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From the plaintiff’s perspective, what happens throughout a slip and fall claims process?

In a slip and fall case, everyone has a job to do. Your lawyer’s job is to ensure you are legally protected. Your job is to try and recover from your injuries and return to your normal work and leisure activities. Your lawyer’s job is to gather and preserve evidence and ensure your interests are legally protected.

Your case can settle during any of the stages noted below if the insurance company offers you a fair amount of compensation. Our goal is to settle cases quickly whenever possible because justice delayed is no justice at all.

If you recover quickly from your injuries, then your case can be settled more quickly. If you do not recover quickly, then we must wait until we know how severe your injuries are and how long they will last. A personal injury lawyer’s concern is not with the first six months of your injury. Our concern is with how an injury will affect you for the remainder of their life. Until you recover or reach a maximum level of recovery we cannot know what the future holds for your injuries and therefore cannot settle your case for a fair value. Soft tissue injuries typically reach maximum recovery within two years and broken bones typically reach maximum recovery within one year. Broken bones that involve joints are particularly serious injuries because they can cause post-traumatic arthritis several years after an accident and lead to significant problems with function and even early retirement.

The first stage of a slip and fall case is about gathering information. Your lawyer will investigate who was responsible for your accident to ensure that all insurance companies are put on notice about your claim. With slip and fall cases, there are often multiple companies responsible for an accident — such as the owner of a property, the property management company, and the company hired to do winter maintenance — who all have separate insurance policies to compensate you for your injuries. We will also gather all of the medical information needed to understand your injuries and losses.

During the first stage, you should be attending your doctor and telling them about all of your symptoms and every area that you have pain. If you have trouble sleeping, tell your doctor. If your mood is affected, tell your doctor. If you have numbness or tingling, trouble with concentration or memory, tell your doctor. If your treatment team does not know about all of your symptoms then they cannot properly diagnose your injuries or recommend the proper treatment.

Follow your doctor’s advice. If your doctor recommends physiotherapy, then make an appointment. If your physiotherapist recommends that you do exercises, follow their recommendations. If you have trouble affording physiotherapy or other types of treatment, then talk to your lawyer about funding options.

If you miss out on work or income, then keep notes of what days you miss from work or what job opportunities you could not seek out or accept because of your injuries. This information is important to demonstrate to the insurance company how much money your injuries have cost you. Similarly, if you spend money for your injuries – such as parking expenses when seeing your doctor, or buying pain medication – keep your receipts and give them to your lawyer so you may be reimbursed as a part of the case.

The second stage of a slip and fall claim involves starting a formal lawsuit by filing legal documents with the court. Many slip and fall cases can be settled before needing to file a lawsuit. More serious injuries, however, generally require a formal lawsuit to be commenced in order to receive fair compensation. Once your claim is filed, we will exchange relevant documents with the insurance company and their lawyer so they can have information about your injuries and we can learn information about how or whether they caused your accident. There may be an “examination for discovery” which is a chance for us to interview the people responsible for your accident and for the insurance company lawyer to interview you about the accident and your injuries. Examinations for discovery are not held in a courtroom. They are far less formal than court and are usually held in an office building. Your lawyer will prepare you for the discovery so you are comfortable with the entire process.

The third stage of a case if typically mediation. If you have not already settled your case, then your lawyer will typically recommend a mediation. A mediation is an informal and confidential meeting with the insurance company and a mediator to try and settle your case. The mediator is a neutral party working to help settle your case. Mediation is a useful tool in British Columbia and is usually successful at settling your case.

The last stage of a slip and fall case is a trial. Trials are rare in slip and fall cases. The vast majority of cases settle well before trial. In some circumstances, however, it will be necessary to attend trial to receive fair compensation. The decision to attend trial will always be your own based on a lawyer’s legal advice. Trial can be an empowering experience where you are able to tell the court your story of how your injuries have impacted your life, particularly when you receive a fair verdict awarding you just compensation.

What should clients be prepared to share with their slip and fall lawyer?

Clients and lawyers have a special relationship. Your lawyer is your special advisor. It is our job to represent you to the fullest extent allowed by law. We are not judgmental. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential.

If you are not completely honest and forthright with your lawyer, then they will be unable to represent you to their fullest extent. You never want your lawyer to be surprised by a part of your case.

Your lawyer should know about all of injuries or health conditions present before the accident, especially ones that had an impact on your social life or your work life. Your lawyer should know how you earn income and how much income you earn. Your lawyer should know what injuries you suffered in the accident and how they impact your life. Your lawyer should know how the accident happened and what evidence you have in this regard, including pictures of the hazard and any witness information.

What is a plaintiff trying to prove by filing a slip and fall claim? How does the insurance company defend these types of claims?

