In a moment, you’ll see exactly how I got a $250,000 settlement for a resort guest’s slip and fall in a bathtub. She broke her arm.
The strategy that I used to settle this case can be used in all types of personal injury claims. It is not limited to hotel bathtub slip and fall cases. Thus, you can use these techniques for all types of slip and fall (and other) claims against a hotel or any company.
In this article, I take you step by step as to how I negotiated this $250,000 settlement. And you’ll get actionable tips to avoid killing a similar case.
Angela is in her forties and lives in Debary, Florida. She decided to go on vacation with her husband. They booked a room at the Legacy Vacation Resorts in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. This hotel is located near Orlando.
During the first night of her stay, she entered the bathroom of the suite. She wanted to take a bath before going to bed.
First, I’m going to give Angela’s version of the events. Later in this article, I’ll share the hotel’s insurance company’s side of the story. Ultimately, as in virtually every personal injury settlement, the hotel denied liability.
Here is a photo of the tub. Angela was smart for quickly taking photos of the bathtub after the accident.
Here is another photo of the tub:
Angela claimed that there was no separate shower. She believed that the gray bar on the wall is the shower fixture (and not a grab bar).
In the photo below, I added a blue arrow that points to a gray “bar” on the wall.
Always take an additional photo from far away that shows the “big picture”. You should take enough photos so that anyone viewing the photos has a 360 degree view of the accident scene. In other words, take photos from multiple angles.
In this case, it would have been nice if Angela would’ve taken a photo of the entire wall all the way up to the ceiling. This would have helped me get a better understanding of the bathtub and shower design. Nevertheless, at least she took some photos of the tub.
Back to the night of the accident. Angela decided to take a bath.
She turned the water on to let the tub heat up. Next, she stepped up on the single step to enter the tub. She sat on the side of the tub to enter the bath. When she placed her right foot in the tub, it came down on the drain stopper. This poked the bottom of her foot.
She then had to move her foot a little further into the tub. Angela pivoted and placed her left foot in the tub and proceeded to stand up.
She Slipped and Fell Just After Stepping Into the Bathtub
At this point, she realized the tub was extremely slick. She fell forward.
Angela claimed that there was no hand rail or place for her to grab to stop her fall. Therefore, she placed her arms in front of her to stop herself and to brace the fall. She didn’t want to hit her head on the edge of the tub.
As her arm twisted, she fell on what felt like a sheet of glass. (However, it wasn’t glass.) Angela’s arm went over her head. She heard a crack as she braced for the impact.
Angela hit her knee, hip, and her head impacted her arm and the side of the tub. When she sat up, she experienced extreme pain in her right arm and shoulder area. Unfortunately, she could not get out of the tub by herself.
Her husband called 911. Paramedics came to the hotel room. An ambulance took her to Orlando Regional Medical Center (Orlando Health). Cases are typically worth more if you take an ambulance to the hospital.
Orlando Health is the same hospital that an ambulance may take you to if you are hurt at Universal Studios Orlando.)
Hotel Guest Broke Her Arm Upper (Humerus)
At the hospital, she was told that she fractured her proximal humerus. The proximal humerus is the part of the upper arm bone that is closest to the shoulder. It’s the upper arm bone that is further from the elbow.
At the top of this article is the actual MRI image that showed the break in her arm.
As a result of the serious arm fracture, doctors performed surgery. Surgery increases the full settlement value of a case. She was right hand dominant. The full settlement value of a case is higher if you injured your dominant arm.
In this case, her surgery consisted of having a steel plate with 10 screws inserted into her arm bone.
If you look at past Florida personal injury jury verdicts, you’ll see the following:
The full settlement value for pain and suffering from of a broken arm is usually between $150,000 and $250,000.
That amount does not include medical bills, and lost wages. Those damages are additional. Also, I’m not talking about rural counties. Juries typically award much less in rural counties. And so do adjusters.
Of course, the full value of pain and suffering for a broken arm can be much higher than $250,000. But, again, I’m generalizing.
Angela told me that there was no anti-slip mat in the tub, or rails to assist with entry or exit. She also alleged that there was no shower curtain to grab. (The lack of a shower curtain isn’t negligence in this case.) Basically, she claimed that the tub was slick as ice.
