Most slip and fall cases reach a settlement, with very few claims ever making it all the way to trial. That's true in every state, and Ohio is no exception. Let's walk through an example of how a slip and fall settlement might play out in Ohio.
Tommy and his best friend and colleague, David, decided to stop by a local amusement park, Emperor’s Point, on their way back to Sandusky after a sales trip. With temperatures in the 80s, they headed directly for the Roiling Rivers thrill ride to cool off. Even though the “boat” was a bit tight for Tommy’s 290-pound frame, he managed to squeeze in alongside David for an exhilarating ride.
As he exited the boat at the ride’s end, laughing excitedly, Tommy placed his right foot on the “dock” and felt his foot slide sideways. He twisted as he fell on the dock with a sharp pain stabbing his lower back. His new smartphone, which he was still holding from taking photos during the ride, fell into the water. He fell on his sunglasses, crushing them.
At the ER, Tommy complained of pain and tingling from his lower back down the backs of his legs. Walking was painful. X-rays indicated no fractures. The ER physician concluded that Tommy most likely suffered a herniated disc, and he prescribed hot and cold packs, specific exercises, physical therapy and pain medications to manage the pain while strengthening the back.
Several weeks later, after Tommy continued to complain of referred pain in his legs, his doctor ordered an MRI. The doctor adjusted Tommy’s medication and prescribed different exercises. Tommy slowly improved.
Tommy worked a sales territory encompassing Ohio, Indiana and parts of Michigan, which required extensive driving. Since his injury, however, he was unable to drive for more than two hours per day. Tommy was able to secure an alternative telephonic sales position at his company that did not require driving; however, he anticipated that the reduction in commissions and salary amounted to $25,000 to $30,000 annually.
Replacement of his smartphone and sunglasses totaled $650.
Tommy had two years in which to file a lawsuit for his injury under the Ohio statute of limitations for slip and fall claims.
Once a settlement offer was accepted, there would be no going back later for more compensation if Tommy needed additional care or treatment. As soon as Tommy’s condition stabilized, his attorney sent a demand letter claiming that Emperor’s Point was legally responsible for Tommy’s injuries, and describing specifically how the accident occurred.
The letter asserted that Tommy complied with all requirements and restrictions of the Roiling Rivers ride, but that the ride platform where riders exited the ride vehicle was covered with water, as was Tommy and his shoes, caused by the ride itself. These factors combined to create a dangerous condition, which Emperor’s Point knew or should have known existed.
The demand letter also spelled out Tommy’s losses stemming from his slip and fall accident. These included:
Tommy’s total out-of-pocket compensatory damages amounted to $8,500 for his medical expenses and $30,000 for loss of earnings and earning capacity. His attorney decided that another $21,500 was appropriate tocompensate Tommy for hispain and suffering. The total demand was $60,000.
In support of the claim, the letter included:
The insurance company responded with a letter rejecting the demand and offering $32,000 to settle the matter. The insurance company asserted that under the legal theory of “assumption of risk” in Ohio, Tommy was responsible for his own injuries because the combined weight of Tommy and David in the ride vehicle exceeded the total limit of 500 pounds listed in the park’s ride policies for Roiling Rivers.
The insurer also contended that, under the legal theory of comparative negligence, Tommy partly caused his injuries in exiting the water ride vehicle in dress leather shoes without using available support or assistance from the ride attendant or his friend. (Learn more: What if I am partly at fault for my Ohio slip and fall?)
The insurance company rejected the loss of earnings claim as speculative and excessive.
Tommy’s attorney responded by providing written statements from three other riders, along with photographs of the entry point to the ride, indicating there were no posted rider weight or attire restrictions and noting that they had seen other riders slip while getting off of the ride vehicle at Roiling Rivers. After several phone conversations between the insurance company and Tommy’s attorney, the insurance company made a final offer of $47,500. Tommy discussed the offer with the attorney, considering the costs and attorney’s fees if a lawsuit were filed and the case went to trial. He accepted the offer.
Get more Tips for Settling a Slip and Fall Claim.