Even a small slip and fall accident at a business or another property can cause you to suffer serious injuries that require expensive medical treatments and a long time off work without pay. Under California law, you're entitled to be compensated for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering if egregious actions by the property or business owner caused your injuries.
However, it can be confusing to pursue your legal rights, especially if you never had to do so before. Here's what you need to know about the stages of a slip and fall accident case.
Initial Stages in Filing Your Slip and Fall Claim
Your first step in seeking rightful compensation is to file a claim with the negligent party’s insurance company. In order to do this, research options for an experienced slip and fall accident attorney and find one worth hiring. This partnership helps assure that you receive a settlement that covers all aspects of the incident.
Here are the initial stages of filing your claim:
- Investigation. This includes determining the cause of your fall and collecting evidence to prove negligence and the seriousness of your injuries. The investigation might also require obtaining witness statements, pictures of the accident scene at the time of your fall, your medical records, and your wage loss documents. The attorney will also use this information to evaluate the worth of your claim.
- Demand letter. Once your lawyer has the information he needs, he'll file your claim by sending the insurance company a demand letter. This letter outlines how your fall happened, the errant actions of the business or property owner resulting in the accident, and details of the injuries. He'll also itemize the amount of your compensation.
- Negotiations. Your attorney will negotiate with an insurance adjuster to try to settle your claim. This process often involves offers and counteroffers. If the insurance company raises disputes to deny your claim or pay less than the requested damages, your lawyer may need to collect additional evidence or hire an expert witness to help resolve the dispute. Most slip and fall cases are settled through these initial negotiations.
If the insurance adjuster refuses to offer you a fair settlement, your lawyer will file a lawsuit on your behalf.
Stages of a Slip and Fall Civil Lawsuit
The process of a slip and fall accident civil lawsuit also has many stages. Your attorney does most of the work, but the following details help you understand what's happening at each pivotal point.
- Filing a complaint. This is the first step in litigation. This legal document states the parties to the lawsuit, the details of your fall, how the property owner or business was negligent, and the amount of requested injury compensation. In this complaint, you're referred to as the plaintiff and the party being sued is called the defendant.
- Receiving the defendant’s answer. After the complaint is filed, your lawyer has it served on the defendant. The defendant has three-to-four weeks to file an answer to the complaint. In the reply, the defendant either admits or denies the allegations in the complaint and raises any defenses to your claim in a document called affirmative defenses.
- Engaging in discovery. The next step is to conduct discovery, which can be a lengthy phase in your case. In this stage, the parties try to discover as much evidence as possible that helps their positions. This might include:
- The use of written questions
- Requests to produce documents to the parties of the lawsuit and third parties
In a deposition, a lawyer asks you, the defendant, or witnesses questions, and the questions and answers are transcribed into a document that can be used at your trial and other court hearings.
- Filing pre-trial motions. Your lawyer and the attorneys for the insurance company may file pre-trial motions. These motions ask the judge to decide certain issues in your case, such as ordering a particular party to turn over documents or that your lawsuit be dismissed.
- Conducting your trial. Your lawyer enters into negotiations while the case is going through the court process when he believes settlement may be possible. If he's unable to settle your case, the judge sets a date for a jury trial. At your trial, your testimony and other evidence that supports your claim are presented to state how the defendant is responsible for injury compensation.
Even if your case needs to be litigated, this doesn't mean you won't reach a settlement with the insurance company. Most slip and fall cases settle at some point prior to the jury trial.
Where to Turn for Help Regarding a Slip and Fall Case
It can be a complicated and lengthy process to file and litigate your claim after a slip and fall accident. I'm ready to investigate your fall, collect all essential evidence, and negotiate a settlement so you receive the maximum financial recovery you deserve. To learn more about your options and my extensive experience helping clients like you, start a live chat to schedule your free consultation today.