How Much Do Pennsylvania Slip-and-Fall Lawyers Cost?
According to slip-and-fall Lawyers, These fall injuries can be devastating. While we have all taken a minor fall and ended up with nothing worse than a knee scrape, serious slips and falls can result in broken bones, head injuries, debilitating back problems, and death.
A typical slip-and-fall results in a premises liability claim. Premises liability claims are filed against the owner of a property. To succeed, the plaintiff must go beyond showing that they slipped on the defendant’s property. The evidence must demonstrate that the fall occurred because of the property owner’s negligence.
For example, a person approaching a store entrance could trip on an untied shoelace, resulting in a sprained ankle. Though the individual was on store property when the accident occurred, the store is not negligent because it has no responsibility for the injured party’s untied shoelace.
No negligence = No claim.
However, imagine if the store left the entryway in disrepair with cracks and holes in the concrete. If a customer approaching the store slipped and fell on a crack and suffered an injury, the store is responsible because it was negligent in allowing customers to walk on the damaged concrete.
The law allows plaintiffs to recover many types of damages, including economic and non-economic harms.
Typical economic damages include the following:
- Medical bills
- Physical therapy
- In-patient rehabilitation
- In-home medical assistance
- Lost income
Common non-economic damages include the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional Distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
When you suffer a serious injury, the damages add up fast. For example, a slip and fall that causes a back injury may result in emergency treatment costs of $5000, an additional $10,000 for surgery, and $5000 for physical therapy. In addition, the victim may have lost time from work, resulting in $10,000 in lost income for $30,000 in economic damages.
On top of that, the plaintiff may also have suffered pain and loss of enn\joyment of life from spending months at home recovering; unable to participate in life activities. Hypothetically, a jury may decide these non-economic damages are worth 2X the economic costs, bringing the claim's value to $150,000.
But it could take years for the victim to receive these damages through litigation. On top of that, attorney's fees can quickly tabulate into tens of thousands of dollars. When facing tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills and lost income, how can someone afford to bring the case to court and win?
Contingency fees allow plaintiffs to handle the cost of protracted litigation by eliminating upfront fees. Instead of paying a retainer when hiring a lawyer, plaintiffs sign a contingency fee agreement.
Under a contingency fee agreement, plaintiffs have no responsibility for legal fees unless they collect a settlement or award. Contingency cases include fees beyond the attorney’s billable hours. A contingency fee arrangement also covers administrative costs, court expenses, expert witness fees, and other related bills.
The plaintiff pays all fees from the proceeds of a settlement or award. This fee structure allows slip and fall accident victims to avoid out-of-pocket expenses, gain leverage in settlement negotiations, and keep their focus on recovering from their injuries.
The Benefits of Avoiding Out-of-Pocket Expenses in Pennsylvania
A Pennsylvania personal injury attorney's average cost per hour is $247. Litigation is a multi-step process with many phases requiring long legal work hours. For instance, depositions, trials, and appeals take extensive preparation, resulting in thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Legal fees mount as the litigation process advances. Without a contingency fee plan, slip-and-fall injury victims would need to pay a hefty retainer just to start the process. Often, a retainer of $5,000 or more may be required. Many plaintiffs would find themselves hard-pressed to shell out thousands of dollars during the best of times. Having to pay a retainer while dealing with medical bills, recuperating from an injury, and possibly losing income creates an impossible barrier for most litigants.
Insurance companies know this, and they can plaintiffs financial distress against them. Often, insurance adjusters dangle lowball settlements before the plaintiff early in the process. They hope the victim will not understand the full value of their claim. In addition, they seek to take advantage of the likely financial pain the victim feels to convince them to settle quickly for the insurer's benefit.
Consulting with a personal injury attorney gives slip and fall accident victims a clear understanding of the value of their claims. For instance, after a fall, an insurance company may offer an unrepresented plaintiff just enough to cover current medical costs. Such an offer is rarely fair because the plaintiff may have future medical bills and lost income. Furthermore, personal injury law entitles victims to compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and other non-economic damages.
