If you slipped and fell at a business or on someone else’s property, you may have a claim for negligence against the property owner or occupier. However, filing a claim will not result in immediate cash in hand. The length of time from the date of the fall to the date where you receive a check depends on several factors: length of treatment for your injuries, the time it takes to collect evidence, whether there’s insurance coverage and if the insurance company is negotiating “in good faith,” and the time it takes to negotiate down your medical liens and bills.
Note: If you believe that you have a case, it’s important to file a claim before the slip and fall statute of limitations deadline in your state. Individuals who exceed the deadline will not be eligible to receive compensation for damages.
FACTORS THAT AFFECT HOW LONG A SLIP AND FALL CASE TAKES
There are several factors that commonly affect how long a slip and fall case will take to settle. This includes the following:
- Length of medical treatment
- Collecting evidence
- Litigation & settlement negotiations
- Paying outstanding bills
LENGTH OF MEDICAL TREATMENT
To get the full value of your injury claim, you need to reach maximum medical improvement, or something close to that, before settling your slip and fall case. Maximum medical improvement doesn’t mean that you are back to the health that you had prior to the fall, but rather that you are as good as you are going to get health-wise from a medical standpoint. This may be after a surgery plus weeks or months of physical therapy or multiple consultations.
Ideally, you have moved from active treatment for your injuries to no treatment or only conservative treatment (i.e., follow-ups with your doctors every six months to a year, depending on what your doctor recommends). Reaching maximum medical improvement gives the injured party and the insurance adjuster a full picture of what your limitations are expected to be in the near future and possibly the years to come. It isn’t just the injury that determines the value of a claim, but the symptoms and limitations that result from the injury.
Once treatment is completed, you’ll need to collect all the medical bills and records to establish the cost of treatment and provide evidence of symptoms and limitations. As the injured party making a claim, you have the burden of proof not only that the other party is at fault for your injuries, but also that you suffered the injuries, that the incident caused the injuries, and that you experience symptoms and limitations. The insurance company will not take you at your word, and they want to pay as little as possible on your claim. You can prove your injuries and limitations by providing medical bills and records as well as information from your employer for lost wages (or tax returns if you are self-employed).
LITIGATION & SETTLEMENT NEGOTIATIONS
Once you have all the information to make your initial demand and the demand letter is sent, you must give the insurance company a reasonable period of time to review the records and bills and make a liability determination (if one has not already been made). They must also have time to determine how much they are willing to offer on the slip and fall claim.
This period depends on the complexity of the case facts as well as the complexity of the injuries. A slip and fall in a puddle with video proof may only require a month to review the demand package whereas a fall with no witnesses, uncertain liability, and catastrophic injuries may require up to ninety days to decide (even then, the insurance company may request more time). Additionally, the insurance company may request more information to make their decision in your slip and fall case, such as prior medical records. However, not all requests for additional information by the insurance company are reasonable and may be a delay tactic. It’s up to your attorney to weigh whether to provide this additional information if they believe it will move the case along.
Usually, settlements are achieved through negotiations, but occasionally the injury attorney will recommend filing a lawsuit. Lawsuits are more common in slip and fall cases than in car crashes because oftentimes the adjusters in slip and fall cases will deny that their insured is at fault for the fall. Litigation is a time consuming and tiring process but may be required to obtain a just result. Though most cases settle even in litigation, many do so in the days and weeks immediately before their trial date, which could be years out from the date of filing the suit.
PAYING OUTSTANDING BILLS
After you’ve finished treatment and gone through negotiations or litigation, you have finally come to an agreement with the insurance company for a settlement amount. Your attorney has told you what you can expect to receive out of the settlement after the attorney fees, case expenses, medical bills, and paying back any health insurance or loan amounts. Still, it feels like it’s taking too long to get your check. Why?
Many medical or other insurance providers have a legal right to repayment. Some medical providers may have filed a lien on your slip and fall case, which means they have deferred payment in exchange for the guarantee that they will be paid out of the settlement. Additionally, health insurance providers, including Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, and other government sponsored health insurance have a right to repayment on healthcare costs associated with your injury treatment.Employer sponsored health insurance providers may have a right to repayment; talk to your attorney to determine whether yours has a right to be paid back.
Your attorney will obtain final payoff amounts and likely negotiate the bills down before they pay out the settlement. If you received policy limits offered on your slip and fall case, your attorney will likely investigate whether the at fault defendant has any additional insurance coverage by requesting their insurance declaration page and, in some circumstances, an affidavit of no other insurance.
GET HELP FROM AN LAWYER AFTER YOUR SLIP AND FALL ACCIDENT
If you or a loved one have been injured in a slip and fall accident and need guidance on when to settle and for how much, contact a personal injury lawyer at Brown & Crouppen Law Firm for a free case evaluation.
A slip and fall attorney can help you get the settlement you deserve, or pursue compensation through the courts with a slip and fall lawsuit. We’ve helped recover millions as a result of slip and fall settlements and verdicts. Our lawyers can help you prove negligence, build a strong case, and obtain a just and fair settlement for damages.