury lawyer can help victims maximize their settlement and recover the compensation they deserve.
3 key things to know about slip-and-fall settlement amounts
3 of the most important things to know about the compensation amounts available in slip-and-fall cases are that:
- the victim’s compensation amount will decrease if they were partially to blame for their injuries,
- the compensation is meant to make the victim whole, again, and is rarely awarded to punish the defendant, and
- the compensation amount is usually settled out of court, through a negotiation process.
Victims who want to recover the compensation they deserve should strongly consider establishing an attorney-client relationship with a slip-and-fall attorney from a reputable law firm. With the legal advice of a slip-and-fall lawyer, victims can maximize the payout of their 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 the victim was partially responsible for their injuries. They generally reduce the compensation amount by the victim’s 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, the victim’s compensation amount is decreased by his or her percentage of fault. The only difference between the 2 types of comparative negligence is what happens when the victim is primarily at fault:
- in pure comparative negligence, the victim’s compensation is always reduced by their percentage of fault, no matter how high it is, while
- in modified comparative negligence, the victim is barred from recovery if they 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.
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 the victim was at fault, at all, he or she will be denied recovery. Because this rule is regarded as very harsh, very few states use it.
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 the victim’s losses. The goal of compensation is to compensate victims, not to make them better off than they were, before.
However, the extent of those losses is not confined to the victim’s medical expenses. Compensation is meant to cover the victim’s:
- 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 the victim’s accessibility needs.
It is only in very rare cases that slip-and-fall victims recover punitive damages. These damages go beyond compensating the victim. They make the defendant pay for egregious conduct related to the case, like intentionally destroying evidence of liability.
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 the victim’s losses, and
- the victim’s responsibility for the accident.
The severity of your injuries is likely the biggest factor in your claim. If the victim 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 the victim was 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 requires the plaintiff 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,
- the plaintiff was harmed, and
- the defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s injuries.1
In slip-and-fall cases, the victim has to show that the defendant’s negligence led to the unsafe condition that caused them 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. Victims, especially older victims or those who are unable to break their fall, can suffer severe injuries. In some cases, they can even be fatal.
Some common and serious injuries include:
- broken or fractured wrists or hands, as the victim tried to break their 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 the victim’s quality of life, attorneys and insurance adjusters may use a multiplier to calculate the victim’s non-economic damages, like pain and suffering. This can substantially increase the average settlement amount offered to end the personal injury lawsuit.
- California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) No. 1000.