An Honest Evaluation of a Slip and Fall Case

October 24, 2022
An Honest Evaluation of a Slip and Fall Case

A Florida Slip and Fall Lawyer Evaluates Actual Cases of Trip and Fall Injuries

A slip and fall accident occurs when dangerous obstacles on a property cause a person walking by to slip or trip and collide with the ground. The impact of the fall can lead to broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, back injuries, and neck injuries. A property owner can be liable for a slip and fall accident for the negligent upkeep of their premises. You can pursue compensation by filing a premises liability claim with their insurance party if you suffered an injury from a slip and fall accident on their property due to negligence on the part of the property owner. When a person receives an injury in a trip-and-fall accident, there is nothing that will guarantee an award of any amount, let alone a substantial award. Many personal injury attorneys have developed the ability to estimate if the value exists in these types of cases. This can only be done if the attorney has all the details and they are provided with an honest evaluation of the slip-and-fall incident.

What is a Slip and Fall Accident?

Slip and fall accidents are personal injury accidents that involve a person slipping or tripping on another person's property. They can be deceptive, as the victim can stand up and think they are fine. They may feel some pain in areas that took the brunt of the impact but not feel any sense of urgency for major injuries. However, even a minor seeming fall can cause severe injuries with symptoms that may not become clear until later on. Colliding with a hard surface like a floor can cause severe damage to the brain, skull, back, neck, etc. The possibly catastrophic damage can cause long-term health complications and lead to steep medical bills. It can also interfere with your ability to live your life to the fullest, including stopping you from working, maintaining an active lifestyle, or enjoying time with your loved ones.

Common Slip and Fall Injuries

A collision with the hard floor after a slip and fall accident can cause damage to the body that leads to debilitating injuries. These injuries can have long-lasting effects and lead to significant pain. The following are some of the injuries you could sustain from a slip and fall accident:

What Causes Slip and Fall Accidents?

Slip and fall accidents result from dangerous hazards impeding a person's ability to move safely around a property. These accidents can happen on any property, including a personal home, restaurant, store, or workplace. If the owner was negligent in maintaining their property and that negligence lead to an injury accident, they can share liability in a premises liability claim. The following are some common causes of slip and fall accidents:
  • Wet floors without proper signage
  • Slippery surfaces
  • Uneven surface
  • Loose floorboards, mats, and rugs
  • Parking lot potholes
  • Debris on the floor
  • Loose electrical wiring
  • Missing or uneven steps

How an Attorney Begins to Determine the Value of a Slip and Fall Case

Personal injury attorneys use their experience from past cases to get an initial idea of the value of a slip-and-fall case. They determine this in the initial consultation with a potential client, where an attorney and an injured victim sit down to discuss the details of what happened and work through all the possible avenues and options. During this consultation, the potential plaintiff must tell the truth about the facts surrounding the accident. It only hinders the potential case if they omit important details, fail to mention vital facts, or embellish the truth. During an initial consultation, a personal injury attorney analyzes the case to see how convincing it might be to a potential jury. The trip and fall attorney must be convinced of the same validating points of the case that will serve as proof to a jury in the future. The following are some of the questions the slip and fall attorney will consider before taking on a case:
  • Does this event qualify as a trip and fall accident?
  • Did the accident cause the injuries to the plaintiff?
  • What is the extent and severity of the injuries?
  • Was the defendant wholly or partially responsible for the accident?
  • Was the defendant negligent?
These are all questions that the attorney will be seeking answers to during the consultation. These answers will be paramount in deciding the true value of a slip-and-fall case.

The Marie Arnez-Marshalls Slip and Fall Case

One example of a case that involved an untruthful victim that led to wasted time and money was the Marie Arnez case against Marshalls. On January 8, 2011, Marie Arnez tripped and fell over an empty flatbed cart left by an employee while shopping in a Marshalls department store in Pennsylvania. Arnez reported the injury to a store manager but did not request medical attention. She then walked out of the store on her own without any assistance. Arnez decided to seek treatment for her injuries by visiting a chiropractor on January 19, 2011, eleven days after the initial slip and fall. She claimed to have suffered multiple injuries from the slip and fall incident, including injuries to her neck, lower and middle back, hands, wrists, shoulders, right knee, and right ankle. Marie then sought regular treatment with her healthcare professional, undergoing several forms of therapy and treatments for her physical injuries and emotional distress. She eventually filed a slip and fall lawsuit over their negligence that caused her damages. The case was heard in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia in March of 2016. Marie and her husband, Alex Arnez, brought their case against The TJX Companies Inc. and Marmaxx Operating Corp, the two entities that own and operate Marshalls and other similar discount department stores. The couple's lawsuit against the company sought economic and non-economic damages for injuries associated with the trip and fall incident. These damages included medical expenses, compensation for pain and suffering, embarrassment and humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, and Marie's loss of consortium with Alex (loss of sex life). The defendants had the case moved to the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to prevent any hometown bias.

