One of the few positive aspects of a Florida slip and fall cases is that the potential available damages may be quite high for severe injury cases. Two of the most important aspects of determining the value of either a slip & fall or a premises liability case are: (1) the wealth or insurance coverage of the defendant and (2) the degree of injury experienced by the plaintiff.
The Sky Is Often The Limit On Slip & Fall Damages
Unlike many auto accident cases, where the potential damages are very often limited by insufficient insurance coverage, the potential damages in an Orlando slip and fall or premises liability cases can be nearly unlimited, at least when someone slips and falls on the property of an established & successful business, such as a grocery store, amusement park, mall store, restaurant, convenience store, church, hospital, and those types of businesses. The damages may be more limited if someone is harmed in the home of another, in which case the damages are often capped at the amount of the homeowners’ insurance policy (if any) OR on the premises of a low-end business without insurance coverage and little operating cash or assets, in which case the damages may be capped by paltry insurance coverage, or even zero if there is no insurance coverage, little cash, and no valuable assets.
Businesses Usually Have Lots Of Money, Or Insurance Coverage, Or Both
If you were injured in the premises of a higher end or quality business, then they absolutely may have to pay ALL of your damages, and usually they have the funds and/or insurance coverage to pay whatever those might be. For example, in a recent case that I handled against a popular (national) pharmacy chain, we learned that there was 4 million dollars in insurance coverage, plus, of course, the pharmacy itself has the money to pay any damages above that amount. This is often one piece of great news for slip and fall and premises liability plaintiffs and puts them in a better posture to get the full compensation they deserve if they were seriously injured due to the negligence of the business owner. Additionally, even many smaller businesses have 1 million dollar liability insurance policies. So, although getting injured is the worst thing imaginable, the one piece of good news is that many established businesses have either the funding or insurance coverage to pay whatever damages you may have incurred.
How Bad Are Your Slip & Fall Injuries?
So the next very big question in determining the amount of damages available for a slip and fall accident is the degree of your injuries. If you are not permanently injured, then your damages will be very low to non-existent. However, if you are permanently injured, even to a relatively minor degree (for example, after medical treatment, you have permanent pain that ranks a 3 or 4 on a scale of 1-10), you can definitely get enough damages to make pursuing the case worth the time you will spend dealing with doctors and lawyers. And there are many ways that you absolutely can maximize or increase the potential available damages, which I cover with all of my clients in great detail throughout the representation.
What Type Of Medical Treatment Did You Receive For Your Slip & Fall Injuries?
Another question in determining the amount of your Florida slip and fall accident damages is what medical treatment you sought & received, and when (relative to the date of the accident). You absolutely need to begin treatment for any slip and fall or premises liability cases IMMEDIATELY (or as soon as humanly possible) after your accident. You also should not have any gaps in treatment. Assuming you began treatment right away, and followed all of your doctor’s and lawyer’s instructions, then another factor in determining the total amount of your damages is what type of treatment you must undergo to attempt to get better. Very often pain & injury doctors prescribe one of three primary modes of treatment: (1) physical therapy or chiropractic treatment; (2) various injections; and (3) surgery. (And there are many other more specialized treatments for various conditions.) Typically cases requiring surgery are the most valuable, injections second most valuable, and physical therapy / chiropractic the least valuable. Delays and/or gaps in treatment can reduce the value.
Available Categories Of Slip & Fall Damages
Overall, in any Florida slip and fall or premises liability case, you are entitled to three different categories of damages: (1) your past and future medical treatment for injuries caused by the accident, (2) your past and future wage loss (if any) caused by the accident; and (3) your pain and suffering as a result of the accident. The first two categories are simple math: they are whatever they are AND we can prove them to be with required documentary evidence (such as with medical billing statements, and wage loss documentation).
How Do We Put A Number On YOUR Pain & Suffering? Hint: Details Matter!
