I presume an insurance defense attorney is involved representing you -- that's where you need to go to ask these questions.
If you have no counsel (thus, no insurance), no one on a message board can tell you that any particular settlement is or is not just due to the lack of information available (lawyers are careful that way).
Best of luck to you!
In no way am I offering you legal advice, and in no way has my comment created an attorney-client relationship. You are not to rely upon my note above in any way, but insted need to sit down with counsel and share all relevant facts before receiving fully-informed legal advice. If you want to be completely sure of your rights, you must sit down with an experienced criminal defense attorney to be fully aware of your rights.
If you have liability ins, it should be handling this for you. Unless you have a large deductible of some sort, the ins co can settle even if you dont want them to. If you have no ins, the pltf generally must show by a mere preponderance, that you were negligent, and she was damaged. If you had bldg code violations, that could support her claim. I dont know if there was anything else about the property that made it dangerous. If she has medical expenses, she can testify to them, as well as her physical pain and suffering. It helps if she has medical documentation of her injuries, records and reports. If this is small claims court, the judge can accept her testimony, but it would be better for her if she had a medical report. You may have arguments about liability, such as assumption of the risk, comparative fault, etc. You should talk to your ins co or a local lawyer to see what defenses are availble to you in your state. If you have relevant info to show she didnt act like she was hurt or in pain after this, those witnesses would be helpful (eg saw her engaging in normal physical activities after in no apparent distress, such as running, carrying groceries, riding a bike, etc).
If the settlement is "rather small", you might want to accept it especially if you do not have any liability insurance (which you did not mention in the question). Review what all of my colleagues have stated and consider your situation and then make your choice. Not having handrails where there should be handrails according to your state's regulations, could be a real issue for you.
Mr. Crosner is licensed to practice law in California and has been practicing law in California since 1978. The response herein is general legal and business analysis.. It is not intended nor construed to be "legal advice" but rather it is analysis, and different lawyers may analyze this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.
Simply report this to your homeowner's insurance company to resolve, and don't waste your time with this.
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A judge can absolutely consider a personal injury claim without a doctor's report. Expert medical testimony may be required to prove SOME things - if you want to prove a fact that you would need specialized education or training to understand, this will usually require an expert. For example, if an injured person wanted to prove that their shoulder injury will be permanent, this would take more than just the injured person saying "gee, I think it'll always hurt."
But some things absolutely don't need expert testimony. Say for example that a criminal chops off someone's hand and the injured person then sues the criminal for assault. In that case, the injured person doesn't need a doctor to prove that they've lost their hand - all they have is a stump. The judge won't need a doctor's report to see that.
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To prove that you are liable for her injuries, the tenant must prove that the lack of a handrail created an "unreasonable risk of harm" to the tenant. That is generally a question for the finder of fact i.e., the judge or jury. You will probably be found liable if the applicable building code required a handrail. Regardless, if you are sued you should immediately retain an attorney to defend you.
Whether to settle is up to you. Your attorney can advise you if the offer is good or bad, but still your call in the end.
As a property owner you have a duty to keep the premises safe, disclose known dangers, and so forth, but the other person has a duty to avoid open and obvious dangers also. To completely understand all the duties and defense is difficult.
Generally, a person has a right to be compensated for their damages due to the negligence of another. Damages are usually based on 3 things in a personal injury case, 1, medical bills, 2, lost wages, and 3, pain and suffering. The 1st two are easy to calculate based off the medical bills and wage verification information, however, the pain and suffering is more difficult. It comes down to what a jury will think. For example, a sore butt seems minor stated that way, but testimony that this person had broken tail bone is bad, as they can not sit, drive, etc.
With that said, all the elements of negligence must be established, for example did you have any duty owed to this tenant? If so, did you breach that duty? If so, was your breach of that duty the direct and proximate cause of the tenants damages? As you can see this gets complicated fast.
So, you or your attorney can evaluate all these factors and decide if you should settle or not. I believe that you are making a business decision on how much it will cost you to defend the case, rather than whether if is about "the principle" of things, but again - its your call on that one!
Best of luck to you,
Attorney Stacy E. Pepper is licensed in all State and Federal Courts in Mississippi. He is a founding Partner in the law firm of Pepper & Odom, P.C. Nothing posted here constitutes any attorney client relationship and is meant for educational purposes only. Office hours are 8:00 a.m till 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Phone: 601-914-9219 Facsimile: 888-456-2160 www.pepperodom.com
Turn this claim into your insurance provider. They are contracted to defend you in such matters.
NOTE: The use of the Internet for communications with the firm or this attorney will not establish an attorney-client relationship and messages containing confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent.
Unfortunately, there are people who will try to take advantage of a situation like this to make money. I understand your frustration, but consider letting your insurance company settle. You don't need the hassle and could use your time doing something more productive. Good luck!
This response is given solely as a general response to the question and does not create an attorney / client relationship between the questioner and responder.
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