HOW MUCH MONEY IS WORTH? MY SLIP AND FALL CASE

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1 HOW MUCH MONEY IS MY SLIP AND FALL CASE WORTH? Knowledge of the Value of Your Claim Can Help You to Determine If a Settlement Offer Is Reasonable and Appropriate Given the Circumstances of the Fall and the Nature of Your Injuries TESTA & ASSOCIATES, LLP SAN DIEGO LITIGATION ATTORNEYS

2 A slip and fall can cause devastating injuries. New evidence indicates that falls may be on the path to overtake motorcycle accidents as the leading cause of deaths due to trauma. Falls are also a top cause of both traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) as well as spinal cord damage and paralysis. Slip and falls often occur as a result of dangerous or hazardous conditions on property or as a result of abuse and neglect in a nursing home setting. Property owners have an obligation to visitors, with the extent of their duty determined based on the reason the visitor was on the property. Nursing homes also have a legal obligation to residents to take precautions to prevent falls. When a property owner, a renter or a nursing home fails to live up to its obligations, the victim can take legal action to obtain full and fair compensation for all resulting injuries. Slip and fall cases may be resolved through personal injury or wrongful death civil actions in court. Many cases also settle, with the defendant or defendant s insurer accepting responsibility for the accident and agreeing to a payment to the victim in exchange for a waiver of further liability. Before settling a case or taking a claim to court, it is essential for victims to understand what their slip and fall case is worth. Knowledge of the value of your claim can help you to determine if a settlement offer is reasonable and 2

3 appropriate given the circumstances of the fall and the nature of your injuries. An experienced attorney can provide guidance on the value of your claim. THE VALUE OF YOUR SLIP AND FALL CASE Each individual injury case has its own unique set of circumstances and a legal professional should be consulted to determine the likely worth of your claim. However, there are several primary factors that affect how much money you are likely to receive for a slip and fall including: The severity of the injuries resulting from the fall. The strength of the evidence that the defendant was responsible for the fall. Whether your own negligence played any role in causing the fall THE SEVERITY OF THE INJURIES FROM THE FALL The severity of the injuries resulting from the fall is fundamentally important in determining the worth of your claim. The law entitles you to be made whole, which means be compensated in full for actual economic losses as well as for intangible non-economic costs. The compensation you should receive after a slip and fall incident should cover: 3

4 Medical treatment expenditures including the cost of transportation to doctor s appointments as well as the cost of caregivers or adaptive devices. Permanent injuries mean ongoing care costs, which should be covered. Lost income and wages. If you take any time off from work or are forced to give up your job, you should receive the value of your lost income. When injuries reduce your earning power but you are able to continue working, you may recover the difference in wages the injury has caused over your lifetime. Pain and suffering/emotional distress. Placing a value on the extent of your pain is difficult. Some insurers use a pain multiplier, which involves calculating your actual economic damages (lost income and medical expenses) and multiplying this by a set number. The multiplier is usually between 1.5 and 5. In the event that the fall caused fatal injuries, surviving family members may take action for wrongful death and be compensated for loss of companionship; loss of the deceased s income, funeral expenditures and outlays for medical bills prior to the death. THE STRENGTH OF THE EVIDENCE While your injuries should be the primary determining factor in how much your slip and fall case is worth, the strength of your evidence also matters. If you pursue your claim in court, you have the burden of proving to the jury that the defendant was liable for the accident and injuries. Strong evidence means you are likely to win your claim and have the jury award you damages. Insurance 4

5 companies know this and are more likely to offer fair and generous settlements to avoid a likely court loss. If your evidence is weak, on the other hand, you could go to court and receive nothing. Insurers know this as well and may refuse to settle or may offer a low settlement to simply resolve what they consider to be a nuisance lawsuit. Your attorney can help you to gather evidence so your case is as strong as possible and can advise you on when weak evidence means you may wish to accept a settlement that is on the table. THE ROLE OF YOUR OWN NEGLIGENCE Under traditional rules for injury lawsuits, victims could not sue or make a damage claim if they were partially responsible for their own injuries. The rules have changed in most states, including California. California now uses a pure comparative negligence system. This means if you were partially to blame for your own accident, you can still take legal action against the other party who was also responsible. Since California uses a pure comparative fault system, you could theoretically take legal action even if you were 99 percent responsible for your own fall. 5

6 Your compensation is reduced by the percentage of fault that is attributed to your actions. For example, if you suffered $10,000 in damages from the fall and you were 50 percent responsible, you would be able to recover only $5,000 from the property owner who shares the blame. Having an attorney is always important to maximize compensation after fall injuries occur, but is especially important in comparative fault cases due to the added complexity these types of claims present. 6

7 About Testa& Associates, LLP Attorney James A. Testa founded Testa& Associates in 1991, already with fifteen years of experience in the law. His goal was to provide clients with effective legal representation while striving for economy in legal expenses. Through the years, the firm has developed a reputation among attorneys and judges in San Diego County and Riverside County for aggressive and ethical courtroom representation. Our attorneys have extensive jury trial experience handling personal injury, and business law cases. Our administrative staff members have each been with the firm for more than ten years, providing a superior degree of continuity, support, and service. Testa& Associates lawyers take pride in finding cost-effective solutions to clients legal matters. In 1988, Jim Testa, along with a Vista Superior Court Judge and a handful of other San Diego attorneys, developed the two-attorney settlement panel process that is still in use today to settle legal disputes in San Diego County. Testa& Associates, LLP 570 Rancheros Drive Suite 250 San Marcos, CA Phone: (760) Fax: (760)

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