I received this question recently and thought it might prove interesting as it hits on the issue of what does one need an attorney:
My 16-year-old daughter slipped & fell in a Sam’s Club when she went to fill up a drink she purchased at the cafe. The ice dispenser had been leaking & the floor was wet. She fell hard onto her bottom with a loud scream. The floor there is concrete. There were witnesses to her fall. Not only was she very embarrassed, she also tore her dress. After helping her up, I went & got the manager & told him what happened. He took our information & told us to let them know if she had any more problems.
My daughter is a year round swimmer who practices 3 to 5 hours a day 6 days a week. After practice the next morning, she was complaining about her back hurting. I gave her Motrin & told her she was just sore from the fall. The next day the coach took her out of practice because her back was hurting her so much. I took her to the ER. They took x-rays & examined her. They said she was having back spasms due to straining her back when she fell. They gave her a prescription for pain medication & told her not to swim for two weeks. I notified Sam’s Club immediately & took them a copy of the ER papers. I did notice that they had put down carpets in front of the drink dispensers.
My daughter suffered from spasms for 5 days & was in pain for quite a while. She took the month of August off from swimming. We took her to the chiropractor for adjustments for 2 months. She was not only hurt physically, but also emotionally because she couldn’t swim.
Sam’s Club now wants us to settle her case for the cost of her medical bills and $1000.00. Is she entitled to something for pain & suffering? We are not looking to take advantage of what happened, but we do want what is fair for her. We were hoping to settle this matter without going to court, but as we have never been in this situation before, we are unsure as how to proceed from here. Do you think we need an attorney? If so, would hiring an attorney be worth it in the end, or would we be wasting time & money?
Thank you for your question. The thoroughness of your description makes it easier to frame the issue. From your description, it appears as if the café operator (Sam’s Club or a vendor) would bear primary liability for causing your daughter’s accident. The insurance adjuster for Sam’s Club seems to agree given his willingness to settle with you so quickly.
The question arises about your daughter’s damage. You have incurred some medical bills and your daughter did suffer some pain and missed some swimming. My sons play football at a very competitive level so I know what missing time can mean to a young athlete. You do not say where you live and location matters as the value of injuries varies greatly on jurisdiction. Your daughter had a relatively fast and full recovery and though she missed some swimming, the absence was kept to a minimum. That’s good news for your daughter, though it also means that her damages would be minimal.
You are trying to settle the case on your own. If you cannot settle the case now, proceeding further could be expensive and not worth the investment given the likely compensation for your daughter’s injury. If your daughter is fully recovered, then the offer to cover your medical bills plus $1,000 is probably comparable or even better than what you might net if you went to trial. (In New York, doctors require $5,000 or more just to testify.)
If your daughter’s condition does not fully heal or if she misses considerable more time at school or swimming, then you have a more complicated situation. In that case, you may well need to consult an attorney who can properly evaluate your case and maximize the compensation that your daughter can receive. When in doubt, you can always consult with a local personal injury attorney.
This situation begs the question: when does one need an attorney and when can you handle a case on your own? The answer differs from person to person as some people like to do things themselves and others prefer to rely on a steady and experienced hand. If you have a simple, low cost case where the only compensation involves covering medical bills or, in the case of a car accident, fixing a car, then an individual working with an insurance adjuster should do the trick. If a case involves questions of liability or the value of an injury, then an attorney’s expertise will protect your rights and maximize your compensation. The more significant the case, the more the defense will work to avoid payment and then a lawyer is needed. If you are in doubt, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. The consultation should be free (mine are) and the attorney can help steer you in the right direction.
In my blog and other forums and in speaking to potential clients, I often advise people on how they can handle a matter on their own. If a case becomes complex, if you have any doubts, I urge you to consult with an attorney. Do not give up your rights to larger compensation simply because you wanted to do it all on your own. I urge you to consult an attorney before filing suit on your own. Yes, you can file a suit without an attorney, but my experience has found that such initiatives usually winds up poorly for the victim. People have come to me after they started the case on their own faced with deadlines they cannot handle. Fixing these cases can be impossible and I generally will not take a case that an individual has started on his or her own.
I hope you found this information helpful. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a trip and fall or if you have been injured due to another’s negligence, you may want to consult a New York personal injury attorney experienced with slip and fall cases. I would be glad to answer your questions and assist you. The consultation is always free. You can call me at 1-800-660-1466 or email me. You can also visit my website or read more on my blog, New York Law Thoughts.
This material is intended for informational uses only. It is not meant as legal advice. To receive legal advice, you should consult an attorney.