There are some types of personal injury cases that don't necessarily call for a lawyer's help. For example, you're probably fine making an injury claim on your own after a minor car accident where the other driver is clearly at fault, as long as you're comfortable doing so.
But most slip and fall cases aren't suited for self-representation, for two main reasons. First, fault for a slip and fall accident isn't usually clear, and property owners (and their insurers) aren't in the business of accepting legal responsibility for an accident unless liability is obvious. Second, it's pretty common for slip and fall defendants to argue that the plaintiff's injuries (damages) aren't as bad as they claim.
An attorney's first job in a slip and fall case is to get the attention of the defendant and the insurance company, who might not take a self-represented claimant all that seriously. But since these cases usually boil down to liability and damages, let's take a closer look at how a lawyer's assistance can be crucial on these key issues.
In order to get your slip and fall case in a position to reach a fair settlement or go to trial, you and your lawyer have to be ready to prove that, more likely than not, the property owner was negligent, and that that negligence played a big part in causing your injury.
The first thing your lawyer will do is investigate exactly how your injury occurred. Falls happen very quickly, and many people do not understand exactly how they went from walking down a store aisle (or walking down a flight of stairs) to being on the ground and injured.
Let's say you fell down some stairs. That's just the beginning of the inquiry. Did your foot miss a step? What were you wearing on your feet? Were you holding onto the handrail? What, if anything, were you carrying? Which hand were you carrying it in? Did your foot trip or slip? Where were you looking while you were going down the stairs?
All of this information is critical, but it only addresses how you fell. Now the attorney has to figure out how to hold the defendant legally responsible for your slip and fall. So:
A good lawyer will examine the scene, discuss all of these possibilities and more with you, and determine exactly why and how you fell. The liability investigation will also incude review of applicable state, federal, and local laws to determine if property conditions violated any statute or regulation. Your attorney will also consult and retain experts as necessary, to bolster your position.
Proving the nature and extent of your injuries and other damages is not just a matter of saying, "I broke my wrist and was out of work for two months." You and your lawyer have to properly document your lost income through your employment records. Your lawyer must obtain and organize all of your medical records and bills. It can be surprisingly difficult to put together a clear picture (with all necessary documentation) of all losses stemming from your slip and fall accident. Then there's the separate (and often crucial) component of claiming and substantiated your non-economic losses, like "pain and suffering", and presenting your damages argument in the best possible light to the other side.
In a slip and fall case (as with most personal injury claims) lawyers almost always work under a contingency fee agreement, meaning the lawyer takes his or her fee for representation out of any settlement or jury award you receive. If you don't receive money, neither does your lawyer. Learn more about the cost of hiring a personal injury lawyer and how to find the right personal injury lawyer for you and your case.