The Cold, Hard Facts of a Slip and Fall Lawsuit

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Updated 10/3/2020

A slip and fall injury is a premises liability claim, a type of personal injury claim or case based on a person slipping (or tripping) on the premises of another and, as a result, suffering injury. A person who is injured by falling may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injury from the owner or person in possession of the premises where the injury occurred.

Some injuries we have seen in these cases are fall-related injuries to the arms, legs, hips, head, and whiplash injuries involving the neck. There can also be ankle and knee injuries from slip and trip hazards as well.

Slip & Fall injuries are the leading cause of:

  • Spine and back injuries in the U.S.
  • Non-fatal injuries to children, 14 and under
  • Injuries leading to death in seniors

Hagen Rosskopf is a law firm based in Decatur, Georgia. Many details in this article apply specifically to Georgia law. 

Determining Liability

Liability for slip and fall injuries may arise based upon a defendant’s ownership of the premises where the injury occurred, their control of the premises, or both. For example, a store may be liable for a slip-and-fall injury that occurs inside of its premises, even though it rents those premises because it has exclusive control of the interior of the rented property. This is typically the case with most grocery stores or other retail outlets. The owner of the premises (the store’s landlord) may have sole or shared liability for an injury that occurs outside of the store’s exclusive premises, such as the injury from a fall on the sidewalk or in the parking lot of a shopping mall.

Determining which party is liable can be the tricky part of these cases and this why you want to seek a lawyer for help. Many times, in commercial businesses, it is not as obvious who is legally responsible. Sometimes the landlord could be responsible for something related to the premises that causes an injury, or there could be a 3rd party that performed a service on the premises that created a hazard. There are so many complicated business relationships that could assign negligence to another entity, and a good lawyer can help you determine the responsible parties and aid in getting the case resolved quickly.

Pursuing a Slip And Fall Injury Claim

If you’re thinking about pursuing a slip and fall injury claim after an accident on someone else’s property, you’re probably wondering how much you can expect to receive if your case settles (or in the rare event that it goes to trial). Of course, every case is different, but there are some important factors that come into play when placing a value on a personal injury case. Let’s look at these in the context of a slip and fall.

First it is important to distinguish a personal injury lawsuit from a slip and fall injury (claim). A personal injury lawsuit is usually only filed when the two parties can’t reach an initial settlement. The injured party might be demanding too much money, or the property owner (usually through an insurance company) doesn’t come to the table with a reasonable settlement offer. But both sides will consider the cost of taking a personal injury case to court, while also being mindful that the court process is risky for both sides. That’s because in the rare event that the lawsuit makes it all the way to trial, one side wins, the other loses, and it’s not easy to predict what a jury might do.

Most slip and fall cases turn into personal injury lawsuits, but if handled properly, most slip and fall cases have a likelihood of settlement at some point during the life of the lawsuit.

The Importance of Early Resolution

Early resolution is important because, in most cases, the law favors the landowner in the State of Georgia. Cases in litigation that are questionable on liability, will ultimately see the Defendant file what is known as a Motion for Summary Judgment. Summary judgment is a judgment entered by a court for one party and against another party summarily, i.e., without a full trial. The Defendant will file a motion with the court attempting to avoid the time and expense of a trial when, in their view, the outcome is obvious, based on the law developed and the facts of the case. Typically, the motion will demonstrate all the evidence likely to be put forward and argue to the court that no reasonable factfinder jury could disagree with the Defendant’s view that they don’t have any liability, therefore, summary judgment is appropriate. These motions are filed towards the end of the discovery period and if the motion is granted the case will be over. Much like the uncertainty of a jury trial, this process can be uncertain, which is why it is important to take advantage of every opportunity to amicably resolve your case before the lawsuit is necessary.

Early resolution before a lawsuit can be obtained through a demand letter and a negotiation process or through a pre-litigation mediation.

Most Slip and Fall Cases Settle

slip and fall lawsuit mediation agreement decatur georgia

Chances are, your slip and fall claim will settle out of court, with the settlement usually being a mutually agreeable outcome. The injured person accepts a little less than they think their case is worth or what they want, and the property owner’s insurance company pays a little more than it wants. There are several ways to settle a slip and fall claim out of court:

  1. Informal Negotiations after the information has been shared by the parties – Not Very Common.
  2. Demand/Negations – Common, but only successful in cases with significant injury and clear, admitted liability.
  3. Litigation – Discovery – Mediation – Most Common (Sometimes, this only occurs, after the Motion for Summary Judgment is denied).
  4. Pretrial Settlement – Not Very Common.
  5. Pre-litigation Mediations – Not Very Common.

Some retailers and personal injury attorneys are now using pre-litigation mediations (aka pre-suit mediations) to settle slip and fall cases before a lawsuit is filed. A pre-suit mediation is a relatively new development that some larger retailers are utilizing in select cases in which the facts are shared among the parties and a mediator, or neutral is used to help the parties go through the projected evidence as you would at trial, in order to come up with a settlement in the case that is reasonable to resolve the case without the need for a trial. At Hagen Rosskopf, we have successfully settled many slip and fall cases through pre-suit mediations obtaining a favorable outcome for our clients.

Properly presenting your claim and gathering the necessary evidence to support your claim can put your case in a position for resolution without the need for a lawsuit. The evidence needed to support your claim can include:

  • Evidence of the Fall such as photos, videos, and witnesses
  • Incident Reports
  • Any items related to the fall such as shoes, clothes, etc.

Video footage is often held by many large retailers and they will not release it, attempting to control information with the belief that they will be able to minimize their financial obligation associated with the incident. Once a lawsuit is filed, under the rules in Georgia they are obligated to turn over any video during discovery. They still try to keep it from some less informed attorneys, to hopefully catch the Plaintiff in a lie regarding how the injury occurred.

After The Fall & Collecting Evidence Tips

When a slip and fall happens, it can be difficult to focus on anything else than the immediate pain from the fall. However, here are a few suggestions you should keep in mind:

  • Always make an incident report. If the slip and fall takes place in a retail store, fill out an incident report form with the manager. If you are transported by ambulance and couldn’t make an immediate report, you can always return to the store and request to speak with a manager and have a report prepared.
  • Identify witnesses. If there were other customers around you, or employees who saw the incident or helped you afterward, ask them for their names and contact information.
  • Take photos of the scene of the slip and fall and photos of the hazard that caused the incident. Take photos of the top and soles of the shoes you were wearing when the incident occurred. If possible, store away the shoes and any other items related to the fall.
  • See a doctor to ensure a minor injury does not become something more serious. This also creates a trail of medical documentation showing that you treated your injury as a serious matter from the start. 

In Summary

  1. Most slip and fall cases settle without going to trial.
  2. Sometimes it is necessary to file a lawsuit to get a claim resolved.
  3. Having evidence like incident reports, video footage and witnesses really helps.

The experienced Decatur Slip & Fall Injury Lawyers at Hagen Rosskopf can help guide you thru the process of seeking compensation for your injury. Contact us today to set up a consultation and find out how we can help you.