The Mn Criminal Defense, Personal Injury & Family Law Blog
Do Accident Lawyers in Brainerd, MN Settle Most Slip-and-Fall Cases Out of Court?
January 15, 2020
In a word, yes. Fewer than 3 percent of all slip-and-fall claims settle out of court. Unfortunately, that statistic does not mean the case will settle quickly. There is also a good chance that the claim will go through the system and settle almost literally at the eleventh hour.
Generally, a slip-and-fall settlement includes compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Actual settlement amounts vary significantly, mostly depending on the strength of the victim/plaintiff’s evidence and the legal theories involved, as outlined below.
Although this money is available, stingy insurance companies do not simply give it away. To obtain maximum compensation, an accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN must have excellent negotiating skills as well as excellent advocacy skills. A deficiency in either area could mean that the victim/plaintiff must settle for less.
The Nuts and Bolts of a Slip and Fall Claim
First and foremost, an accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN must establish a legal duty. In other words, a landowner must be theoretically responsible for the victim/plaintiff’s injury. Minnesota law assigns the applicable duty based mostly on the relationship between the victim and landowner:
Duty of Reasonable Care: Invitees are people who have permission to be on the land and whose presence benefits the owner. The invitation could be direct or indirect; the benefit could be tangible or intangible. Most slip-and-fall victims are invitees. In this context, the duty of reasonable care includes a one-time responsibility to make the premises safe and an ongoing responsibility to perform safety inspections.
Duty to Warn: Licensees are people like guests of hotel guests. These individuals have indirect permission to be on the land, but their presence does not benefit the owner. Because of the more distant relationship, the applicable duty is more limited. The duty to warn involves only latent (hidden) defects, such as a burned-out security light.
No Legal Responsibility: Trespassers are people with no permission and no benefit. So, there is generally no duty, except a duty to refrain from intentional harm. Some exceptions, such as the attractive nuisance rule, protect child trespassers in some cases.
On the defense side, some legal theories include res ipsa loquitur and the open and obvious doctrine.
If it applies, RIL (the thing speaks for itself) makes it easier for an accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN to establish negligence. However, Minnesota law sharply limits this doctrine, a fact which insurance company lawyers are eager to try and take advantage of.
In slip-and-fall claims, the open and obvious doctrine immunizes landowners in situations like a colored liquid on the floor. This rule is subjective. For example, a colored liquid might not be an open and obvious hazard to someone with poor eyesight or to anyone in a dark room.
Moreover, an accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN must establish practical responsibility. That means knowledge of the fall hazard. Such evidence might be:
Direct: Restroom cleaning reports, “cleanup on aisle nine” announcements, and other smoking guns usually emerge during a lawsuit’s discovery process. Direct evidence often improves the bargaining position for an accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN.
Circumstantial: According to the time-notice rule, constructive knowledge (should have known) is linked to the amount of time the hazard existed. If the victim slipped on a wilted piece of lettuce, the hazard had probably existed for quite a while, so an employee should have picked up the lettuce.
On the defense side, direct evidence is only admissible in certain situations. And, as for circumstantial evidence, Crow Wing County jurors can draw their own conclusions regarding the time-notice rule’s applicability.
Accident Lawyers in Brainerd, MN and the Settlement Process
If there is no question as to the landowner’s liability, insurance companies have a legal duty to settle slip-and-fall claims within a few weeks. However, there is almost always at least some debate as to the owner’s responsibility. Moreover, as mentioned above, if the action moves forward through the discovery process, better evidence might be available. That usually means higher compensation.
Discovery normally includes both written and oral discovery. Written discovery is typically document production, such as repair invoices and medical bills. Oral discovery usually means depositions, which are like courtroom witness examinations without a judge or jury.
As for the amount of a settlement, it is usually rather easy for an accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN to calculate things like lost wages and medical expenses. Pain and suffering, however, is more subjective. Many accident lawyers in Brainerd, MN multiply the economic losses by two or three based on the strength of the plaintiff’s evidence.
Contact a Savvy Attorney
Most slip-and-fall cases settle out of court, but the process might be protracted. For a free consultation with an experienced accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.