One of the most frequently asked questions is: How long does a slip and fall case take to resolve?
The amount of time it will take to resolve a slip and fall case is fact-specific.
Generally, slip and fall cases are very difficult because liability is always contested. Aside from establishing knowledge on the part of a property owner, manager and/or occupier, the injured person also has to prove that the thing that caused him or her to fall was a dangerous condition and not a trivial defect.
Under California law, a property owner is not required to fix all defects. He or she is required to fix and/or warn customers of only defects that pose some type of a hazard. Since there are so many issues that need to be examined (such as lighting, condition of the surface, the type of shoes worn by the injured person, the type of substance that cause the fall, knowledge of the dangerous condition, the lack of attentiveness on the part of the victim, etc…), it takes more time for attorneys to build the case against the property owner and/or operator.
Aside from establishing liability, a slip and fall case, generally, should not be resolved until the injured person has fully recovered or there is a clear understanding as to the victim’s medical prognosis and cost of future medical treatment.
If the slip and fall has resulted in serious injury such as brain damage or will require some type of surgical intervention, the case will be heavily litigated. Each side will hire a team of expert witnesses on both liability and damages.
2 Crucial Tips to Aid You with Your Slip and Fall Claim
Slip and fall cases can be very reliant on physical evidence. Sometimes the identification of a hazard may rest on the type of shoes the person was wearing at the time they slipped and fell or tripped and fell. Examining the actual shoes worn at the time of the accident could be significantly more helpful than testing a similar shoe from the manufacturer. Preserving the shoes and the clothing worn at the time of the accident immediately preceding it can make your attorney’s argument a lot more effective.
This information is of most use to people who have recently sustained a slip and fall injury, however, if you happen to come across this post after being injured some time ago, you may still be able to take advantage of these tips:
1. Preserve the Shoes
All too often a slip and fall injury goes unreported for some time. When the injured person realizes the injuries, the evidence could be long gone. If you haven’t already been advised by an attorney, preserve the shoes worn at the time of the incident right away. Do not wear them again!
Instead, put them in a clean plastic bag and place them inside a shoebox. Do not throw away the shoes or attempt to clean them. By preserving the shoes you allow the attorney to obtain proper surface testing reports from experts who now have access to the actual shoes in question.
2. Preserve Your Clothing
In many cases, liquids responsible for the slip are cleaned up by the defendant to avoid a further hazard or to tamper with evidence. If you were unable to photograph the scene or remember what you slipped on, it may be possible to recover evidence from your clothing. Stains on your clothing may help identify the substance responsible for the slippery conditions, which in turn helps establish that a dangerous condition existed.
Remember, a dangerous condition is one of the four elements that must be proven in a slip and fall case. If it’s not too late, stop wearing the clothes you had on at the time of the accident and preserve them in a clean plastic bag right away. Stained and torn clothing can also help establish the very important mechanics of the fall. If you haven’t already contacted an attorney, do so as soon as possible.
Although it is still possible to determine the surface conditions and or the liquids present at the time by questioning the injured person, having physical evidence is much more conclusive than verbal testimony from memory.
Special and General Damages
There are two main categories for damages in a slip and fall case: special and general.
- Special damages are those that result directly from the accident and can be estimated with a dollar amount fairly easily. Think medical bills, lost current and future wages, domestic care, and other special care needs arising from the injury (i.e. transportation costs when unable to drive.)
- General damages are harder to estimate and include things like compensation for pain, suffering, change of lifestyle – all of the things that contribute to our emotional states of comfort and pleasure.
In a minor slip and fall injury, damages may be very easy to estimate if the person is not in any distress. However, severe injuries from slip and fall accidents can require thorough investigation and consideration by your injury attorney.
Can’t I estimate my own damages?
Most people can’t anticipate the price tag of future expenses resulting from an injury due to a lack of familiarity with some complex general damage issues.
A personal injury attorney’s experience allows him or her to have a better understanding of what types of expenses a person may encounter. A slip and fall attorney can get you the compensation for things that you may have otherwise weren’t aware of such as “loss of hope” (inability to meet certain life expectations).
Defendant’s insurance company attorneys know that people generally have little understanding of the various types of damages that can be covered. Defendants count on settling as quickly as possible and offering compensation for the most basic of damages – special damages.
It is important to not speak with the defendant’s insurance company before hiring an attorney. Nothing should ever be signed in the time gap between the accident and speaking to an attorney. Your quality of life after the accident may vary significantly depending on what type of compensation you can obtain, so there is no reason for you to risk holding the defendant accountable to the full extent of the damages.
Contact an Attorney as Soon as Possible
The reason injury attorneys will tell you to get in touch with one as soon as possible after a slip and fall injury is not so they can have your business. The time between the injury and when it is reported is critical. If contacted early enough, an attorney will send a photographer to the scene of the accident to document important evidence that will aid your case.
By hiring an attorney right away, you benefit from his or her knowledgeable advice and help establish a proper procedure for the careful gathering of evidence, testimony, and documentation critical to your slip and fall claim.
Do you have questions about lost or destroyed evidence after a slip and fall injury?
We’d like to hear from you. Contact our Los Angeles slip and fall attorney to see how we can help.
BOTTOM LINE: Cases that are filed in court generally take twelve to eighteen months to resolve. Other cases that involve soft tissue injury (i.e., no broken bones) generally take three to six months to resolve.