Restaurant Slip and Fall Lawsuits: What to Expect and How to Prepare
If you’ve been in a slip and fall injury, then chances are that you’re considering a slip and fall restaurant lawsuit. This can be a confusing area of law for many first-time plaintiffs, as the strategic aspects of the injury claim can be quite different from other injury disputes, such as car accidents. Slip and fall injury lawsuits tend to involve a number of complex factors, such as employer-employee relationships, industry expectations, and plaintiff-related responsibilities.
Given the unique nature of slip and fall restaurant lawsuits, it’s important to seek the assistance of an experienced attorney. An attorney can help you navigate the dispute process after you’ve had a slip and fall in a restaurant. Contact 1-800-THE-LAW2 to get connected to a qualified attorney in your area for a free consultation.
How Liability Works In a Slip and Fall Lawsuit: The Basics
If you’ve had a slip and fall in a restaurant, then you’ll need to establish the defendant’s (i.e., the business owner/operator) liability to make a claim for compensation. To do so, you’ll have to show that they were negligent in creating or failing to correct a dangerous condition of property (otherwise known as a hazard) that caused you to be injured. In the restaurant context, this could be a liquid spill, or even a serious lack of lighting in the parking lot of the restaurant at night.
However, restaurant owners do not have an unlimited responsibility for all hazards. They can only be held liable if they knew or should have known about the hazard’s existence. Further, the injured plaintiff may have had their own responsibilities, such as avoiding an obvious hazard.
Let’s take a closer look.
If you enter onto a property, you have a responsibility to avoid “obvious” hazards. For example, imagine that there’s a massive electricity hazard with blinking lights and bright colors. If a reasonable person would notice it and step around it to avoid the hazard, then you can’t step on it and claim that the property owner is liable for the resulting injuries.
Length of Time Hazard Was Left “Unfixed”
In slip and fall lawsuits, the defendant may argue that they should not have been expected to “cleanup” or “fix” the hazard that caused the accident — as perhaps the hazard was only in existence for a brief period of time, before they had an opportunity to identify and fix it. This can be an effective defense to a slip and fall restaurant lawsuit.
That being said, courts will evaluate whether it was reasonable for the hazard to exist “uncorrected” by determining what the norm is in the defendant’s industry. This can be a little difficult to digest, so let’s use an example to clarify.
Suppose that you’re injured in a slip and fall at a fast food restaurant, due to a puddle of liquid on the ground. It turns out that someone had dropped their coke soda, spilling it all over the floor of the restaurant. Instead of putting up a hazard sign and/or cleaning it up, though, the employees allowed the spilled soda to stay on the floor for an hour. This led to you slipping and falling.
Now, a court would consider whether, for a fast food restaurant, a one hour delay inspecting the floor and clearing the hazard is enough. Very likely, however, they would consider it to be too-long of a delay. Most fast food restaurants have more frequent floor inspections, and you could potentially use that to counter the defendant’s argument, thereby imposing liability on them.
How Much Injury Compensation Will I Get?
There’s no “default” expectation for how much injury compensation you’ll get in your slip and fall restaurant lawsuit. Every case is different, and the amount you’re entitled to recover will depend on a number of factors. Damage claims tend to be higher when the injuries are more severe (and therefore more impactful on one’s lifestyle).
For example, suppose that you have a severe back injury after a slip and fall, and it prevents you from working for a year. Your job pays $70,000 annually. The wage loss claim is going to be rather significant, likely hovering around $70,000. By contrast, if you’re unemployed, then your wage loss claims would be nonexistent.
Damages fall into a number of different categories. Losses that count towards your damages claim total include, but are not limited to:
- Medical expenses
- Wage loss
- Loss of earning potential
- Property loss
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
- And more
How Long Does It Take To Negotiate A Settlement?
Most legal disputes end in a negotiated settlement — in fact, some industry observers have estimated that over 95 percent of disputes end in a settlement. But settlements are as varied as the cases they’re linked to. Depending on a number of different factors, settlements can be resolved quickly or can be delayed. It’s not uncommon for a settlement to be negotiated within a month of contacting an attorney, but it’s also entirely possible for a settlement to take a year (or more)!
Sometimes these factors are within your control, but in many cases, they aren’t. So don’t assume too much about how long it will take for a settlement to be negotiated. Just be open and engaged with the process.
For example, a “delayed” settlement may occur if liability is questionable, the damages are high, and the defendant is acting hostile and aggressive. All these factors together can lead to a lengthened negotiation period, especially if the defendant is not putting forth any reasonable settlement offers.
How Long Do You Have To Make A Claim For A Fall?
The length of time that you have to “file a lawsuit” for a slip and fall varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Every state has different laws that apply. These laws are known as statutes of limitation, and they establish a deadline by which you must file the claims associated with your lawsuit. If you do not do so before the deadline passes, then the courts will automatically dismiss your claims — you won’t have legal recourse to compensation.
Deadlines can be as short as two years (from the date of injury). Given how severe the consequences are, it’s critical that you file your claims within the applicable period. An attorney can help you with that, as it’s one of their core responsibilities to help you navigate your case in a timely manner.
That being said, if you do miss the deadline, all is not necessarily lost. Exceptions do apply in some cases. You’ll want to speak to an attorney about whether you might still have an actionable claim.
Contact 1-800-THE-LAW2 For A Free Legal Consultation
If you’ve been injured in an accident that was not your fault, then you could be entitled to monetary compensation. Bringing a legal claim against the defendant can feel overwhelming for those who aren’t familiar with the dispute process, and who may have anxiety about whether there will be a positive outcome. That’s why it’s important to work with an attorney who can provide detailed, professional guidance from start-to-finish.
Contact us at 1-800-THE-LAW2 to get connected to a qualified attorney in your area in just 10 minutes or less. We operate an extensive legal network of skilled attorneys who can provide a free legal consultation regarding your accident case. Best of all, the attorneys in our legal network offer their legal services on contingency — so you don’t pay until and unless you win compensation.