The last category, pain and suffering, is the hardest to quantify. The law provides no precise way for any jury to calculate pain and suffering in slip and fall or premises liability injury cases. The jury simply hears your story and then assigns a number to each category of damages (that is, medical bills, wage loss & pain & suffering). If we settle the case, as we often do (at least 98% of ALL personal injury cases settle before trial), then the attorneys for both sides are simply trying to predict what a jury will think about your pain and suffering. Sometimes attorneys use general “rules of thumb” and multiply by medical bills to determine some type of a number for pain and suffering, but this “rule of thumb” mentality should be carefully scrutinized by your slip and fall attorney. In many cases, unique facts of the case cause the pain and suffering to be much higher than the medical bills would make them seem. If you hire an attorney handling a high volume of cases, as many, MANY do, then he or she is not likely to carefully consider how your particular injury impacted YOUR life. I always leave myself time to counsel each and every one of my clients extensively regarding various tricks and tips needed to get the absolute highest value for their slip and fall accident case. Details absolutely can change the “rule of thumb,” which should never be more than a vague mental guide, not a set-in-stone mentality (of your Florida slip and fall lawyer).
Did You Contribute To Your Own Slip & Fall Injuries?
In many slip and fall cases, we personal injury attorneys (along with insurance defense attorneys) assume that any jury will decide that the plaintiff was at least partially responsible for his or her injuries. The reason is basically, according to Florida law, we all have to take responsibility for our own safety to some degree. Put differently, we all have to watch where we are going. So, if you aren’t watching where you are walking, and you trip over an obstacle in your path, juries will often conclude that you were at least partially responsible for causing your slip and fall accident (ditto if you were wearing potentially unsafe shoes, such as high heels, or contributed to your accident in some other way, such as talking to a friend and not paying attention). The law has a name for this principle, which is “comparative negligence.” That means that any jury can assign a percentage of blame for the slip and fall accident among the parties. So the jury could decide, for example, that a plaintiff was 50% responsible for causing her own injuries, and a defendant was 50% responsible. Then the jury would decide on a number for your slip and fall damages, and the judge would reduce the verdict according to the percentage of fault assigned by the jury. From a practical standpoint, very often during settlement discussions we have to assume that you can only recover 50% of what someone in a “clear liability” car accident might receive for the same injuries. This is unfortunate but reality. On a positive note, since the available money for these injuries is often higher than many car accident cases, at least you get 50% of your actual damages, rather than being limited by caps on car insurance policies.
Range Of Values For Slip & Fall Cases
The general range of slip and fall injury values would be anything from a few thousand to millions (with millions being very rare). The bad news is that a slip and fall case will NOT have a high value unless the injuries are SEVERE and PERMANENT, such as a life-altering injury. These types of injuries often require life modification beyond what the plaintiff ever could have imagined. Additionally, pre-existing conditions involving injuries to the SAME BODY PART may reduce the value of your damages, since some degree of your injury was not caused by the accident.
Again, At Least The Defendants Can Usually Pay
As you can hopefully see, the range of potential damages in slip and fall cases varies a great deal depending on where you were injured, the degree of injury and mode and duration of medical treatment. However, again, the best news for those already injured in slip and fall cases is that, more often than not, many defendants at least have the money to pay whatever damages a jury may award. This is too often not true in auto accident cases, so that is a positive of slip and fall cases from a legal evaluation standpoint.
You Can Change Your Potential Slip & Fall Damages A LOT
If you have been injured in an Orlando slip and fall accident, or any type of premises liability accident anywhere in the state of Florida, please give me a call to discuss how the unique facts of YOUR case might impact the value, as well as the very important issue of how YOU can change the value of your case through proactive measures throughout the pending lawsuit. Working closely with me, you will learn everything that you can do to increase your damages to their highest possible amount. Assuming we can prove liability, your proactive involvement in your case may mean the difference of many MANY thousands of dollars in your pocket, with my careful instructions and guidance.