You fell and got hurt because of a dangerous condition on someone else’s property. Now, in addition to suffering through physical pain and emotional anguish, you’ve run out of sick leave and have a mountain of bills to pay. You need money fast, and a settlement of your slip and fall claim seems like the way to get it.
But how long does a slip and fall settlement take? And what’s the effect on the value of your settlement if you push too hard for it to happen or wait too long to file a claim? Here’s how an experienced slip and fall lawyer answers those questions and can work to maximize the value of a settlement in your case. Reach out to a Florida slip and fall lawyer.
Quick Overview of Slip and Fall Settlements
A settlement is a binding agreement to resolve a legal claim. In a typical slip and fall case, it’s a contract between the person injured in a slip and fall accident and whoever has legal liability to pay that person’s damages (usually the owner of the property where the fall happened or the owner’s liability insurance company).
The bargain struck by most slip and fall settlement agreements consists of two principal terms:
- The liable party or insurer agrees to pay an amount to the injured fall victim; and
- The fall victim agrees to release the liable party or insurer from further liability and to terminate any pending lawsuit against them.
As a binding contract, a settlement typically amounts to the definitive end of a legal claim for slip and fall damages. A one-shot deal, in other words. Once they have signed, sealed, and delivered a settlement agreement, neither party can go back on its terms except in a few exceedingly rare circumstances not worth mentioning here.
For that reason, fall victims must strike the best possible bargain before agreeing to a settlement. You want to recover the maximum available under the circumstances—ideally, enough to pay your bills, replace your lost income, and heal from your trauma.
Time to Investigate Liability and Damages
A slip and fall lawyer aims to get you the most money available from every possible source. Achieving that goal typically requires investigating how you fell, who deserves to take the blame, and how much you can realistically claim damages.
Who owes you damages?
In a slip and fall case, you generally have the right to seek damages from anyone who created the unreasonably dangerous property condition that caused you to fall or should reasonably have taken steps to keep you safe from that hazard.
Every claim differs, but parties with potential liability for a slip and fall can include:
- The property’s owner
- The property’s tenant or legal occupant
- The property’s manager
- A third party who created the dangerous property condition and had a reasonable duty to protect you from it
Most of these parties typically carry liability insurance to cover the cost of paying your damages. They may also have assets available with which to pay you. And more than one of them might owe you damages simultaneously for your injuries.
That’s why an experienced lawyer works hard to identify as many potentially liable parties as possible—the more that exist, the more sources of payment you have to tap into, and the greater your chances of receiving a full and fair settlement. In other words, taking the time to investigate potentially liable parties and insurers can pay large dividends when settling your slip and fall claim.
How much can you claim?
As a slip and fall victim, you can generally claim compensation for the full scope of harm you suffered. Many victims are surprised to learn just how broadly those rights sweep.
After taking the time to evaluate your case, a skilled lawyer can often build a claim seeking compensation for your:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Other out-of-pocket expenses related to recovering from or living with your slip and fall injury
- Past lost earnings from missing work
- Vacation time and sick leave used while missing work
- Future lost earnings if your injury will keep you out of work going forward
- Physical pain and discomfort due to your injury or medical treatments
- Emotional suffering like anxiety, depression, or PTSD
- Inconvenience and daily disruption
- Diminished quality of life and personal relationships
- Scarring and disfigurement
Slip and fall victims who seek immediate settlements often ignore a significant portion of those damages, not realizing they’re recoverable. But an experienced lawyer can identify and put a credible value on them so that any demand for payment made in a settlement negotiation on your behalf seeks the maximum compensation allowable by law.
Time to Prepare and Present Your Claim
Having investigated and evaluated your claim, a lawyer typically turns to preparing and then presenting your claim to the at-fault party or its insurers. The claim might take the form of a letter to the at-fault demanding payment, an insurance claim submitted to the party’s liability insurance carrier, or a lawsuit filed in court. Or the lawyer might present several types of claims at once.
