How Much Is the Average Slip and Fall Settlement in Pennsylvania?
Every year approximately one million Americans suffer from injuries related to a fall, and over 30,000 die of their wounds. Slip and fall accidents frequently kill elderly or otherwise frail people. Also, many workers die in construction site falls and falls from other employment-related disasters. These cases often give rise to wrongful death claims, where million-plus dollar settlements are frequent.
Others survive but suffer severe injuries requiring extensive medical care, surgeries, and long hospital and rehabilitation facility stays. Lost income usually results from a prolonged convalescence, adding to the damages victims suffer.
On the other side of the coin, some slip-and-fall accidents cause much less debilitating injuries. The person may still be able to participate in most life activities, such as working and family living. However, the injury can result in serious pain, require costly medical care, and restrict the sufferer from engaging in many physical activities, harming his or her health and reducing the enjoyment of life.
As you can imagine, the average settlement for slip and fall cases varies widely based on the severity of the injury, the treatment costs, and the overarching impact on a person’s life. The typical settlement in Pennsylvania ranges from $15,000 to $45,000.
This average range is somewhat deceptive because most slip and fall cases result in moderate-level trauma that is cured through routine medical treatment and the passage of time. However, some slip and fall cases are worth hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, though they are the minority.
They are worth so much because the victim endures severe disability, such as paralysis; extreme pain, such as from a shattered knee; or dies from the fall, leaving behind grief-stricken loved ones whose lives will never be the same.
What Constitutes a Slip and Fall Personal Injury Case in Pennsylvania?
Not every injury sustained in a fall qualifies for compensation under Pennsylvania law. To win a personal injury suit, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant(s) acted negligently. If the fall occurred because of the plaintiff’s own actions, a lawsuit is unlikely to succeed.
For example, slip and fall injuries often happen in stores, such as supermarkets and big box retailers. The store has a legal duty to protect its customers, employees, and vendors from hazards that could cause them to slip and fall.
A personal injury plaintiff must demonstrate that the store was negligent in carrying out this duty and that negligence resulted in the accident. Additionally, the plaintiff must show evidence that the injury resulted from the fall, such as medical records.
If the plaintiff slipped and fell on a wet floor and was given no warning of the hazard, the store likely has legal culpability for any resulting injury. The company failed to keep aisles clear of danger, so it was negligent in its duty of care toward the plaintiff.
On the other hand, what if the plaintiff tripped over his own feet?
In that case, the plaintiff is harder pressed to show negligence on the part of the store. A link between the store’s negligence and the fall must be established. If some action by the store contributed to the fall, such as a box left unattended, the store may have full or partial responsibility for the injury.
How much a settlement will yield depends greatly on the comparative negligence of the plaintiff and the defendant(s). Pennsylvania law establishes a modified comparative negligence standard in personal injury cases. Under the 51% bar rule, a plaintiff is eligible for an award only if her comparative negligence is less than 51%.
For example, in the case where a customer slipped on water left on a store floor without warning signs has a strong case under Pennsylvania personal injury law. The defense may try to make it appear that the accident was, to some degree, the plaintiff’s fault. However, the jury is likely to find the store 100% responsible or responsible under comparative negligence by a large margin, resulting in an award to the plaintiff.
But what if the plaintiff tripped over his own feet? Unless the plaintiff establishes the store was somehow negligent, such a case may be dismissed.
Other scenarios fall into a grayer area. For instance, imagine a person slipped on water at a store, but another customer warned the plaintiff that there was standing water. This is unlikely to be sufficient defense for the store because it still neglected its duty of care.
However, defense attorneys could argue that the claimant had some responsibility under comparative negligence. If the jury agrees, it can reduce the plaintiff’s award.
How Awards Are Impacted By Comparative Negligence
Comparative negligence establishes a theoretical maximum award for the plaintiff. This theoretical maximum is the sum of all the damages claimed by the plaintiff. The number is theoretical because the jury does not have to agree that all the damages claimed are eligible for compensation.
However, by putting the jury’s acceptance of the full damages claimed aside for now, we can better understand the role of comparative negligence in determining an award.