In a slip and fall case, the plaintiff must demonstrate that someone else caused the accident through their own negligence. For example, if a property owner does not shovel or salt walkways the morning after a snowfall, then that is likely negligent. If a grocery store does not clean up spilled laundry detergent relatively soon after the spill, then that is likely negligent. The plaintiff must also prove that their injuries were caused by the accident and not something else, such as a prior accident or another health condition.

Insurance companies use a variety of tactics to try and minimize the compensation someone receives after an accident. They look for evidence that your injuries are less severe than they actually are. For example, if your family doctor records do not have notations of your injuries or all of your symptoms, then the insurance company will argue that you were not badly injured otherwise your doctor would know more about your injuries. Make sure you tell your doctor about all of your injuries and symptoms and that everything you tell them is accurate and truthful. Do not downplay your injuries or exaggerate your symptoms.

Insurance companies will argue that you never fell or that they were not responsible for your fall. For example, it is important to know what caused your fall. If you do not know what caused your fall you cannot prove there was a hazard present that the property owner should have removed. You should know whether your fall was caused by snow, ice or spilled liquid, for example. Take pictures of the hazard whenever possible.

Insurance companies will often argue that your fall happened because you were not paying attention to where you were walking. In some cases, your award can be reduced if you were not paying proper attention. It is rare, however, for your case to be defeated if your fall was also caused by a hazard, like ice or spilled liquid, on the property.

Insurance companies want proof of your losses. If you have not saved receipts, for example, you may not be entitled to out-of-pocket expenses related to your injuries, such as parking expenses for attending your doctor or medication expenses. Always keep your receipts and give them to your lawyer.

What are some examples of the parties that may be involved with slip and fall cases?  Who are the plaintiffs? Who are the defendants?

The word “plaintiff” refers to the injured person in a slip and fall case. Generally speaking, anyone who is injured by a hazard on someone’s property can be a plaintiff involved in a slip and fall case. Common examples include slipping and falling due to snow or ice and slipping due to spilled liquid, such as water or food.

One exception is when the plaintiff was in the course of employment when they fell. In some cases, these people must pursue worker’s compensation benefits and are barred from starting a slip and fall case.

Some people are more vulnerable to being injured in slip and fall cases, including children, people with disabilities and older people. Property owners must, however, take precautions to ensure all visitors to their property are reasonably safe, including people vulnerable to injuries.

The defendant is the party responsible for ensuring a property is reasonably safe for visitors. For example, the property owner, the property manager, and the property maintenance company. The defendants themselves have little involvement in slip and fall cases; almost every aspect is handled by their insurance company, including paying out compensation to plaintiffs.

What has to be proven with slip and fall case?

To prove a slip and fall case, your lawyer must demonstrate two things: 1) that your accident was caused by a failure to keep a property reasonably safe, and 2) that you suffered an injury as a result of your fall.

In order to prove that a property was not reasonably safe, your lawyer will try to secure photographs and measurements of what caused your accident. It is always best to take pictures yourself immediately after your accident whenever possible.

Your lawyer will also request information from the property owner, including maintenance logs showing when they did or did not inspect the accident location. Property owners have an obligation to conduct periodic inspections to identify and remove hazards from their property to make sure that visitors are safe.

In order to prove your injuries, your lawyer will request your medical records. In order to ensure your medical records are accurate, tell your doctor about all of your injuries and all of your symptoms. This will ensure your medical file is accurate for your case and it will ensure that your doctor can properly diagnose your injuries.

In order to understand your income loss, your lawyer will review your payroll records and your income tax records. If you run your own business, then we will review, with the assistance of a forensic accountant, your business records in order to demonstrate how much income you have lost due to your injuries.

In some cases, your lawyer will pay for a doctor or another expert to review your file and interview you so they can prepare a report diagnosing your injuries and explaining how they will impact your social and work life in the future. Preszler Law has connections with some of the best doctors in the province and even doctors in other provinces to help assess our clients.

How does the age of the injured party affect BC slip and fall cases?

Age has four main impacts on a slip and fall case.

First, people under the age of 19 are not legally able to instruct a lawyer. Instead, a parent or a guardian is appointed to make decisions on their behalf. The settlement also must be approved by the court in order to be finalized.

Second, property owners must make sure that their property is reasonably safe for people of all ages. This can mean taking extra precautions to ensure that children, who can be less predictable and sometimes more reckless, are reasonably safe. It can also mean ensuring that the property is reasonably safe for older people whose mobility may be restricted or vision may be reduced.

Third, some people are more vulnerable to injuries. Older people, unfortunately, do not heal as well as children do. Older people are also more likely to suffer certain kinds of injuries, such as broken bones. These vulnerabilities often make it more important to hire a lawyer to ensure your legal interests are protected and that you receive fair compensation to pay for your treatment needs.

Fourth, personal injury claims can be far more important for children than older people because their injuries could impact their life for many more years. If a child is injured in a way that will impact their employability, then they could lose income for the entirety of their working career. Even if the child will lose only $5,000 per year as a result of their injuries, this is a large loss when considering their 45 working years.

 

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