When a person is injured 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 value exists in these types of cases. But this can only be done if the attorney has all the details and they are an honest representation of the slip-and-fall incident.
Personal injury attorneys use their experience from past cases to get an initial idea of what the value of a slip-and-fall case might be. This is determined in the initial consultation with a potential client. It is during this meeting that 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, it is important that the potential plaintiff be truthful in the facts surrounding the accident. It only hinders the potential case if facts are missed, truths are embellished, or if important details are left out.
During an initial consultation, a personal injury attorney is analyzing the case to see how convincing it might be to a potential jury. The attorney must be convinced of the same validating points of the case that the will serve as proof to a jury in the future.
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.
On January 8, 2011, Marie Arnez tripped and fell over an empty flatbed cart while shopping in a Marshalls department store in Pennsylvania. The cart was left there by an employee of the store. Arnez reported the injury to a store manager, but did not request medical treatment. She then walked out of the store on her own without any assistance.
Over a week later, Arnez decided to seek treatment for her injuries by visiting a chiropractor. She claimed to have suffered multiple injuries from the Marshalls incident, including injuries to her neck, lower and middle back, hands, wrists, shoulders, right knee, and right ankle. It was January 19, 2011 by time she visited the chiropractic office. Marie then sought regular treatment with the healthcare professional, undergoing several forms of therapy and treatments for her physical injuries and emotional distress.
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 Co. Inc. and Marmaxx Operating Corp, the two entities who 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, as well as compensation for pain and suffering, embarrassment and humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, and for 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.
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 week to seek any medical treatment for her injuries.
This argument makes logical sense, and juries often see it that way. But of course, 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 is designed to pump 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.” Of course this is not true, as evident by the states’ own laws in which they give 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.
At the trial, Marshalls’ attorneys acknowledged that the flatbed cart was a trip and fall hazard, but also claimed that Marie Arnez was also at fault because she failed to see and avoid what amounted to a quite 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.
It was this testimony that 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 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, or humiliation. They also declined to award Arnez any compensation for loss of consortium.
Marie and Alex Arnez then filed a motion for a new trial on the grounds that jury’s verdict was inadequate and failed to award pain and suffering damages even with sufficient evidence was presented. The judge denied this motion.
Instead, the judge said 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.
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 injury attorneys, but instead on the facts that were presented to the attorneys by the clients as a true representation of what happened and of their injuries.
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, many times over. Had the plaintiffs been upfront and honest with their attorney during the initial consultation, there is a distinct possibility that this case would never have gone to trial and much time and money would not have been wasted.
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. This type of accident really can be quite dangerous.
The medical bills that result from the injury and the future medical bill that are sure to keep coming, 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 to hire someone who has a proven track record of recovering the true value of the case over the long term.
There are many settlement-mill-type law firms that will advise a client to take an out-of-court settlement in order for the firm to profit with very little upfront cost and very little effort. Instead, merited cases need time and attention to work out all the facts and to hold every individual responsible.
Likewise, it is easy to be tempted by a settlement offer that seems like a large number. 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.
A qualified and experienced personal injury attorney will have the resources and the desire to take a case as far as necessary to recover the full, true value of a slip-and-fall case. 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.
If you or a loved one were seriously injured in a slip and fall accident, call and speak to a qualified personal injury trial attorney for a free consultation and evaluation of your case at 727-451-6900. There is no obligation. You pay nothing until we win.