After any sort of personal injury, there is the uncomfortable question of compensation that you will need to address once you have taken care of your immediate medical needs. This is an especially important question if you are suddenly shouldered with medical bills, increased insurance premiums, lost wages, and all sorts of other financial impacts—and deserves answering when someone else is responsible for your injuries. Tort law in the United States is an entire body of legislative work that addresses these types of situations and provides victims of personal injuries with clear paths towards seeking fair and reasonable compensation for their injuries.
Ok, so you are able to sue for a slip and fall injury… but should you? First off, the answer to this question is exceptionally personal, meaning that you are the only one who can truly answer that question; however, this is where working with a personal injury lawyer can be so helpful. Many people believe that they only need to hire a lawyer when they have decided whether or not to file a lawsuit, but this is far from the truth: in fact, insurance companies don’t want you to know, but working with an attorney during your claims process is a great way to increase your chances of settling your case.
Read more below.
Filing an Insurance Claim After a Slip and Fall
Is the responsible party covered by liability insurance that will provide you with compensation for your injuries? If so, then you will likely work through the insurance company in order to have your damages paid for. If they do not have an insurance policy (or surety bond) protecting them from liability, then you may need to file a lawsuit directly against the responsible party.
Something important to note is that it might not seem like you need an attorney to file a claim, but you will most definitely benefit from their support. The process of filing a claim is very straightforward, and working with the insurance representative throughout their investigation is generally simple enough. The problem is that this simplicity is by design, in order to keep a claimant from thinking that they need an attorney. In the background of your claim investigation, the insurance agent is working to identify every possible reason to limit your settlement amount, and when you are making statements without the support of a legal professional it can be far too easy to fall into a trap.
If you are filing an insurance claim, it is important to know that there is no such thing as a non-negotiable offer from the insurance company. The problem arises when they are able to point to specific statements or admissions that you made during the investigation—generally, these are completely innocent and innocuous things, such as a simple apology at the scene fo the accident or mentioning to a doctor that an injury hasn’t been bothering you as much lately—and use these facts as ways to limit your award. Regardless of the supporting evidence, they will position their initial offer as the best that you can do, but your attorney will be able to go through a series of aggressive negotiations with the express goal of settling for a fair amount without needing to file a lawsuit.
Negotiating a Settlement After a Slip and Fall
After the insurance company concludes their investigation and is ready to make an offer, your attorney will return with their own research and supporting evidence as to why you deserve the amount that they have calculated, which will be shockingly higher than the insurance company’s offer. Your lawyer will account for the non-economic damages of your accident, such as your pain and suffering and any impacts on your quality of life–all of which the insurance company will happily look over if left to their own devices.
This negotiation period is another perfect example of why it is so important that you hire an attorney as soon as you are injured: they will be able to do their own investigation at the same time that the insurance company is doing theirs. If you wait until you get your initial offer from the insurance company to hire a lawyer, they will have to work hard to catch up on the necessary work, meaning that you are starting at a disadvantage.
Some estimates claim that as many as 95% of personal injury claims are settled before reaching trial. These numbers are difficult to substantiate because settlements generally do not need to be made public, but regardless of what the actual percentage is, you have a statistically-significant chance to settle before needing to go through a full lawsuit.
Filing a Lawsuit After a Slip and Fall
If the responsible party does not have an insurance policy in place meant to protect them from liability for an injury like yours, then you will likely need to seek compensation directly from them. This is best done with an attorney since you can be certain that they will have their own legal representatives working tirelessly to limit or completely deny your requests for damages.
In the more likely case that you are working with an insurance company, you and your attorney will most likely attempt to settle the case before needing to file a lawsuit, since lawsuits are time-consuming, costly, and ultimately take the decision out of your (and the defendant’s) hands and into the courts. However, if you find that you are either unable to reach a settlement agreement through negotiations, or if you are running against the statute of limitations and have yet to reach an agreement, then filing a lawsuit may be the most appropriate course of action.
Remember that it typically is not the immediate goal of a personal injury to file a lawsuit; instead, personal injury attorneys will work with insurance companies, the defendant, or any other relevant party in order to reach a private settlement agreement. This is typically the option championed by everyone involved, meaning that answering the question of whether or not you should sue is likely not the first question that you will need to answer.