Contingency fees allow accident victims to receive a free consultation and hire an attorney without paying a retainer. The lawyer knows the total value of the claim and whether the insurance company is offering enough. Insurers rarely make a fair offer until a lawsuit is filed, and they believe they will lose in court.
Avoiding out-of-pocket costs becomes even more important as the court process moves on. The initial retainer paid to an attorney working hourly covers just the beginning stages of a lawsuit. Additional expenses mount as the case winds its way through the courts.
Attorneys must work many hours on each case, investigating the claim and working through the discovery process. During an investigation, the attorney must review evidence, such as police reports and medical records, and interview witnesses. Then, the attorney must request information from the opposing side to evaluate the strength of the defense and comply with defense motions for discovery.
Many more billable hours must be worked during interrogatories and depositions. Interrogatories are written questions that each side of a lawsuit sends to the other’s witnesses. In addition to formulating interrogatories for defense witnesses, personal injury lawyers must advise their clients on answering defense interrogatories.
Depositions are the most labor-intensive stage of discovery. During depositions, opposing counsel interviews witnesses under oath with a court reporter. They serve as a fact-finding process and also commit witnesses to their testimony. Well-prepared attorneys use depositions to strengthen their cases. They can confront witnesses and probe for weaknesses in their claims, setting the stage for a successful trial.
Because depositions are so costly, insurance companies may up their settlement offers to avoid this part of the process. On the other hand, your attorney may turn up additional evidence during depositions that undermine the defense, setting the stage for a high settlement before the case goes to trial.
Trials may require 50 or more hours of preparation and court time. Without contingency fees, few plaintiffs could afford to continue funding a case through the discovery process, much less through a trial and appeals. Because of contingency fees, they can take their claims as far as needed to win the settlement or award they deserve.
Contingency fee arrangements also prevent plaintiffs from having to front money for additional expenses, such as court costs, filing fees, expert witnesses, and court reporters. These fees are only paid when a settlement or award is achieved.
Contingency Fees Level the Playing Field Against “Deep Pockets” Defendants
When litigants must pay lawyers hourly, a great imbalance is created between those with “deep pockets” and those with lesser means. Imagine if you had to pay $241 an hour for legal fees in a case lasting several years. Likely, a point would come when you could not continue the fight. If you were up against a rich person, they could drag on the case until you run out of funds, winning because of their wealth, not the lawsuit's merits.
Most slip and fall defendants have insurance companies to pay liability claims. These behemoth corporations have pockets far deeper than any individual, no matter how well off. They employ teams of lawyers and can afford to litigate your case to the Supreme Court.
Without contingency fees, insurers would have an unfair advantage. They could simply string out cases for years and let plaintiffs go broke trying to cope with medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and attorney's fees and court costs. Personal injury attorneys prevent this by taking claims on a contingency basis.
As the case moves to more advanced stages, the cost to the insurance company rises substantially. Early on, they may not have large expenses, but as the case moves to depositions and trials, they face high costs. Because most slip and fall cases heard by juries result in substantial awards, insurers know that taking many cases to trial is a losing strategy.
Eventually, the cost of trying all those cases would severely impact their bottom line, reducing shareholder value and forcing them to raise rates above better-managed competitors, setting up the firm for failure.
Instead, they make a conscious business decision to settle cases they cannot win with minimal expense. However, to offer a settlement that fully compensates victims, they need to see that, in each case, the plaintiff has the evidence and wherewithal needed to take the case to trial.
Personal injury attorneys build strong cases that convince insurance companies to settle out of court. In addition, they understand the full value of claims and at what point the insurer is offering a fair settlement. Though most cases settle, personal injury attorneys must sometimes call cases to trial. When this happens, they convince juries of the defendant’s culpability and the extent of the plaintiff’s damages, winning large jury verdicts.
Discuss with a Pennsylvania Personal Injury Attorney
Mattiacci Law’s aggressive personal injury litigation team has years of experience with slip and fall cases. If you have a severe injury, you deserve just compensation for all the ways your finances and life have been impacted. Contact Mattiacci Law for a free consultation.
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