Hotel Guest Couldn’t Find a Local Attorney (So She Contacted Me)
After Angela’s accident, she searched for a local slip and fall lawyer. As a reminder, her accident happened in Lake Buena Vista. Therefore, she searched for nearby Orlando hotel bathtub and shower slip and fall lawyers. This included Kissimmee hotel slip and fall attorneys. Unfortunately, according to Angela:
“No one would touch my case.
Angela then decided to use a different strategy to find a slip and fall lawyer. While researching attorneys, she found a case that was similar to hers. Specifically, she read about a hotel bathtub (shower) slip and fall settlement for $197,500. This gave Angela some hope.
As you might have guessed, that case was mine.
Let me give some quick facts about that hotel bathtub slip and fall case. Then, I’ll continue discussing Angela’s case.
That other accident occurred at the Courtyard Marriott in Pensacola, Florida. Like Angela, that hotel guest suffered a broken arm (humerus) and had surgery. In that case, I learned a tremendous amount about bathtub safety standards. I did this by speaking with several engineering experts who specialized in bathtub and shower floor safety and slip resistance. I literally spent hours on the phone with engineers from California, Pennsylvania, Georgia and several in Florida. Additionally, I read up on every bathtub slip and fall case that was reported in Florida. And in the entire U.S.
About twenty days after her fall, Angela completed the Free consultation form on my website. (The purpose of the consultation is to see if I can represent you.) She wanted to know if I could be her attorney. I spoke with her on the very first call. We spoke for about one hour. When she initially contacted me, she thought she might also need surgery to her wrist. Fortunately, she did not break her wrist. A broken wrist would have increased the full settlement value of her case.
Fortunately, I was able to represent Angela. She hired me as her personal injury attorney to make a claim against the hotel.
Don’t wait 20 days to contact an attorney!
It’s too long. If you’re badly injured, it’s best to have an attorney start working on your case immediately. Evidence can be lost if you wait. In turn, this reduces settlement value.
Philadelphia Insurance Company Insured the Hotel
When Angela first contacted my law firm, she already knew that Philadelphia Insurance Company insured the hotel. I’ve settled several personal injury claims with Philadelphia. (In one case, Philadelphia paid me $100,000 of a $325,000 personal injury settlement.)
Philadephia Insurance Company is part of Tokio Marine Group. Both Philadelphia and Tokio Marine are huge companies.
Historically, Philadelphia has a reputation for making very low offers in personal injury claims. I used to think that Philadelphia paid similarly to Progressive, State Farm, Allstate and GEICO. Those other insurance companies all pay poorly.
Philadelphia Insurance Company has a reputation for paying much less to settle (an injury claim) than other insurance companies including USAA, Nationwide, The Hartford or even Lyft’s insurance company (when it used to be Zurich).
Here, I settled my client’s claim for $250,000. (In a moment, I’ll get into how I calculated the settlement value.) If this $250,000 settlement is any indication of how Philadelphia is currently handling claims, they’ve improved. Time will tell.
If you want to try to settle your case without a lawsuit, the quality of the insurance company affects its settlement offer. The particular insurance company that insures the alleged wrongdoer is one of the many factors that affect the settlement amount.
I Immediately Sent a Request to The Hotel to Preserve The Tub
Immediately after Angela hired me as her attorney, I sent the hotel a written request to preserve the tub. I also asked for them to disclose certain insurance information.
This is 1 of 13 reasons that you want to quickly hire a personal injury lawyer. An accident attorney knows the proper letters to send. A lawyer also knows when to send them and where to send them.
I told the hotel that I wanted to have an engineer to inspect the tub. Philadelphia Insurance Company denied my request.
I argued That the Bathtub Floor Was Unreasonably Slippery
I argued that the hotel was liable for allowing the flooring to be unreasonably slippery. As expected, the hotel’s insurance company disagreed. The adjuster told me that there was no issue with the flooring.
I did what we do best. I built up her case. This including searching the internet to look for other guests who had complained about the same flooring on which my client slipped.
Why does this matter?
Because the more aware that a hotel is of a slippery floor on its property before an accident, the better for the guest’s injury case.
It took several hours to find just a few complaints from other guests about the slippery flooring in the bathroom. (As technology improves, searching will become easier.) Some guests described the steps leading up to the tub as dangerous.