Waiting to Seek Treatment after Slip and Fall Injury

It was alleged by the attorneys for the department store that Marie Arnez's injuries could not have been that serious since she waited over a week after she was injured to seek any medical treatment. This argument makes logical sense, and juries often see it that way. Just because someone waits to seek medical treatment does not mean that they are not injured or that their injuries are not serious. It is perfectly common for people to be injured and not recognize the painful symptoms until later. In fact, the body pumps adrenaline through our veins specifically to delay any pain. This is the body's way of getting the person out of danger by giving them some time to escape without the debilitation of pain. However, it is also common for juries to see the delay in a way that supports the defense's argument that the injury is not serious. When victims of negligence wait to seek treatment, the defense almost always uses this to say, "If they were really injured, they would have needed a doctor immediately." This is not always true, as Florida Statute 381.026 gives plaintiffs a certain amount of time to seek treatment after they are injured. In Florida PIP cases, injured victims have 14 days to seek treatment. A man who slipped on a wet floor beside a bright yellow caution sign holds his back in pain ** Note: Shallow depth of field

How Expert Witnesses Affected the Slip and Fall Case

At the trial, Marshalls' attorneys acknowledged that the flatbed cart was a trip and fall hazard but claimed that Marie Arnez was also at fault because she failed to see and avoid what amounted to a large tripping hazard. The defendants also presented several expert witnesses, including a forensic psychiatrist, a neurologist, and a biomechanics expert, to testify against Marie Arnez's injuries. The biomechanics expert was Kirk L. Thibault, who testified that the injuries to the plaintiff could not have been caused by the fall and were also embellished. Arnez asked the court to exclude part of this testimony, but it was denied. His expert opinion was allowed into evidence. This testimony turned out to be the most detrimental to the case. Thibault testified that the herniation to the spinal discs in Arnez's neck and back could not have been caused by the force of the fall. The jury was then shown a video of the fall, which seemed to corroborate the evidence of the biomechanics expert. Whether or not the plaintiff was truthful about when she received that injury is unknown.

The Jury Agrees with Marshalls' Experts on Slip and Fall Case

The jury agreed with the defense and found that the department store and Marie Arnez were equally at fault for the fall: Marshalls for leaving the flatbed cart out and Arnez for not watching where she was going. The jury awarded $5000 to Arnez for medical expenses. However, they declined any award to the plaintiffs for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, embarrassment, humiliation, or loss of consortium. Marie and Alex Arnez then filed a motion for a new trial on the grounds that the jury's verdict was inadequate and failed to award pain and suffering damages even with sufficient evidence. The judge denied this motion, saying that the evidence provided a reasonable basis to show that the jury did not believe that Marie Arnez experienced any pain and suffering. He also found that Thibault's testimony was admissible, and his original ruling was not an error. The couple appealed to The Third Circuit Court of Appeals, but that case failed to produce any significant changes in the outcome of the case. The final award for the plaintiffs was $5000 in medical expenses, significantly less than the $45,000 originally sought.

Over Estimated Value of a Slip and Fall Case

In the above Arnez case, it appears that there was an attempt to extract compensation that the case did not warrant, using dubious facts and embellishment. This was not on the part of the slip and fall injury attorneys but on the facts presented to the attorneys by the clients as a true representation of what happened and of their injuries. The clients lied or embellished the facts of their case to their own attorney in the hope of getting more money. The court, judge, attorneys, and witnesses' time were unnecessarily wasted. The final cost to prepare and try the case for the firm far exceeded the amount of the verdict by many times over. Had the plaintiffs been upfront and honest with their personal injury attorney during the initial consultation, there is a distinct possibility that this case would never have gone to trial, and a lot of time and money would not have been wasted. If you suffer a slip and fall accident, it's important to be one hundred percent truthful so your attorney can pursue proper damages. Two businessmen in suits shaking hands and smiling.

