Do I need a slip and fall lawyer? These key factors will help you decide whether you should hire a lawyer for your case.
If you’ve been injured on someone else’s property, you may be wondering “do I need a lawyer for a slip and fall?”
A personal injury attorney can be a crucial resource in pursuing your slip and fall claim. They can help you navigate the legal framework and fight for the compensation you deserve.
But it’s also true that many people handle minor slip and fall claims themselves, depending on their comfort level researching state laws or negotiating with insurance agents.
This article will cover some of the factors to consider as you evaluate whether you should hire a personal injury lawyer for your slip and fall claim.
First, a quick word on liability and damages, the two critical elements in any personal injury claim.
Liability refers to whether anyone may be held legally responsible for the injury or harm that you suffered. Damages, meanwhile, are the losses you suffered as a result of the injury. So the issue of “damages” is just legal-speak for what losses you have suffered and what compensation you are owed.
Proving these two elements are the backbone of any successful personal injury claim. And the key word in that sentence is “prove.” You may have slipped and fallen on someone else’s property. But pursuing your claim is not as simple as showing up to court--or the negotiating table--and saying “I broke my wrist on your property, please compensate me fairly.”
Frequently, the property owner will deny responsibility or contest the extent of your damages. And likewise, an insurance company’s incentives generally run counter to your own. You would like to be compensated fairly and, broadly speaking, bigger awards are better. But the insurance company would prefer to pay out smaller sums to preserve their profits.
So you need to be able to prove that the property owner is at fault and bears legal responsibility for your injuries. And you need to be able to document the extent of your injuries and thus the appropriate amount of damages, which will include (but is not limited to) medical bills.
And this is where personal injury lawyers come in. An experienced personal injury attorney will know how to prove these respective elements in slip and fall cases, and be familiar with the tactics defendants and their insurance companies use to avoid responsibility.
There are several factors that should guide your decision about whether to hire a personal injury lawyer for your slip and fall case.
You should definitely consider a personal injury lawyer if you have serious injuries from the accident. Generally speaking, the more serious your injuries are the more harm you have suffered, and therefore the more that you should be compensated. A slip and fall attorney can thus have a bigger impact and add more value as they fight for your best possible outcome.
If you were seriously injured, you might also need the money more. There may have been expensive medical bills, or your injuries may impact your ability to work your old job or manage daily activities.
Also, practically speaking, you will often be up against someone in their professional capacity, either the insurance agent or an attorney. And anytime one party is represented by an attorney and the other side is not, there is an imbalance. As discussed below, it may not be worth the hassle to hire an attorney if you were in a minor accident and suffered no injuries. But as the stakes get higher, the imbalance in legal representation matters more.
It may still be worth hiring a lawyer if you have minor injuries. Part of the issue is that it can be tricky to evaluate how serious your injuries are shortly after an accident, and even minor injuries can turn into more serious or lingering injuries.
But, if you settled quickly--say because the insurance company offered to cover your medical bills and maybe even offered some money on top of that -- your settlement agreement will almost certainly require a release of all future claims. In accepting a settlement offer, part of the bargain is that you give up the ability to sue or file claims based on the accident later.
If you are confident in your ability to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company, then you may not need a personal injury lawyer for your slip and fall case. Similarly, if you are comfortable in your ability to research issues of legal liability and any potential statutes of limitations, it may make sense to go it alone.
Legal issues are complicated, though, and you will inevitably have less experience negotiating insurance settlements than your counterparty simply because that is (presumably) not your day job. But for your counterparty, whether it’s an insurance agent or a defense attorney, it is their day job.
For context, it is hard to precisely estimate the average settlement for a slip and fall case, but many cases settle for amounts between $10,000 and $50,000. But how much you should settle your slip and fall case for depends on a number of factors.
One set of those factors relate to the facts of your case. All of the following factors are highly fact specific and will impact how might be able to win in a settlement:
Another set of factors, though, relate to your personal circumstances. For instance, your personal finances and your risk tolerance can, and should, influence what type of settlement offers you consider.
Slip and fall cases can be tougher to win than you might think. Remember, you have to prove liability to win a slip and fall case, which means that you have to prove someone is legally responsible for your injury.
Proving liability in a slip and fall case generally requires proving negligence of the property owner. This often entails showing both that a dangerous condition existed on the premises, and that the property owner knew or should have known about the unsafe condition but failed to address it.
As you can see, that's already several different things you need to prove. And while some accidents are cleanly caught on camera, many are not. Similarly, perhaps people saw your slip and fall and could provide eyewitness testimony, but many accidents don't have witnesses who can corroborate the details.
Thus, there is no one size fits all answer to whether it’s hard to win a slip and fall case, but it can be tougher than you’d think.
So if your case is straightforward, your injuries minor, and you feel comfortable representing your own interests, then you probably don’t need to hire a personal injury attorney. And there is a financial benefit to representing yourself because you won’t have to share any of your award (compensation) with a lawyer.
But the more serious your injuries, or the more that is at stake, the more important it is to have an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side to level the playing field. Because whether it’s the insurance company or a defense attorney, there is an imbalance whenever one side is represented in our legal system and the other is not.
And a key thing to know is that most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means they only get paid if your claim is successful. For more information on the costs, check out our article on how much a slip and fall lawyer costs.