What Evidence Do I Need to Win a Slip-and-Fall Settlement in Pennsylvania?
You walk daily, stay fit, and carefully avoid all types of accidents. The idea of slipping in the grocery aisle because someone spilled watermelon juice in the lane never crossed your mind. Now you are supine on the floor, and the cashier calls over the loudspeaker for a medic in lane 6. Slip-and-Fall Settlements sometimes cause serious troubles.
While sometimes you luck out, dust yourself off, and go on about your day, in many cases seen by Mattiacci Law, the injuries cause intense pain, acute injury, and chronic health problems even in young, fit people.
For the elderly or those with disabilities, slip-and-falls are particularly devastating. Broken bones, sprains, and strained muscles take longer to heal, the fall may aggravate health conditions, and the gains of prior medical treatments, such as back surgery, may be lost.
Treatment of slip-and-fall injuries goes into the thousands and more very quickly. In addition, you may lose income because of the accident. No one wants to contemplate facing ruinous medical expenses and losing their income simultaneously. It is one of the worst financial catastrophes possible.
You cannot lose your hard-earned savings, take on stressful debt, and let your family suffer financial ruin for an accident that wasn’t your fault. But the defense is on a mission to save money. To achieve its goal, it looks for holes in your case and exploits them. This applies both to winning the case and the level of damages.
Insurance companies don’t provide full compensation out of a sense of fair play. Instead, they settle for all your damages when the evidence leaves them little choice.
To uncover the evidence required to prove your case, you need the Law Offices of John Mattiacci.
Comparative Negligence and Slip-and-Falls
Comparative negligence applies to all personal injury cases in Pennsylvania. Under this legal concept, the court must determine that the plaintiff is less than 51% at fault to grant any award.
In addition, the plaintiff’s damages depend on the level of fault the court assigns him or her.
For example, imagine a plaintiff brought a lawsuit after slipping on liquid spilled on the floor. Likely, the plaintiff has a solid case. Spilled liquids are recognized as the store’s responsibility to clean, and a wet area must be marked so people avoid it.
However, let’s imagine that this is a liquor store, and the owner observed the plaintiff enter the establishment in a state of heavy intoxication, stumbling, and having difficulty maintaining balance. The liquor store owner may argue that the defendant fell due to intoxication and that no dangerous liquid was left within the customers' path.
Who's to blame?
That depends on the details of the individual case. But for this example, imagine both sides have presented strong evidence. If so, the court may decide that comparative negligence exists, that the defendant and plaintiff contributed to the slip-and-fall.
With strong representation, the plaintiff may persuade the court that the owner is primarily responsible. However, let’s say video evidence showed the plaintiff was walking carelessly in a drunken state and that his injuries were exacerbated by his state of intoxication, say by the inability to protect himself during the fall because he was drunk.
This case likely would get thrashed out by the lawyers and end in a settlement. Imagining a good result for the plaintiff, a settlement might be based on 90% fault of the defendant. In this case, the settlement equals 90% of the plaintiff's damages, so if they stood at $20,000, he would receive $18,000.
As you can imagine, you need to build a strong case to prevent a comparative negligence defense from severely limiting your award or eliminating it.
Proving Personal Injury Cases in Pennsylvania
In general, the plaintiff in a slip-and-fall case in Pennsylvania must prove by a preponderance of the evidence:
- His or her version of the events leading up to the accident
- Claims of physical injury, and
- Claims for lost wages
A preponderance of the evidence means it’s more likely true than not true, a much more lenient standard versus beyond a reasonable doubt.
Pennsylvania courts admit many types of evidence, including the following:
- Medical bills and records
- Police reports
- Witness statements
- Photographs witness
- Trial testimony.
During a Slip-and-Fall Settlement, your personal injury attorney investigates the case through discovery. These are the building blocks of a liability claim.
Interrogatories in Slip-and-Fall Settlement in Pennsylvania
Interrogatories are a series of written questions that each side of a lawsuit poses to the witnesses from the other side. Because of the preliminary evidence, your Mattiacci legal team will have a strong understanding of the facts and the strength of your claim. Therefore, they create interrogatories that help demonstrate your claims.