The purpose of presenting a claim is to put the at-fault party and its representatives on notice and demonstrate that you mean business. Receiving a claim from an experienced lawyer who has a strong reputation in slip and fall cases adds credibility to your case, making it more likely those parties will come to the negotiating table with reasonable proposals instead of throwaway offers.
Time to Negotiate and Litigate
Having presented your claim in an appropriate format and, most likely, received a response disputing at least some of it, your lawyer can often begin negotiating with the at-fault party’s representatives about a potential settlement. But a skilled lawyer will also try to time those negotiations to conduct them from a position of strength. That may require waiting to gather more information from the opposing party, for example, before sitting down at the negotiating table.
Effective settlement negotiation might also involve going a few rounds with the at-fault party’s lawyers and insurers in court. Winning incremental victories in court can ratchet up the pressure on your opponents to offer you a favorable settlement. So can the prospect of a trial date drawing nearer and nearer. And remember, even if a case does not settle before trial, it may still settle during a trial or immediately after.
Over the years, slip and fall lawyers hone their intuition for when’s the best time to push for a settlement. Their assessments of the proper timing for settlement talks often take into account how a case has shaped up, their client’s needs and priorities, and the dynamics of their interactions with the at-fault party’s representatives. Giving your lawyer leeway to strike when the iron is hot can maximize the value of any settlement the lawyer achieves.
Managing the Wait for a Potential Settlement
To summarize what we’ve covered so far, the most favorable settlement in a slip and fall case typically happens only after a skilled lawyer has taken the necessary steps to investigate, build, present, and negotiate your claim. So, what should you do in the meantime to manage the daily challenges caused by your slip and fall injury? Here are some suggestions.
Talk to Your Lawyer About Medical Bills and How to Address Them
Medical expenses constitute a significant component of many slip and fall damages claims. Some victims have insurance to pay part of them, but their coverage rarely takes care of everything. And that can create financial stress, especially when a hospital billing department starts calling asking about payment.
Slip and fall lawyers understand that difficulty and can often help you address it. It’s common, for example, for lawyers to negotiate forbearance agreements with medical billing departments to get them to agree to wait to receive payment until your claim has settled.
So, don’t be shy about communicating with your lawyer about medical expenses and any challenges you confront in paying them. It’s a common problem and one a lawyer can usually help you manage.
Talk to Your Lawyer About Support Services in Your Community
Slip and fall lawyers spend their days representing the interests of injured people facing problems similar to yours. Over time, they become familiar with the public and charitable support services that can lend a hand while you struggle with an injury. Chances are, a skilled slip and fall lawyer can assist in connecting you with services to navigate your day-to-day challenges while waiting for a settlement.
Talk to Your Lawyer About Changes in Your Needs or Priorities
Your slip and fall lawyer has a duty to serve your interests. So be sure to communicate just what those interests are and if they’ve changed since you first hired your attorney.
For example, at the outset of your slip and fall case, you may have faced significant financial pressure and told your attorney that you’d like to settle as soon as possible just to get money in your hands. Now, however, thanks to your attorney’s efforts in getting your medical bills deferred and helping you find support services, you may feel less pressure to get money and more willingness to let your attorney add time to settlement negotiations for maximum gain. Or conversely, the financial strain you feel today could be greater than it was when your case began, giving you a greater need to settle sooner than later.
Whatever the change in your circumstances, keeping your attorney informed will help to achieve the best possible outcome for your slip and fall case. That’s all your attorney wants, and it’s what you deserve.
Connect with a Skilled Slip and Fall Attorney Today
Most (but not all) slip and fall cases settle. Fewer, however, achieve the most favorable settlement possible, and that’s because injured fall victims agree too quickly to take the money at-fault parties and their insurers dangle to make the case go away.
To achieve a fair outcome in your slip and fall case, leave settlement negotiations to an experienced slip and fall lawyer. It might take a little longer to get money in your hands, but the gain is almost always worth the wait. To learn more about your rights after falling and getting hurt on someone else’s property, contact a Florida personal injury lawyer in your area for a free consultation.