Asked about 1 year ago - New Rochelle, NYFlag
Reading a few articles online regarding experts(safety, engineer and etc) and slip/trip and falls. I have a few questions:
1.) Why is it advised to hire one early on in the case rather than at a later part? Wouldn't it worth saving money and only hire one when its close to trial just in case you need one?
2.)I have read that a trip and fall is more likely to require an expert, why is that?
3.) This question is about sidewalk/walkway etc
a.) A sudden elevation of 2 inches or more, why would you need an expert to prove that this would be a dangerous condition? Wouldn't pictures be sufficient enough to prove it?
4.)What is the general (approximate) cost for a safety expert to review photos and provide simple report?
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This is a lot to ask on a message board, where attorneys are volunteering their time. You should really discuss this with your attorney, or if you are in school than a professor. When to hire an attorney is a matter of preference and depends on the case. I rarely hire an economist until the end of a case, because their suppositions, as to inflation and whether a client can go back to work can change as time passes. In complex medical cases, I hire or at least consult with an attorney early to help frame the complaint and discovery. In most other cases, I play it a bit more by ear. In a sidewalk case when there is a clear code violation, I tend to wait. If the violation is not clear, I hone at that time.
An expert in a trip and fall case is necessary to take accurate measurements, and provided an affidavit and/or testimony that the defect is out of code, existed for a "period of time", and created a trip hazard. Photographs don't always tell the story, and an expert has to explaint why a rise of two inches creates a defect sufficient enough to cause a loss.
I had a great sidewalk expert, who charged $800 for a site review and initial report. He is slowing down though, not taking new clients, and may retire in the future. I've been looking at new experts to do the same thing and most are in the $1500 rang.e
The other two answers are very comprehensive. I would add this very simple observation. Every case is different. Even cases that seem similar on the surface, may not be similar at all. Therefore there are no cut and dried answers to your questions. Here is some general information.
1) In general if you need an expert, it's better to hire one sooner than later, because the condition may change over time.
2) Trip and falls sometimes require experts, sometimes experts are actually detrimental. This is a decision the lawyer needs to make based on the specifics of the case.
3) Even if the elevation change is substantial, you may need to prove why it exists, how long it existed, and who is responsible.
4) If a case is worth getting an expert, the expert should inspect the actual condition if at all possible. The cost may vary from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Experts are important in trip and fall cases because unlike car accidents, construction accidents, medical malpractice and other PI claims, the plaintiff is partially at fault in almost every slip and fall, and the judge will instruct the jury to specifically take this fault into consideration. If the defect is a huge obvious and dangerous one that just stinks of blatant negligence, the defense will argue that the plaintiff should have been more careful and avoided it. If the defect is smaller then the plaintiff could have observed it by employing more care (walking at quarter speed constantly looking down at each foot placement would reveal an elevation differential of two inches before any injury could result). Experts can put the defects back into proper perspective for the jury. Having an expert early in such a case can help the attorney focus his presentation of the claim so as to be most in line with either the law or the code or the expert opinions. There is very little to be gained by doing it late rather than early as the cost would be about the same in either event, and no substantial case (significant injury) will generally be fully and fairly settled early without some expert input.
(1) Different factors dictate timing in retaining experts. In some cases of an obvious defect, one might wish to retain an expert early, before the premises is repaired. Also, bear in mind that insurance companies do not "just settle" cases unless they see that the attorney handling the case is prepared and will have the evidence at the time of trial. I agree fully with what attorney Gold has said, especially with regard to hiring an economic expert later, because those numbers do change based largely on the dynamics of the plaintiff's recovery and also the economy.
(2) 'Trip and fall' and 'slip and fall' cases often require an expert because such cases are not the "slam dunk" that many people think. Evidence is required to demonstrate that the propery owner did something, or failed to do something, that rises to the level of negligence. See link # 1 below.
(3) Sidewalk cases require an actionable defect. One does not prevail in such a case simply by saying "I fell - I deserve settlement." Proof of negligence is always required. Pictures do not convey measurements, Depending on the angle, lighting and other factors, two different photos can show very different things. I have taken commercial photography classes. I have also seen insurance companies take photos that make things look OK that really aren't OK at all. See link # 1 below.
(4) Different experts have different price ranges. I select experts who have successfully assisted other attorneys in my trial lawyers associations.
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