If you're thinking about making 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). Every situation is different of course, but there are some important factors that come into play when figuring out personal injury case value. Let's look at these in the context of a slip and fall.
Chances are, your slip and fall claim will settle out of court, maybe before a lawsuit even needs to be filed. Settlement is usually a mutually agreeable outcome. The injured person accepts a little less than they think their case is worth, and the property owner's insurance company pays a little more than it wants. (Get the basics on settling a personal injury case, and use AllLaw's calculator to get a simplified estimate of an injury settlement.)
A personal injury lawsuit over a slip and fall injury 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.
The injured person's losses in a slip and fall case are called "damages" in legalese. Some damages, like medical bills and lost income, are easier to calculate (and are therefore also easier to predict).
For subjective, less concrete losses like “pain and suffering,” predictions are at best an educated guesses based on awards in similar cases in the past. Because every case and every jury is different, even the best analysis will still only predict pain and suffering damages within a broad range.
In cases involving permanent injuries, the “subjective” damages are potentially very high and that much harder to pin down. That opens the possibility of the plaintiff and defendant's attorneys putting very different values on the case and making settlement that much more complicated. A smaller claim, without many complications, is more likely to be subject a reasonable range that both sides can agree on in a settlement.
The nature and extent of the injuries suffered by the plaintiff is, of course, key. It's also important to understand how those injuries affect a particular plaintiff. For example, in a defective stair accident case let's say the plaintiff breaks his wrist and is left with permanent never damage. If the plaintiff was an avid golfer, but is no longer able to play, his damages based on “loss of quality of life” will likely be higher in the eyes of a jury than a similarly injured plaintiff who rarely makes it out of the house.
A less subjective aspect is the plaintiff's ability to earn a living before and after the injury. If a plaintiff earned a good income with many working years ahead of her, but after the injury will no longer be able find work in the same field or otherwise earn the same income, damages would include the difference between what she would have earned without the injury and what she will likely earn after the injury. If a plaintiff's ability to earn a living is unaffected by the injury, the value of the case with a similar injury will be substantially less.
Where the plaintiff's suit was filed is important because residents of that particular county will make up the jury pool. With some exceptions, it is generally true that juries in rural areas award more conservative damages than juries in urban areas. Generally, suit is filed in the county where the injury occurred. However, depending on the case, there may be other filing options, such as the county where the defendant or plaintiff live, or where a corporate defendant's headquarters are located.
If a plaintiff's attorney has a track record of accepting low settlements and never going to trial, the defendant may place a lower value on the case. This means the defendant (particularly insurance companies), will be more willing to hold fast at a low settlement offer knowing that the plaintiff's attorney would rather settle than actually conduct a trial. If the defendant knows that the plaintiff's attorney is ready and willing to go to trial, the defendant's valuation of the case will go up. This is one big reason why it's important to choose a personal injury attorney who is right for you and your case.