Should You File a Slip and Fall Lawsuit?

Even when you're legitimately injured after a slip and fall, is filing a lawsuit worth the time and expense?

By , Attorney · Cooley Law School

Before filing a lawsuit over a slip and fall injury, it is worth considering whether the time and effort will be well spent. Litigation can often be stressful, not to mention expensive and time-consuming. The purpose of this article is to present the pros and cons of filing a slip and fall lawsuit so that you can make an informed decision on whether to proceed.

Pros of Filing a Slip and Fall Lawsuit

Money. Perhaps the most obvious benefit of filing a slip and fall lawsuit is the possibility that you will receive a significant judgment -- in the form of a monetary award of personal injury damages -- for your efforts. Having more money is rarely something anyone complains about.

And following a slip and fall accident, you may be in real need of money. You may have gotten seriously hurt, might have incurred substantial medical expenses, and you may require extensive future medical treatment. On top of all that, you might be unable to work. Collecting money to take care of those needs has obvious value. In addition, you may receive a certain amount to compensate you for your "pain and suffering" on top of the more easily-defined economic losses described above.

You May Help Others Avoid Injury. A less obvious benefit of filing a slip and fall lawsuit is you may help prevent others from experiencing a similar injury. Property owners, as you might expect, do not want to be sued repeatedly for the same hazardous property condition. If you file a lawsuit, the property owner will almost certainly do something to eliminate the hazardous condition, greatly reducing the chance that others will come along and endure the same kind of injury that you suffered.

Cons of Filing a Slip and Fall Lawsuit

Expensive. This is the other side of the economic coin: Litigation is expensive. It costs money to file your Complaint with your state's civil court. It costs money to hire an expert witness (if one is necessary). It costs money to pay a court reporter to attend and transcribe all of the depositions that may take place. It costs money to copy and mail documents and letters. After all of these expenses are deducted from the amount you recover, your lawyer will probably take 25 to 40% of what is left (depending on the particulars of your contingency fee agreement).

Time Consuming. Lawsuits do not resolve overnight. In fact, they rarely resolve in less than six months. It is hard to place an average amount of time a slip and fall lawsuit will take, but it could take up to a year, and maybe longer. One of the frustrations litigants regularly deal with is the amount of time it takes to resolve their dispute.

Difficulty of Proof. One of the things you have to prove in a slip and fall lawsuit is that the property owner had notice of the hazardous condition that caused your fall. Occasionally, this is easily done; but often, it is difficult. Property owners are allowed a reasonable amount of time to discover and remedy hazardous conditions. So you will also have to prove the length of time the owner was aware of the condition was unreasonable.

Deposition. A deposition is a question-and-answer session with the property owner's lawyer. Your answers are given under oath, and a court reporter will record every word spoken. Depositions can be grueling. You can be certain the property owner's lawyer will have extensively researched your background. If there is anything in your medical records or background you would rather not discuss openly, you may want to reconsider filing a lawsuit.

Is It Worth It?

A variety of injuries can result from a slip and fall. If the injury is a bruised knee, or a slightly sprained ankle, it may not be worth the hassle of going through a lawsuit. However, if you suffered something like a broken arm or a debilitating back injury and you have incurred a significant amount of medical bills -- and maybe even missed time at work as a result -- it is probably worth taking your case to court.

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