They also strongly understand the other side’s likely defenses and weaknesses. The interrogatory process allows them to find evidence that weakens these defenses or eliminates them as a realistic possibility.
All witnesses answer under oath, so it’s disastrous for anyone to change their responses to the questions later. Interrogatories fill in the picture for lawyers and help shape trial strategy. Armed with the results of the interrogatories, lawyers are ready for depositions.
You’ve probably watched many fictional depositions on television and in movies. This is the time when lawyers question the other side's witnesses. They take place in conference rooms, and stenographic records are taken. All witnesses are under oath, and their answers to these questions are meticulously compared against interrogatory answers.
Attorneys ask questions to extract additional evidence, tie witnesses to their stories, clarify testimony, and detect perjury. Depositions serve as the backbone of trial preparation.
For example, if a store owner tries to claim no water was left on the floor during a deposition, the Mattiacci litigation team likely has already developed evidence to contradict this and will pose pointed questions to undermine this claim. Depositions are a great time to showcase your claim's strengths and the defense's weaknesses.
Depositions often set up a natural time for settlement negotiations. The defense may wish to avoid depositions, and the only way that can happen is through a settlement. Also, post- deposition, your Mattiacci legal team will leave the defense concerned about losing badly at trial. When trials are costly and prospects for success look slim, the defense raises its settlement offer to avoid prolonged litigation.
As the plaintiff, you must be deposed by the other side. Mattiacci's lawyer prepares clients for everything the defense will throw at them.
Evidence of Damages
Proving fault does not win an award. The plaintiff’s team must also demonstrate that it suffered damages due to the slip-and-fall. Damages eligible for compensation fall into compensatory (economic) and general (non-economic).
Compensatory Damages in Pennsylvania
- Vehicle damage
- Other property
- Ambulance charges
- Emergency room charges
- Medical tests
- Hospital bills
- Doctors bills
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Rehabilitation centers
- Lost wages
- Lost benefits
- Lost investment compounding
- Lost business income
Slip-and-fall case compensation also includes projected future eligible costs and lost income due to the accident.
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Emotional distress
Proving Damages in Pennsylvania
Economic damages can be easily established. Documents showing losses abound, including medical-, live-in care-, and therapy bills.
To prepare your case, gather all records related to your economic damages and present them to your Mattiacci Law litigation team. In addition, create a chronological diary of lost income. For instance, record each lost paycheck.
Self-employed people need a detailed diary showing the lost income very specifically. Depending on how your business operates, you may have lost actual income and future income because of your inability to keep operating.
Also, track other issues, such as lost benefits and opportunities. The more detailed the chronology, the stronger your legal team’s arguments. We must permit no holes in damage claims. If we do, the defense will exploit them to claim they are not their responsibility, even if the accident unarguably was.
A chronology is even more critical for general damages because they are inherently more subjective.
Who Is to Say How Much Pain and Suffering Is Worth?
How much compensation is emotional distress worth? The same situation results in ten different emotional reactions from ten different people.
What about the loss of enjoyment of life? What did this really cost you on a personal level?
The answers can be found in your chronology of general damages. A close examination of this document prepares your legal team to fight for the maximum damages.
The State of Pennsylvania has an ingenious system for quantifying general damages. Courts award a number between 1.5 and 5 times the economic damages.
The more severe your general damages, the higher the multiple. By providing a pain chronology, by detailing how the injury impacted your life, you give the Mattiacci legal team the ammunition it needs to fight for the highest general damages multiples legally justified.
Slip-and-fall injuries can become very serious. Broken bones, sprains, back pain, and other injuries can lead to serious debilitation. Many times, the owner of a business or residence bears responsibility because they failed in their duty of care. The duty of care requires them to keep their property safe.
Contact a Philadelphia Slip-and-Fall Settlement Attorney
Have you suffered an injury in a slip-and-fall in Philadelphia? Mattiacci law’s personal injury team handles these cases every day and has seen every defense insurance companies try, and we win every time. Call Mattiacci Law for a free consultation.
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