People often assume that slipping and falling on someone’s property entitles them to a sizable insurance settlement. It’s true that, by law, property owners are “responsible for maintaining a relatively safe environment.” However, Louisiana jurisprudence leaves much open to interpretation, and proving fault in slip and fall accidents is not always as straightforward as it seems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 17,000 annual slip and fall accidents each year, but Lafayette and Baton Rouge Personal Injury Attorney Bart Bernard says these cases can seem like “David vs. Goliath” when individuals are going up against well-heeled corporate defendants.
In Louisiana, plaintiffs must establish three basic facts in order to prove slip and fall liability:
Defendants in slip and fall accident lawsuits can attack a plaintiff’s argument from several different angles:
The State of Louisiana allows for “pure comparative fault,” meaning that plaintiffs can be deemed partially liable for the accident, and still collect compensation for their injuries even if they are 99% at fault. The amount collected reduces based on how much liability the judge and jury ascribe to the plaintiff. For instance, in the case of Lois J. Nichols vs. Wal-Mart (1997), a Louisiana woman injured her hands, elbow, and knees falling on a slightly elevated concrete slab near a Wal-Mart entrance. The jury returned a $40,877.53 verdict, but reduced the award by 10% based on the woman’s own admission that she had been paying attention to the automobiles in the parking lot, rather than looking where she was walking.
Property owners carry liability insurance to reduce the cost, should someone become injured on their properties and sue. Even though they have paid premiums for this coverage, insurance providers hire the best and brightest law school graduates to represent their interests. Their goal is to settle fast and cheap.
There have been instances where insurance adjusters follow ambulances to hospitals to get plaintiffs to sign waivers agreeing to $500 settlements right away, without legal counsel. For the most part, insurance settlement offers average about $10,000 – but this can be a very small sum of money for people with enduring injuries that require a lot of treatment.
The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that only 4 percent of settlements total more than $1 million, and that the median settlement of a slip and fall case that proceeds all the way to court is $28,000.
“There is a general perception that plaintiffs are at least partially at fault in slip-and-fall cases, so they can be tougher to litigate than other types of injuries. It is an uphill battle, even when plaintiffs can prove the lasting effects of their injuries, but it’s something I feel very passionate about pursuing. People deserve a level playing field.”
Bart Bernard has earned hard-fought victories, including one case where a negligent property owner paid $853,000 for a young man’s fall down an elevator that shattered both heels, despite disputed liability. His many victories have put Bart Bernard in the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum and among the Elite Trial Lawyers of America. Why settle for less than the best? Your opponents aren’t. Call 888-GET-BART for the attention and assistance your case deserves.
Last modified: May 17, 2017