How are Settlements for Slip and Fall Cases Determined?
Whether it is at work or at a store, slip and fall accidents happen. Sometimes the floor is slippery and wet, other times there is an obstruction in the walkway that trips your foot. No matter what the cause is, if a person is injured due to a slips and fall in the workplace or in a public place, the employer or business may be liable for those injuries. Determining a slip and fall settlement is done in consideration of several factors such as negligence and liability. Additionally, While there are several common injuries associated with slip and fall accidents, the compensation is awarded for different categories of injury, including medical bills, attorney fees, as well as pain and suffering.
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Factors that Determine a Slip and Fall Settlement
The main considerations that determine the outcome of slip and fall cases revolve around three main questions; 1) Who is the party that is ultimately liable for the accident? 2) What the liable party negligent or otherwise contributed to the accident? And 3) Did the injured party cause or contribute to their own accident in any way.
Negligence involves the disregard for the safety of others by failure to act a reasonable person would. It could be that a dangerous situation was created by a pot hole, leaking ceiling or uneven surface. The key attribute in this assessment is whether or not a reasonable individual would have been able to identify the condition as dangerous or potentially hazardous and if the liable party had ample opportunities to improve the conditions prior to the occurrence of the injury. The alternative task to prove is whether the liable property owner specifically caused the dangerous situation themselves and that it was reasonably understandable that a person would suffer an injury due to the situation.
Conditions such as poor lighting, limited visibility, lack of company policy enforcement and lack of reasonable justification are all factors that contribute to the determination of negligence in a slip and fall case. Plaintiffs are burdened with the responsibility of proving that the liable party could have take some other action to prevent the accident but failed to do so. They must also prove that even if there was a valid reason for the obstruction to be present, that the justification was not longer valid at the time of the accident occurred, and that no preventive measures were exercised in order to prevent the occurrence. While the burden of proof rests with the plaintiff, the facts of the case will present the affirmations or declarations necessary to determine the degree of negligence involved.
In order to prove that someone is liable, they must have a legal responsibility for the property and any occurrences that take place on that property. A property owner or business owner would normally assume liability for an injury that happens in their place of business, unless they have insurance that relieves them of that liability. In the case that the owner or employer has liability insurance, the insurance company assumes the liability and therefore the plaintiff must file a suit against them instead of the insured.
Plaintiff’s Freedom From Fault or Contribution
While there may have been conditions present that caused the slip and fall in the first place, the plaintiff must be free from guilt in order to place all of the liability on the defending party. If the injured party contributed to the injury in any way, they must accept their portion of liability, which usually negates the assumption of full responsibility by the property or business owner.
States that recognize contributory fault laws will not award a settlement to a plaintiff if there is any degree, even the slightest, of partial blame on the part of the injured party. States that enforce comparative negligent laws will award compensations in cases where there is partial negligence, but they will reduce the settlement in proportion to the percentage of liability. Determining partial liability on the part of the injured person is determined by the engagement, access and warnings provided to the plaintiff. If the injured person was distracted by talking or texting on the phone they may be deemed to personal liability. If the injury took place in a restricted area in which the plaintiff was not granted access to, or they disregarded warning signs posted in the area, those issues may also present a case of partial liability.
Common Injuries Associated With Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall accidents can result in injuries that range from just minor bumps and bruises, all the way to permanent disabilities. While there are various injuries that can be suffered as a result, there are a few injuries that are quite common involving the head, back, neck and pelvic area.
Back and Neck Injuries
Slip and falls can result in broken or slipped disks along the lower neck and spinal column, as well as painful and chronic pain that can require surgery or debilitate a person were they can no longer earn a living and work.
Injuries sustained during a slip and fall can include concussions, or even worse, traumatic injuries to the brain that cause problems with balance, mobility memory or even cause cognitive and behavioral issues.
Since most of the victims in slip and fall cases are elderly, many of these accidents result in broken hips or cracked pelvises. These types of injuries are extremely painful and often require invasive surgery and extended nursing home stays
Torn Tendons and Ligaments
It is natural for a person to try to catch themselves when falling, that type of quick response can stop the fall all together, or make the injuries worse. When using your feet, knees or hands to prevent the fall, you could tear a ligament or tendon. These injuries can be treated with surgery and physical therapy, these type of injuries cause those injured to suffer life-long consequences that more often than not never completely heal.
Categories of Compensation
General compensatory damages are most likely to be awarded in slip and fall cases. These types of awards serve to compensate an injured person for damages that are deemed non-monetary. These damages include:
- Pain and Suffering
- Mental anxiety
- Loss of companionship
Special compensatory damages are awarded in cases where monetary expenses are incurred on behalf of the injured person as a direct result of the injury. The goal is to make the plaintiff whole again and restore their financial situation to where it was before the accident.These include:
- Medical bills
- Attorney fees
- Cost of future medical services required
- Household bills and necessities
All in all, there are a number of factors to consider when determining slip and fall settlements. Negligence and liability are two major components of discovery, but the plaintiff must be free from blame the injuries that are suffered, whether common or unique, may qualify for compensation, among other considerations such as legal fees, medical bills and pain and suffering.
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