What Happens When Slip and Fall Cases Go to Trial?

Slip and fall cases are quite common in the legal world. They typically involve a situation where a person fell and suffered injury due to an unsafe condition on someone else’s property, like a wet floor without warning signs or an uneven sidewalk. Many wonder if these types of cases ever actually make it to a full trial, or if they settle beforehand. There are arguments on both sides. Here’s an in-depth look at the reasons some slip and fall lawsuits have a full trial, while others resolve for a settlement first.

Why Slip and Fall Lawsuits Often Settle

There are a few key reasons both plaintiffs and defendants generally aim to settle slip and fall cases instead of leaving the decision up to a trial. These include:

The cases revolve around factual disputes. Slip and fall claims come down to what exactly happened – were there appropriate warning signs posted? Should the hazard have been obvious enough to the plaintiff to avoid? Did the property owner have adequate notice to fix the issue before the incident? With little hard evidence, it becomes a case of he-said/she-said. Witness testimony ends up being contradictory between the two sides. Both parties have decent reason to worry the jury will believe the other side, making trial risky for both.

The costs of litigation can get expensive. Providing depositions, hiring expert witnesses, paying attorney fees – the expenses stack up quickly. And since most slip and fall cases have modest value, spending huge sums fighting it out in court rarely makes economic sense for either side. It’s often smarter financially to settle for a lower dollar amount than to sink money into a trial you could potentially still lose.

Why Other Slip and Fall Cases Do Go to Trial

However, slip and fall lawsuits don’t always settle outside court. What leads some to take the full journey to a trial? Reasons include:

The plaintiff wants to make an example of the defendant. Sometimes when a plaintiff is severely injured from a fall, they wish to have their day in court regardless of settlement offers. This often happens when the plaintiff feels the property conditions showed negligent disregard for safety standards. The goal becomes not just monetary compensation but holding the business or property owner publicly accountable.

The defense or plaintiff has unrealistic expectations. During settlement talks, if either side puts unrealistic dollar amounts on the table, negotiations may quickly stall. For example, the defense may only offer a nuisance settlement, believing they have a rock-solid case. Meanwhile, the plaintiff may inflate their demands well beyond normal standards for similar injuries. With both sides feeling confident in their chances at trial, settlement becomes impossible.

The property owner prefers jury trials. Commercial property owners tend to choose jury trials in liability cases if settlement talks fail. They bank on jurors being anti-lawsuit and skeptical of plaintiffs pursuing “slip and sue” cases. Rightly or wrongly, they feel juries give them the best shot in court.

As you can see, whether slip and fall cases settle pre-trial or are battled out in court depends much on the personalities involved and how differently each side calculates their odds of winning. When views of the legal merits are close enough to find common ground – or litigations costs seem to outweigh potential reward – settlement logically occurs. But stubbornness, principle, unrealistic expectations, or perceived better odds with a jury can torpedo settlement hopes. In those situations, ready the witness stand!

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