No, you do not have to file a lawsuit to get paid after a slip and fall accident. In fact, the vast majority of personal injury claims settle outside of court.
How a Personal Injury Claim Typically Works
Unless you have already been through the process before, most people do not know what to expect when dealing with an insurance company after getting hurt due to someone else’s negligence. If your slip and fall accident happened on someone else’s property and was the result of carelessness on the part of the owner, you might have a valid claim for damages for your losses.
Of course, you should get medical treatment for your injuries first thing. If you have not already done so by the time you read this article, you should go to the doctor, urgent care center, or emergency room (whichever is appropriate) right away.
The claims process makes it possible for you to get paid without having to file a lawsuit. Even though every claim is different, here are some of the things that commonly happen during a personal injury insurance claim process:
Filing a Report
Sometimes people file an accident or injury report at the scene of the fall. Let’s use the example of a person who slips and falls at a grocery store:
The misting system in the produce section malfunctioned and leaked, causing a wet patch. If a person slips and falls in the water, the manager might ask them to fill out a preprinted form that gives information to the store’s liability insurance carrier.
Seeking Medical Attention
The injured person gets medical treatment. The store’s insurance company requests a copy of the medical records to determine the person’s exact injuries and follow-up care. The total medical bills will be an essential element for both the defendant store and the injured plaintiff to calculate a reasonable settlement figure.
The Insurance Company Might Reach Out to You
After the injured person completes all the prescribed medical procedures and returns to his doctor to get released from treatment, the insurance company might try to resolve the injury claim. Although they might communicate with the injured person before that point, it is almost always a mistake to settle an injury claim before your doctor says that you have healed as much as possible.
If you settle your slip and fall accident injury claim before completing all of your medical treatment, you might get stuck with a stack of medical bills that you will have to pay out of your own pocket. After you settle, the insurer will not have to pay you any more money, even if your doctor later tells you that you will need surgery or you have a permanent disability because of your injuries.
During the settlement negotiation process, the insurance company will request a copy of your employment records to confirm whether you lost any wages or salary because of the injury. Missed paychecks are often part of the settlement calculation.
If you do not have a lawyer, the insurance company’s claims adjuster might contact you with a settlement offer. If you have an attorney handling your personal injury claim, the insurance insurer is supposed to leave you alone and contact your lawyer directly. The insurance claims adjuster and your attorney might go back and forth several times with counteroffers.
In the event that there is an agreement on the settlement terms, the insurer or your lawyer will draft documents that you will have to sign before you get the money. One of these documents is a waiver of the right to seek any more money from the defendant or the insurance company.
What Happens if You Do Not Reach a Settlement with the Insurance Company?
Although the insurance company has an obligation to act in good faith when evaluating and attempting to resolve valid personal injury claims, they might not be willing to pay you the amount that you feel you deserve. When that happens, the only way to seek the damages you want is to file a lawsuit.
Here are some things you need to know about slip and fall lawsuits:
You will have to show in the lawsuit that the defendant’s negligence caused your injury. The American Bar Association (ABA) explains that in almost all types of personal injury lawsuits, you have to establish a party’s carelessness before you can hold them accountable for your losses.
Complying with the State-Mandated Deadline
Find out early in the insurance claims process what your deadline is for filing a lawsuit. Even when trying to resolve your claim with the insurer before filing a lawsuit, the clock is ticking. Negotiating with the claims adjuster does not extend the time limit. According to the ABA, if you miss the filing deadline, the law will bar you from the right to seek compensation from the person who hurt you.
After a lawsuit is filed, both sides need to engage in the pretrial procedure known as discovery. Discovery is the means by which each side gathers the facts and evidence needed to support their version of the story and to attack the other party’s case. The parties exchange documents, answer interrogatories, take depositions, and have hearings at court in preparation for trial.
Settling the Case
During the pretrial process, the parties are allowed to continue negotiations and possibly reach a settlement of the injury claim. If the case does not settle, it will eventually go to trial, and a judge will decide who wins and who loses. Sometimes personal injury trials also involve a jury.
Keep in mind that your lawsuit could follow a slightly different path.
Work with an Attorney Today
Your lawyer can negotiate directly with the claims adjuster and the insurance company so that you do not have to do so. They can also advocate for you to protect your rights concerning the settlement documents and by handling the trial if the case does not settle.
The slip and fall lawyers at Bernstein & Poisson can help you seek justice. You can call us today for a free consultation.