If you're thinking about making a slip and fall claim in Pennsylvania, you should know that the vast majority of these cases end up settling out of court, sometimes before a lawsuit is even filed. But how might a slip and fall settlement play out in Pennsylvania? Take a look at this case example to get an idea.
Ray and his girlfriend, Bo, decided to take a break from their university studies at Penn on Sunday afternoon and drive out to see the Bucks County Intergalactic Spaceport, a tourist attraction not far from Doylestown. Both UFO buffs, they were most interested in seeing the Spaceport’s crop circles that had been featured in a popular sci-fi movie some years earlier.
While walking one of the circles, a reflection on the edge of the cornfield abutting the circle caught Bo’s attention. She ran over to it and found that it was a replica “phaser” weapon from a Star Trek-themed wedding the previous afternoon. Delighted, she chased Ray with it, laughing and zigzagging through the crop circle. As Bo attempted to cut Ray off, she slid in some green slime that was later determined to be a gelatinous “alien” dessert that a wedding guest apparently had spilled. Bo landed hard on her shoulder and heard a crack. She got up in pain, unable to lift her right arm.
X-rays at the local urgent care facility showed Bo's right clavicle had broken in two places. The urgent care physician referred her to an orthopedic surgeon for follow-up, and sent her home in a splint with painkillers.
The orthopedic surgeon repaired the fractures surgically with pins and prescribed physical therapy to regain Bo’s range of motion and shoulder strength.
Bo already was an accomplished sculptor studying for her MFA degree at the University of Pennsylvania. Recently awarded a $50,000 commission for an installation at a new office building in downtown Philadelphia, Bo discovered that her injury rendered her unable to complete the work within the tight three-month deadline specified in her contract, meaning that the architect had to find another sculptor.
Bo had two years in which to file a lawsuit for her injury under the Pennsylvania statute of limitations. (Why is this law so important? Check out How long do I have to file a slip and fall lawsuit in Pennsylvania?)
Once a settlement offer was accepted, there would be no going back later for more compensation if Bo needed additional care or treatment. To get a better insight into any complications from Bo’s injury that might unfold in the future, her attorney wanted to wait until Bo’s condition stabilized before submitting a demand letter to the insurance company.
Eight months after her accident, Bo regained near-normal range of motion and strength in her right shoulder, and herattorney sent a demand letter claiming that the Spaceport was negligent, and describing specifically how the accident occurred.
The letter asserted that the Spaceport’s management knew about the catered wedding reception and food service in the area where Bo slipped and fell, but failed to properly clean the area before opening the attraction to guests the following day -- as evidenced by the presence of both the “phaser” replica and the spilled dessert at the crop circle site. (Learn more about Slip and Fall Accidents: Proving Fault.)
The demand letter also spelled out Bo’s damages, including:
Bo’s total out-of-pocket compensatory damages amounted to $3,500 for her medical expenses and $50,000 for the loss of her sculpting contract. Her attorney decided that another $9,500 was appropriate tocompensate Bo for herpain and suffering. The total demand was $63,000.
In support of the claim, the letter included:
The insurance company responded with a letter rejecting the demand and offering $44,000 to settle the matter. The insurance company asserted that, under the legal theory of comparative negligence in Pennsylvania, Bo shared some of the fault for her injuries because she was running and “rough-housing” in an area posted with warning signs of the uneven surface. (More: What if I am partly at fault for my Pennsylvania slip and fall?)
After several phone conversations between the insurance company and Bo’s attorney, the insurance company made a final offer of $58,500. Bo discussed the offer with her 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.