Very few slip and fall cases ever make it to trial. Most end up reaching an out-of-court settlement. But what is the typical settlement process in these kinds of cases? Let's look at a hypothetical slip and fall claim in Nevada.
Bert Rogan, an aerospace engineer, and his teenage son, Mick, got up early on the second day of the STEMming Man Festival -- celebrating science, technology, engineering and math -- in Sand Springs Valley, to do some geocaching while it was still cool out. Bert had learned from festival organizers about a geocaching site within the festival grounds outside Rachel. The cache purportedly included some strange metal pieces from an Area 51 aircraft crash.
As father and son reached the coordinates for the geocache, according to the GPS locator on their handheld amateur radio, they began scouting the area for the hidden treasure. Mick called out to his dad, “Hey, do you think it could be between these three metal posts?”
Just as Bert was warning his son to be careful, Mick yelled as he fell through the rotted, dirt-covered wooden “cap” covering the abandoned mine shaft. The teenager landed on a wooden platform about seven feet down. His knee popped as he landed, causing searing pain. His dad called for help on the handheld radio.
X-rays at the hospital ER confirmed the doctor's suspicion that Mick's anterior cruciate ligament had torn. After arthroscopic surgery the following day, Mick stayed one night in the hospital and then was discharged with painkillers and instructions to commence physical therapy once he was back home in Palmdale, California.
A soccer star on his high school team, Mick missed the entire soccer season because of the ER visit, surgery and rehabilitation time. The hard landing also had shattered Mick's handheld GPS locator.
The Nevada statute of limitations provided Mick two years in which to file a lawsuit for his injury. (Learn more: How long do I have to file a slip and fall lawsuit in Nevada?)
To get insight into any complications from Mick's injury that might arise in the future, his attorney wanted to make sure Mick's condition had stabilized before submitting a demand to the insurance company of the property owner (FlyBy Ranch) and STEM Man, LLC, which rented the property for the festival.
Six months after Mick's accident, his attorney sent a demand letter claiming that FlyBy and STEM Man were legally responsible for Mick's injury, and describing specifically how the accident occurred.
The letter asserted that FlyBy and/or STEM Man knew or should have known about abandoned mines on the property where the festival took place, and that failure to mark and warn of the locations of any abandoned mine shafts constituted a hazard to attendees of STEMming Man. The letter emphasized that Bert and Mick:
The demand letter included an itemized list of Mick's losses stemming from the accident, including the cost of medical care (ER, surgery, medications, rehabilitation, etc.) and the cost of his GPS locator.
Mick's total out-of-pocket compensatory damages amounted to $9,500 for his medical expenses and $1,200 for a replacement GPS locator. His attorney decided that another $23,800 was appropriate to compensate Mick for his pain, discomfort, and loss of enjoyment of his chosen sport. The total demand was $34,700.
In support of the claim, the letter included:
Learn more about Personal Injury Demand Letters.
The insurance company responded with a letter rejecting the demand and offering $17,000 to settle the matter. The insurance company asserted that (1) neither FlyBy nor STEM Man knew of the existence of the abandoned mine, and (2) under comparative negligence theory in Nevada, Mick contributed to his own injuries by neglecting to watch where he was walking. Learn more about Comparative Negligence in Nevada Slip and Fall Claims.
Mick's attorney responded by sending the insurance company a copy of an email sent from a FlyBy representative to one of the festival organizers, stating that FlyBy could provide a map of abandoned mine locations on the property for distribution to festival attendees. Apparently, there was no follow-up to this email, and these maps were never distributed to attendees.
After several phone conversations between the insurance company and Mick's attorney, the insurance company made a final offer of $31,500. Mick and Bert briefly discussed the offer with their 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.