The best part?
The hotel responded to these comments online. Thus, I argued that the hotel knew about the slippery condition before my client’s accident.
I sent these complaints to the hotel insurance company’s adjuster. The adjuster told me that she considered the reviews when making her offer. This may have been time well spent. I’ll never know how much impact these comments had on the $250,000 settlement. I’d like to think that they were influential.
Hotel’s Insurer Said There Were Rubber Mats and Warning Sign
There is always too sides to a story. Philadelphia assigned claims examiner Dawn Hicks to the claim. A couple months after I first contacted her, she told me what her initial investigation revealed.
there were rubber mats that could be used for the floor and also a slippery when wet warning label displayed. Once your client is finished treating, I would like to request a face to face interview.Email from Philadelphia Insurance Companies
As a matter of practice, I generally don’t allow my clients to give a face to face interview. I don’t believe that Dawn asked again for an interview.
I asked the adjuster to tell me where the rubber mats, and slippery when wet label were located. She responded by saying:
Our investigation revealed rubber mats and an actual floor mat towel sit on the side of Jacuzzi. There is also a slippery when wet sign on the southwest side of Jacuzzi. There are additional bath towels on the towel rack, on the sink counter and underneath the sink. As you are aware, medical payment reimbursement is excluded on this policy and I do not see any liability/negligence on the part of Legacy Vacation Club.
Some hotels have Medical payment coverage. It pays for the injured person’s medical expenses regardless of fault. However, medical payment coverage does not pay for pain, suffering or lost wages.
As an example, I settled a case for a client who slipped and fell at a Hyatt Place hotel in Doral, Miami-Dade County, Florida. Zurich Insurance Company insured the Hyatt Place. The Zurich commercial general liability policy had $5,000 in medical payments coverage. Zurich paid $5,000 for my client’s medical expenses. That was in addition to liability coverage. I settled the remainder of the case with Zurich for $18,000.
Back to Angela’s case.
To recap, the adjuster told me that she didn’t think the hotel was liable. Dawn told me there are clear signs advising:
slippery when wet.
The adjuster then offered $12,500 as settlement based on what she called comparative negligence and remote liability. Basically, she placed blame on the hotel guest. She was also saying that it was difficult for the guest to prove her case.
We Offered to Settle for $336,500
If the case is worth under the hotel insurance company’s policy limits, I normally don’t offer to settle until my client is finished with his or her medical treatment. However, Angela wanted me to ask the hotel for a settlement offer. She would not accept a settlement that would put less than $50,000 in her pocket, after my attorney’s fees, costs, and payment of her outstanding medical bills and health insurance lien. (Remember, if your health insurance pays medical bills, it may be entitled to get repaid from your injury settlement.)
I told Angela that our opening offer to settle should be for $336,500. Why so high?
Because she had not finished her medical treatment. As you will see in a moment, it was a smart move.
On December 28, 2018, Philadelphia increased its offer to $18,000 to settle. I responded about a month later by giving the adjuster an additional medical records for the months of October and December.
On January 29, 2019, Dawn asked me if I have a counter offer. That same day, I made a counter offer of $319,000. On February 19, 2019, I asked Dawn if she had a response to our $319,000 demand. That same night, she offered to settle for $22,500.
The next day, I sent Philadelphia Insurance Company the updated health insurance lien. It showed that Angela’s medical providers submitted $246,741 in charges to the health insurance company. In a Florida personal injury trial, the jury gets to hear the total amount of medical billed charges. And high billed charges often leads to a higher pain and suffering award. Insurance companies know this.
While the billed charges were around $281,215.00, Angela’s health insurance company only paid like $20,000 or so. As a result, she owed about $2,000 out of her pocket. The rest was adjusted. This means that Angela did not owe the difference. Getting this contractual adjustment is one of the big benefits of using your health insurance.
On March 12, 2019, I received a phone call from Philadelphia Insurance Company. Dawn offered to settle for $60,000. I asked her to confirm the offer in writing. She did via email.
Always ask the insurance adjuster to confirm its offer in writing. This way, the insurance company can’t later claim that they made this offer.
