As a Florida slip and fall lawyer, I often caution clients that despite what many people mistakenly believe, there is no formula used to precisely decide the value of someone’s fall injury claim. If it were that simple, insurance companies wouldn’t need trained adjusters and consumers would not need trained injury lawyers. So how is the value of any Slip and Fall case determined?
Insurance adjusters and lawyers understand the value of any case is what a jury awards at a trial. At the same time, very few cases actually go to trial. As the case develops, your attorney and the claims adjuster are continually evaluating how they believe a jury might see your case and each of them creates a range of how much money they believe a jury is likely to award. It does not mean your case will go to trial. Still, it is the yardstick each side will use to come up with an estimation of their value of a case.
Since both sides are attempting to put your case within a range they believe a jury might award in damages, settlement is possible when they offer an amount within that range. No settlement is possible if the injured party believes their case is worth no less than $100,000 but the insurance adjuster is only offering $25,000. A lawyer experienced in fall cases understands the range of value of cases based on the facts of the case, the injury and damages suffered, as well as the experience and judgment he/she has developed in handling similar cases.
No value can be placed on a case until all of the damages are known. You must have completed all medical treatment and your doctor must provide your lawyer with an estimate of your future medical needs and the costs required. This means you have reached what lawyers and doctors refer to as “maximum medical improvement”; meaning further medical treatment is not raising your level of recovery. You have reached a plateau. Further medical treatment may be required but it will only maintain your medical condition, not improve it.
Your future medical needs must be based on your doctor’s written opinion of what medications, therapies, treatments or surgeries will, more likely than not, be required. The need for future surgery, for instance, may be a significant factor in placing a value on your case. This is why lawyers do not attempt to reach a settlement before their clients are placed at maximum medical improvement by their doctor.
The Following are Some Factors Which Will Influence the Value of Your Fall Case:
- What was the nature of the unsafe condition? How strong is the proof-do you have good photographs? How dangerous was it?
- Was the fall reported to the landowner? Were they able to verify what made you fall?
- Was the unsafe condition in violation of any safety codes or industry standards? Is there an expert opinion, and how strong is that opinion?
- Is there an argument you were comparatively at fault? How plausible is this argument?
- What injuries did you receive, how serious are they? Is this a new injury or an aggravation of an existing injury or condition?
- How do the injuries affect your quality of life? Will they affect your ability to earn money? How long will you suffer from them? What future medical expenses and procedures will be required?
Although there are other factors to consider, these are some general guidelines which will be considered.
There are Essentially Two Categories of Damages
The first are special damages which can be calculated with certainty. They include medical expenses incurred for treatment you have received as well as your doctor’s estimation of future medical expenses you more likely than not will require. If your ability to earn money has been affected, special damages would include your loss of earnings, and your ability to earn money in the future. Many times experts must be hired to calculate these damages and provide their opinion.
The second are intangible damages. These are not subject to being calculated precisely and juries are instructed to use their own common sense and judgment in awarding these damages. They include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of the enjoyment of life
All of these factors, including others too numerous to list here; combine into a unique combination of circumstances which will influence the value of any case.
Virtually no two cases are alike, even if the accident and injury suffered sound similar. This means the evaluation of two cases which may sound very similar to one another often produce widely different results.