Imagine that a slip and fall plaintiff claims $100,000 in damages. If the jury finds the defendant 100% liable (no spot on the plaintiff), he or she receives 100% of the damages.
Defense attorneys work hard to transfer as much blame onto the plaintiff as possible because every 1% of comparative negligence that lands on the plaintiff reduces the insurance company’s payout by 1%.
In the example where the plaintiff slipped despite being warned of the water by another customer, a jury could decide to reduce the plaintiff's award by its judgment of the level of fault attached to the plaintiff’s actions.
The impact of a split negligence verdict on a case with $100,000 in damages is as follows:
- $90,000 if the plaintiff is 10% at fault
- $80,000 if the plaintiff is 20% at fault
- $70,000 if the plaintiff is 30% at fault
- $60,000 if the plaintiff is 40% at fault
- $50,000 if the plaintiff is 50% at fault
- $0 if the plaintiff is 51% or more at fault
How Are Damages Determined
Before filing a personal injury claim, your attorney will estimate the potential damages. Since the total impact on the plaintiff may not be known at this early stage, the amount is often revised to a higher figure.
For example, suppose a doctor later determines a second surgery is necessary. In that case, the costs of the additional operation, the pain and suffering it causes, and the impact of lost income while recuperating need to be added to the damages.
During the discovery process, your attorney will continue investigating the claim and building its case, including adding to your damages when necessary. Before the case settles or goes to trial, your lawyer will have a complete tally that includes economic damages, general damages, and punitive damages.
Economic Damages Include the Following::
- Ambulance bills
- Emergency room treatment
- Intensive care
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Property Damage
- Lost wages
- Lost salary
- Lost business income
- Lost benefits
General Damages Include the Following:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
Punitive damages are rare in slip and fall cases and personal injury law in general. Most accidents are just that, accidents. The defendant, though negligent, did not intend to harm the plaintiff. As a result, punitive damages are not applicable.
But what if the defendant is a bad actor? For example, if the fall resulted from a criminal act, such as shoving the victim, punitive damages may be in order.
The Difference Between Settlements and Verdicts
Most slip and fall injury cases settle out of court. When this occurs, the plaintiff and defendant(s) agree on a figure. Negotiations can occur via telephone, email, and face-to-face settlement conferences. Both sides can propose a settlement, and there is no obligation for plaintiffs to accept settlements nor for defendants to offer them and vice versa.
Alternatively, the case goes to trial, resulting in a jury verdict. When juries decide cases, they must determine the role played by each litigant in the accident’s cause and assign a percentage of responsibility based on comparative negligence. If the plaintiff contributed to the accident, the jury reduces its verdict by the percentage of fault it believes the plaintiff bears.
Why Most Cases Settle
Litigation is a big expense for insurance companies. They must consider the costs of conducting a trial versus settling. Often, the legal fees alone outweigh the settlement. As a result, insurers have the inclination to settle cases.
However, they want to settle as cheaply as possible. To accomplish this, they must establish a strong negotiating position.
Establishing a strong negotiating position requires building evidence in support of your case. Lawyers construct their cases with the evidence they uncover in the discovery process.
During discovery, lawyers find out what evidence the opposing side has and have the opportunity to gather additional evidence that bolsters their cases. In addition, they interview opposing witnesses, a process that can help weaken the other side’s arguments.
Many cases settle during the discovery process. However, sometimes the sides remain far apart on comparative negligence or the proper amount of damages. When they reach an impasse, judges often require the lawyers and litigants to attend a settlement conference.
These are often marathon negotiation sessions organized by the judge. Settlement conferences frequently result in a favorable settlement for the plaintiff.
Slip and Fall Settlements in Pennsylvania average between $15,000 and $45,000 in Pennsylvania. However, awards can be substantially higher when the injuries are serious, or the plaintiff dies because of the accident. No accident victim should suffer pain, lose income, and face ruinous medical bills because of someone else’s negligence. Pennsylvania personal injury lawsuits give slip and fall victims the chance for the compensation they deserve.
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