The vast majority of slip and fall cases end up reaching a settlement, with very few of these claims ever going to trial. Many are even settled before a lawsuit gets filed. But what does the typical settlement look like? The following example illustrates the key elements and lifecycle of a slip and fall settlement in Virginia.
James stood transfixed as he looked through the mingling alumni at the University of Virginia networking event on the grounds of All Be Merry Vineyard just outside Charlottesville.
“Who is she?!” he asked his friend, Randy.
“Who?” asked Randy, trying to see on whom his friend's gaze had locked.
“The photographer! I've got to meet her now.” James could hardly contain himself as he set off quickly through the crowd towards the girl in his dream.
Just when James had reached about the halfway point to the young woman, an unretracted pop-up sprinkler snagged his right foot. He fell hard on his right side onto a brick walkway and heard a crack in his side accompanied by sharp pain. The photographer rushed over. (Learn more about Accidents on Dangerous Property.)
On the way to the ER, James had difficulty breathing. X-rays showed a broken rib and a punctured lung.
James stayed one night in the hospital to make sure the lung did not collapse, and then was discharged with painkillers and instructions to commence physical therapy once he was back home.
James worked as a saxophone player in a local club, and his doctor ordered him not to put significant pressure on his lung or ribs for four to six weeks.
The Virginia statute of limitations provided James two years in which to file a lawsuit for his injury in the state's civil court system. (Learn more: How long do I have to file a slip and fall lawsuit in Virginia?)
Once a settlement offer was accepted, there would be no going back later for more compensation if James needed additional care or treatment. To get a better insight into any complications from James' injury that might unfold in the future, his attorney wanted to make sure James' condition had stabilized before submitting a demand letter to the insurance company for All Be Merry Vineyard (ABM).
Four months after James' accident, his attorney sent a demand letter claiming that ABM was legally responsible for James' injury, and describing specifically how the accident occurred.
The letter asserted that ABM knew -- or at the very least should have known -- about the defective sprinkler if it had taken proper steps to inspect the property prior to the networking event. James used the property as intended (he wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary, in other words) and was unaware of the presence of the sprinkler.
The demand letter included an itemized list of James' losses stemming from the accident, including the cost of medical care (which consisted of ER care, x-rays, medications, rehabilitation, and more) and his lost income.
James' total out-of-pocket compensatory damages amounted to $5,500 for his medical expenses and $3,500 for loss of income. His attorney decided that another $13,750 was appropriate to compensate James for his pain, discomfort, and loss of enjoyment. The total demand was $22,750.
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 $5,500 to settle the matter. The insurance company asserted that, under the relatively strict contributory negligence law in Virginia that would preclude any damages if James were found even partially at fault, James contributed to his own injuries by neglecting to watch where he was walking. Learn more about How Comparative Negligence Affects a Slip and Fall Claim.
James' attorney responded by providing a written statement from an ABM employee stating that the employee was supposed to have inspected the area where the networking event was to take place the morning before the event, but he had been told to make a rush delivery and then, when he returned, forgot about the inspection.
After several phone conversations between the insurance company and James' attorney, the insurance company made a final offer of $20,000. James briefly 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.