When we handle a slip and fall case, we might initially try to negotiate a slip and fall settlement with the insurance adjuster. If the case does not settle or the deadline for taking legal action is approaching, we could file a lawsuit seeking money damages for your slip and fall injury. From that point, we would negotiate with the defense lawyer the insurance company assigns to the case.
The Insurance Claim Stage of a Slip and Fall Injury Case
The insurance company for the property owner where you fell will likely handle the liability claim on behalf of its insured, the owner. Let’s say that a person slipped and fell because of an oily spill on the floor inside a restaurant. He got medical treatment and notified the restaurant manager of the slip and fall accident.
The manager informed the restaurant’s liability carrier of the injury claim. The insurer assigned a claims adjuster to handle the case. The claim adjuster contacted the injured person, who told him the name and contact information for his personal injury lawyer.
Here are some of the possible steps that can take place to get you to the phase where you negotiate a slip and fall settlement with the claims adjuster and the personal injury lawyer:
- The claims adjuster and personal injury lawyer both perform an investigation of the slip and fall incident.
- The lawyer gathers the pertinent documents, like the incident report the plaintiff filed with the restaurant manager.
- When the injured person completes his medical treatment and goes back to work, the lawyer obtains a copy of the medical records. Also, the lawyer gets a copy of the employer’s records to show how much income the plaintiff lost while he could not do his job because of his injuries.
- The lawyer will use these records to calculate the financial damages of the plaintiff. The attorney will write a demand letter to the adjuster, stating a claim for a specific amount of compensation for the plaintiff’s losses.
The case is now in the negotiations phase for a slip and fall settlement. The adjuster might ignore the lawyer’s demand letter, respond with a counteroffer, or deny liability on the part of the restaurant and refuse to pay any compensation.
Slip and Fall Settlement Authority
The lawyer and the adjuster can go back and forth through phone calls, emails, and letters, trying to settle the case. The adjuster will have “settlement authority,” and he cannot pay more than that amount to the plaintiff to resolve the case.
The adjuster’s supervisor will determine how much the settlement authority is for a particular case. The supervisor might adjust that amount up or down depending on developments in the case. If the case is close to settling and litigating the claim would cost far more than a slight increase in the settlement authority, the adjuster might seek permission for additional funds to wrap up the matter. This is a factor in how quickly—and easily—you can negotiate a slip and fall settlement.
If the case does not settle, the plaintiff’s lawyer can file a lawsuit seeking money damages for the slip and fall injury. The insurer then transfers the case to one of the insurance defense law firms the insurer uses in the city where the lawsuit was filed. From that point, the personal injury lawyer and the insurance defense lawyer negotiate directly with each other. The insurance adjuster is no longer part of the process to negotiate a slip and fall settlement.
The Discovery Phase
Sometimes the lawyers feel that they need more information, either to build their case or to defend against the other side’s arguments. In these situations, the parties engage in discovery, which is seeking information and evidence.
Discovery can be formal or informal. For example, one attorney might telephone the other and ask for a document. If the other lawyer provides the paper voluntarily, they are doing informal discovery. Formal discovery includes when the lawyers exchange information through interrogatories, requests for the production of documents, and depositions.
- Interrogatories are written questions that a party must answer in writing and under oath.
- A request for the production of documents is a paper that asks a party to provide a copy of the things listed on the request.
- Depositions are when the lawyers meet and ask questions of a witness verbally. A court reporter swears in the witness before the questioning begins and then records or takes down all the questions and responses.
Many slip and fall cases settle during the discovery phase because both sides eventually get most or all of the information they need to try the case before a judge. When the outcome of a trial becomes foreseeable, the parties tend to negotiate again and come closer to a resolution of the case.
The vast majority of slip and fall claims settle, whether in the insurance claim stage or after the personal injury lawyer files a lawsuit. The lawyers can continue their negotiations for a slip and fall settlement, even during the trial.
At S. Burke Law, we treat our clients like family. Call us today at (404) 842-7838 for a free, no-obligation consultation.