I told Dawn that the doctor thought that Angela had bursitis and shoulder impingement. He believed that there is a significant chance hardware removal will alleviate a good deal of her pain. I let Dawn know that Angela was deciding if, and when, to have the surgery.
Angela Had a 2nd Surgery to Remove the Hardware
Angela chose to have her hardware removed. Specifically, the operation was:
- Right shoulder removal of deep implants in the proximal humerus including plate and screws.
- Right shoulder open subacromial decompression and lysis of adhesions.
I asked Angela to take photos of the incision site after the hardware removal surgery.
I sent the photos to the hotel’s insurance company.
Photos of an incision site help the insurance company understand the seriousness of the injury. In turn, they increase the full settlement value of the case.
After her surgery, the diagnosis was:
- Right proximal humerus, painful hardware due to prior proximal humerus fracture.
- Postsurgical subacromial impingement with associated postsurgical subdeltoid adhesions.
On May 14, 2019, Dawn (Philadelphia Insurance Company) emailed me. She said that Korina Bars was the new adjuster assinged to this claim. I’m not sure why they changed adjusters. However, I assume that Korina is a higher level adjuster than Dawn. Higher level adjusters can settle cases for higher amounts.
As a general rule, I never settle a case for less than the policy limits before my client is finished with their medical treatment.
Because the full settlement value of a case continues to increase as the injured person gets more medical treatment. In other words, the more treatment, the higher the full settlement value of the case. I made this clear to her.
However, it is a client’s decision as to when to settle. Angela spoke with her orthopedic surgeon.
The good news?
Angela’s doctor thinks her shoulder is doing great. He wants to see just one more time in five months. Otherwise, he doesn’t believe she needs any additional treatment.
After speaking with him, she determined that is was in her best interest to settle. Basically, her arm was doing really good.
On July 30, 2019, my paralegal sent Korina the orthopaedic surgeon’s medical record for Angela’s visit in late May. That record mentioned that it had been two months since Angela’s hardware removal surgery.
Philadelphia Insurance Company Offers to Settle for $150K
The next day, Korina offered to settle for $150,000. On August 1, 2019, we offered to settle for $350,000. The next day, Korina made a counter offer of $175,000. The same day, I offered to settle for $325,000 with Philadelphia Insurance Company. Within one hour, Korina offered to settle for $190,000.
The same day, I dropped our offer to settle to $305,000. Minutes later, Korina offered to settle for $205,000.
The reviews have been considered. Your client still has a duty. Additionally, she signed a waiver with her reservation agreement.Email from Philadelphia Insurance Company dated August 2, 2019
For the first time, Philadelphia Insurance Company mentioned that Angela signed a waiver with her reservation agreement. (She booked the hotel through Booking.com)
I assume that Korina was implying that, when Angela booked the hotel room, she signed a document stating that she could not sue the hotel if she was later injured.
On August 5, 2019, we accepted Philadelphia Insurance Company’s $250,000 offer to settle.
The Settlement Was for 20 Times Hotel’s Insurance Company’s First Offer!
We may have been able to settle for more than $250,000. However, Angela wanted to settle for $250,000. Thus, I honored her request.
The $250,000 settlement is for approximately 20 times the hotel’s insurance company’s first offer!
The best part?
We settled without a lawsuit. This saved my client a huge amount of stress and money. Let me explain.
Some attorneys get frustrated when the hotel’s insurance company doesn’t make a fast and fair offer to settle. (I was guilty of this about 10 or so years ago.) In large part due to their frustration, these attorneys sue the hotel.
But here’s the problem:
Once you sue, the hotel’s insurance company hires an attorney to defend it. The hotel (or its insurance company) pays its attorneys by the hour. Therefore, the more work they to do on the case, the more they can bill the hotel’s insurer. And many attorneys like to bill!
This is different than how the hotel guest’s attorney makes money. The guest’s attorney’s fee is a percentage of the total settlement. The hotel guest’s attorney wants to get paid fair settlement value as fast as possible.
$250K Settlement was for 10 Times the Paid Medical Bills
This $250,000 settlement was about ten times the medical bills that were paid!
Those medical bills consisted of the amount that her health insurance paid to her medical providers. I had to pay back the health insurance for the medical bills that it paid to her medical providers. However, since she had an attorney (me) represented her in this case, we received a deep discount on the amount that we had to repay the health insurance company.