Accurately Determining a Slip and Fall Case's Value

Contrary to the Arnez case, there are many trip-and-fall cases in which severe and life-changing injuries do occur. When someone trips and falls and really does get hurt, they may suffer a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, broken bones, or many other types of injuries. When speaking with a slip and fall accident attorney, it's essential to present all the details in a truthful manner. By putting your slip and fall lawyer in a position where they lied on record, you can hurt your case's chance at success and your lawyer's credibility. The truth is the best way to get the compensation you deserve for your slip and fall injuries. The current and future medical bills that result from the injury can be extremely expensive. Couple this with the loss of income over a lifetime, and the final sum may total in the millions of dollars. In cases like these, it is imperative to present an honest case to your attorney and hire someone with a proven track record of recovering the case's true value over the long term.

Beware of Settlement Mill Law Firms

Many settlement-mill-type law firms will advise a client to take an out-of-court settlement in order for the firm to profit with very little upfront cost and effort. Instead, merited cases need time and attention to work out all the facts and to hold every individual responsible. Likewise, a settlement offer that seems like a big number can tempt an injury victim. An offer of $100,000 may seem like a substantial amount, but you must consider how that money will be divided. Thirty percent will pay for the firm's time. Now take that remaining $70,000 and spread it out over 20 years, and you're only left with $3,500 per year. No one can live on that amount, especially if there are medical bills, rehabilitation costs, special needs, work limitations, and other medical expenses to take into account. You need to hire a slip and fall injury lawyer that will work to get you the maximum compensation for your damages. If you suffered a life-altering injury, this money would need to sustain you for a lifetime. Allow an experienced slip and fall attorney to work to get you fair compensation from the insurance company, so you won't have to live a financially stressful life.

Damages in a Slip and Fall Accident Case

For the most part, slipping and falling tends to cause minor injuries. However, there are still plenty of cases where someone manages to suffer severe and life-changing injuries because they fell. Understanding the extent of damages you can claim when seeking compensation for a slip and fall injury is integral to the success of your case. Many people can easily make the mistake of missing damages that they could have sought compensation for or overvaluing the damages they suffered. Most of the damages sought in a slip and fall injury case consist of economic or non-economic damages. Economic damages are losses caused by a slip and fall injury that are financial or directly tied to a claimant's finances like medical bills, lost wages, lost earning potential, etc. Non-economic damages involve losses caused by a slip and fall injury that can't easily tie to a fixed dollar amount on the account that they are not as physically tangible. Common non-economic damages include pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium, or loss of enjoyment of life.

How Can a Lawyer Help With Your Slip and Fall Case?

The insurance company of the property owner that caused your slip and fall accident will do everything in their power to limit your settlement. Their number one goal is to reduce the amount of money they have to pay you to keep their profits up. A trip and fall lawyer with vast experience in these types of cases can help immensely to limit the effect of an insurance company's attempts to lower your compensation. They can negotiate a fair settlement based on tangible proof of negligence and damages. If there is no settlement, they can represent you in court by proving the at-fault party's negligence caused the damages you currently suffer from. The most important facet of pursuing legal representation is presenting a truthful accounting of the slip and fall accident. By giving your slip and fall lawyer an accurate accounting of the accident details, damages, and cost of suffering, you can give them a proper goal to strive for. They can help you get a fair settlement without wasting time on unnecessary litigation to put you in a position to financially recover from your injuries.

Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Slip and Fall Claim

Once you collect all of the accurate information about your slip and fall case, you can pursue compensation. A qualified and experienced slip and fall attorney will have the resources and the desire to take a case as far as necessary to recover the full, true slip and fall value. Dolman Law Group is a personal injury law firm that has successfully recovered substantial awards for countless victims of negligence. We have the resources required to cover the cost of litigation, no matter how long it takes, to ensure the client recovers the maximum award possible. Our experienced slip and fall attorneys have vast experience in litigating these cases. They will offer personalized attention to ensure you could potentially receive compensation accurate to the damages you suffered. If you or a loved one were seriously injured in a slip and fall accident, call and speak to a qualified, experienced personal injury attorney for a free consultation and evaluation of your case at 727-451-6900 or contact us online. There is no obligation, and you pay nothing until we win your case. Let us help you file a claim today. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 (727) 451-6900 https://www.dolmanlaw.com/legal-services/slip-and-fall-injury-lawyers/

Matthew Dolman

Clearwater Personal Injury and Insurance Attorney

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess or $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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