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Determined Widow Wins Trip-and-Fall Settlement Against Tough-Minded Insurance Company Despite Prior Injuries

We helped a semi-retired widow overcome the challenge to getting a settlement in a trip-and-fall case, made more complex because she had a prior injury.

Maxine is a sweet-tempered lady whose kind, generous nature masks a determined spirit and keen intellect.

She fell at a nice downtown Greenville, SC hotel, dramatically worsening an already-injured shoulder. Maxine could tell immediately the hotel’s initial concern began to evaporate when its insurance company took over. She knew she couldn’t win on her own. She says:

"It only took a couple of phone calls from the hotel’s insurance company wanting to record conversations with me that I realized that I needed to hire an attorney to handle my case. I felt that I needed to concentrate on getting through my surgery, and the healing process."

Insurance adjusters use this typical  tactic to prey on injured people and get them to sink their cases.

So Maxine went looking for a personal injury lawyer. She got referred to my firm by a friend. Maxine hired me, and I got to work. Here’s how we assured her happy ending.

Proving the Hotel’s Fault

I knew what Maxine didn’t: proving fault in a fall case is really hard because the law is tough.

Luckily, Maxine did an outstanding job gathering evidence from the scene. She had a witness—and even pictures! I’ve definitely taken cases with less evidence available, so I was thankful for this gift of ammo!

I took what she gave me to shut down the insurance company’s argument that the fall was Maxine’s fault. I sent the evidence with a letter pointing out:

  • Maxine attended a lunch presentation at the hotel.
  • She was wearing knee-high leather boots with a solid, waffled sole because they provide traction.
  • Her right boot toe got caught on duct tape applied to the floor. She went flying and landed on the hard floor, directly on her knees, and her left hand, which skidded violently up to her face.
  • The picture of tape on the floor showed it was old: you can see the wear and tear, and the tape is beginning to stick up from the floor. This also means the hotel put it there and knew about it and chose not to check to be sure it was still safe—or just didn’t care enough to do it.
  • The tape was put over a floor defect or maybe an electrical socket. It was located in a walkway between tables where the hotel should’ve expected guests to walk. The hotel did nothing to warn Maxine about it or prevent her from encountering it.

Once the adjuster got my liability package, we never discussed fault again.

On to the next hurdle.

Prior Injuries Don’t Prevent Settlement

Like many ladies of her distinction, Maxine battled wear-and-tear on her body from a life of good, hard work. That included her shoulder. Just three months before the fall, she’d seen an orthopedic surgeon for a small tear in her shoulder. To get a settlement, we had to prove the fall made it worse.

I’m comfortable dealing with medical evidence, so I was able to decipher Maxine’s medical records. In them, the surgeon made it pretty clear the fall worsened the tear to the point Maxine needed surgery.

Using more records from before the fall, I also pointed out how Maxine only went to the surgeon once for the prior injury, meaning she got better. I also compared the symptoms of both injuries to show how the fall dramatically worsened them.

Happy Ending

This is just a snapshot of a long legal battle, but it ended well. Maxine got her operation, recovered, and we reached a settlement she’s happy with. Read what she says about it.

$136,000

Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg, South Carolina personal injury and criminal defense lawyer.

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