As in every state, most Georgia slip and fall cases alleging a dangerous property condition reach a settlement, with very few claims ever going to trial. But what might a settlement look like? The following example illustrates the key elements and lifecycle of a hypothetical slip and fall settlement in Georgia.
Carl and Tyson used their day off from professional golf caddying to meet for lunch and a friendly game of miniature golf at Al Gusto International (AGI), a mini-golf complex outside Atlanta. Though both excellent putters, they made their game challenging by choosing the more difficult "Mad Magnolia" course and agreeing to play one-handed with one eye closed.
When they got to the hole called "Gopher's Gulp", Carl took his turn and the ball went straight into the gopher's mouth. Carl pivoted on his left leg as he stepped quickly to run to where the ball would exit. The tip of his left sandal caught an upturned corner of the artificial turf. Carl felt a "pop" followed by a sharp pain in his left knee. He cried out and had difficulty walking on it.
Tyson took his friend to the ER, where the doctor diagnosed a torn meniscus and sent Carl home with ice and a knee brace. After several weeks, Carl was still in pain and the knee was still stiff. The orthopedic surgeon to whom he had been referred performed arthroscopic surgery to repair the tear. Following surgery, Carl was given six weeks of physiotherapy to strengthen and stabilize the knee.
Carl's job as a professional golf caddy required him to carry two 35-pound golf bags, walk long distances, climb hills, bend, and perform a range of other activities that a torn meniscus just could not do.
Carl had two years in which to file a lawsuit for his injury under the Georgia statute of limitations. (More: How long do I have to file a slip and fall lawsuit in Georgia?)
Once a settlement offer was accepted, there would be no going back later for more compensation if Carl needed additional care or treatment. To get a better insight into any complications from Carl's injury that might unfold in the future, his attorney wanted to wait until Carl's condition stabilized before submitting a demand letter to the insurance company.
Six months after Carl's accident, his attorney sent a demand letter claiming that AGI was legally responsible for Carl's injuries, and describing specifically how the accident occurred.
The letter asserted that AGI was negligent and knew or should have known about the dangerous condition of the property caused by the torn artificial turf because:
The demand letter included an itemized list of Carl's losses stemming from his slip and fall accident, including the cost of medical care (e.g., ER, x-rays, surgery, medications, physiotherapy, etc.) and Carl's lost income.
Carl's total out-of-pocket compensatory damages amounted to $2,500 for his medical expenses and $15,500 for the loss of his caddy income. His attorney decided that another $18,000 was appropriate to compensate Carl for his pain, discomfort, fear, and anxiety. The total demand was $36,000.
In support of the claim, the letter included:
The insurance company responded with a letter rejecting the demand and offering $22,000 to settle the matter. The insurance company asserted that AGI did not know about the torn artificial turf until Carl's accident. Also, under the legal theory of comparative negligence, Carl shared some of the responsibility for his own injuries by:
In response, Carl's attorney submitted a statement from the AGI employee who helped Carl after his fall in which the employee admitted that the torn turf had been there for several weeks and a few golfers had complained, but AGI had not yet been able to get the turf installer to come out and replace that section.
After several phone conversations between the insurance company and Carl's attorney, the insurance company made a final offer of $27,500. Carl discussed the offer with his attorney, considering the costs and attorney's fees if a lawsuit were filed and the case went to trial, and decided to accept the offer.