Her “paid medical bills” also included her out of pocket medical bills, which were around $2,000.
Her medical providers total billed charges were approximately $218,215.00. Looking at it another way, the $250,000 settlement was for 89% of the total medical billed charges.
The total billed charges are not necessarily what the injured person owes to the medical providers. If the injured person has health insurance, then it usually pays the medical providers at a deeply discounted rate.
Guest’s Attorneys Fees Were Less Since We Did Not Sue
Again, I didn’t sue in this case. Thus, my attorney’s fee was 33 and 1/3 percent of the total settlement.
If I would’ve sued, my fees would’ve gone up to 40%. This is because if we would have sued the hotel, it would have denied liability. And that allows me to charge 40% of the total settlement.
Let’s assume that I sued and settled for $250,000. In that instance, my client would’ve had to pay me $100,000 in fees. However, I did not sue. Therefore, my attorney’s fee was just $83,333. Yes, that’s a lot of money. I won’t deny it.
Basically, not suing the hotel saved my client at least $16,666 in fees, and $450 in costs.
The court charges about $400 if you are suing for over $15,000.
My goal is to the put the most money in my client’s pocket as possible.
Make no mistake about it. I sue.
Sometimes it’s necessary to sue. I’ve sued for personal injury in several Florida state courts, and in federal court in Florida. However, I usually only sue after I give the insurance company a fair chance to settle. And this may involve some waiting.
That said, I explain the claim process so thoroughly to my clients that they tend to follow my advice. Once you understand how long is takes to settle a personal injury case, it reduces your anxiety.
Some people reading this article will say:
That’s a decent settlement. But after paying her attorney, the health insurance lien and her medical bills, she gets a small payout.
They’d be wrong.
After my attorney’s fees and costs, repayment of her health insurance lien, and payment of all of outstanding medical bills, the hotel guest received over $157,350 in her pocket!
Basically, she got to keep 59% of the settlement.
That’s a great result. If I may say so myself. I’m happy to report that Angela agrees.
Most importantly, she is very happy with the settlement.
$225K of the $250K Settlement Was for Pain and Suffering
Approximately $225,000 of the $250,000 settlement was for pain and suffering. Thus, 90% of the settlement was for pain and suffering. It’s always a great when most of the settlement is for pain and suffering.
Here is the 5 star review that Angela gave my law firm on Google Maps:
In 2018, while staying at a resort I had a bad fall in a bathtub where I broke my upper humerus (upper arm) near the shoulder socket. I was rushed to the hospital. I had surgery within hours and had to have a steel plate and 10 screws placed to keep the bone together to mend.
All I asked of the resort was to help with medical expenses, they refused. So, my husband and I set out to find an attorney. We tried to find one local, and no one would touch the case. Never did we imagine that we would find someone like Mr. Ziegler and Jenny.
While researching attorneys my husband came across a case like mine that Mr. Ziegler had represented. We called and spoke with him on the phone and instantly liked him. He was honest with us about slip and falls being one of the hardest cases to take on. He was in no way wrong about that.
Over the last year and a half, we have emailed and talked on the phone more than times than I could ever count. He has always been there to respond to the simplest or hardest questions.
Mr. Ziegler and his Paralegal Jenny have never missed a beat with returning phone calls or emails quickly. I feel like I have found a friend in them. I’d call the office for something and it never failed that either him or Jenny would answer the phone personally.
I will not lie that I have had some struggles over the last few months with wanting to settle and Mr. Ziegler was always there to help and offer advice to me. I know he has several clients. But, I was never made to feel that there was anyone else but me that was his client. If you are looking for someone who cares and never gives up on you or your case this is the office, you need to hire him.
While my case should have taken twice as long as it did, we settled with in a year and a half. I could not be happier about my choice in an attorney’s office.Angela’s 5 star review on Google Maps
This case is just one of my many personal injury settlements. It’s just one of my many hotel injury settlements. Angela’s $250,000 settlement shows you that a Miami slip and lawyer is a great choice for a slip and fall that happens near Orlando, Florida.
Also, I’ve had many other settlements for a broken arm. In one case, I got my client a $170,000 settlement for his broken arm. That’s just one of my many settlements for out of state visitor who was in a car accident while visiting Florida.
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