It's been a difficult couple of years for most businesses, as companies have dealt with pandemic shutdowns, supply and labor shortages, and more.
It has not been so tough for Walmart, however. The company boasted annual revenue of nearly $153 billion, with market share gains in grocery, increases in Sam's Club memberships, and more e-commerce sales.
The company is so big that it has its own company to handle worker's comp and personal injury claims against it. Walmart Claims Services, Inc, also known as Claims Management, Inc., has a reputation for making it extraordinarily hard for injured claimants to obtain compensation.
If a company is so big that it has its own liability insurance, you can bet they also have the resources to fight claims against them. If you have suffered an injury due to a slip and fall accident at your local Walmart store and are planning to seek compensation for your injury, hiring an experienced lawyer willing to go up against a giant is imperative.
The Typical Slip and Fall Claims Process
Generally, when a slip and fall accident occurs, and the injured person decides to seek compensation for their injury, they file a claim against the property owner's business liability insurance policy. The insurance company assigns an adjuster to investigate the claim and determine how much compensation to pay.
If the adjuster fails to pay the claim outright or negotiate a settlement that fairly compensates for your injury, you can file a lawsuit and let a judge or jury determine how much compensation to award.
Most slip and fall claims settle out of court. The main reason for this is that litigation is time-consuming and expensive for all parties concerned. There is also an uncertain outcome and the risk of negative publicity for the defendant. A quiet settlement in which they have some control over the terms of the agreement is generally preferred.
The difference for companies like Walmart is that if a corporation is so big that it can self-insure and so high-powered that it can investigate its own claims, you can bet it also has the resources to fight the claim in court.
About Walmart Claims Services, Inc.
Walmart's claims administrator, Walmart Claims Services, Inc., provides very little information on its website. The most revealing part of their site says, “professional claims administration through timely investigations, comprehensive evaluations, fair determinations, and superior customer service.”
The entity has a star rating of 1.09 out of 5 stars from the Better Business Bureau and dozens of negative reviews about how it handles claims. Many of these complaints suggest that claims adjusters are not returning phone calls, and claimants are waiting for hours on the phone to speak with someone.
Common Insurance Company Tactics
High-powered companies and their insurers make it difficult for injured individuals to file claims and seek compensation on their own. In addition to simply not returning claimants' calls or answering their questions, claims adjusters use questionable tactics to avoid paying out on claims. Here is a look at some of these tactics and how having a lawyer can help you avoid them.
The Early Lowball
One common insurance company tactic is for the claims adjuster to make a quick offer to settle a claim far below the claim's value. This offer generally comes with statements about how it is the maximum amount the claimant can receive, that the company is “helping the claimant out” by making the offer so quickly, and that the claimant must respond right away or lose out.
The problem with accepting an early settlement offer is that a claimant often does not know how much their claim is worth. Additionally, the injured party may not be able to evaluate whether it will fairly compensate all expenses and hardships related to the injury. However, if they agree to the offer, the case is resolved, and the claimant cannot go back and ask for more money if they later discover it wasn't enough.
An experienced slip and fall attorney understands how to value a claim. They can determine how much compensation the at-fault party's policy can pay and manage communication with the claims adjuster to protect you.
The Medical Record Release
Another common tactic that high-powered companies and insurers employ against slip and fall claims is to convince clients that they need to look at their medical records to evaluate the claim. They persuade the claimant to authorize the release of their entire medical history. At this point, the insurance company can pore over every record to find pre-existing conditions to blame for the medical issues the claimant is currently experiencing.
An attorney knows that a claims adjuster's access to medical records to evaluate a claim is limited and can help protect their client's privacy by handling these records requests.
While many of the complaints on the Better Business Bureau website about Walmart Claims Services, Inc. discuss claims adjusters who do not return phone calls, another claims adjuster does return the call to say they need to interview the claimant. They express concern for the claimant and a desire to make the process as easy as possible.
The adjuster gains the trust of the claimant during the interview, and then they use the claimant's responses against them to cast doubt on how the accident occurred or the extent of the claimant's injuries.
Claims adjusters have an easy time gaining the confidence of stressed, injured people. When you have an attorney handling the communication, you can rest assured that your words won't be twisted, taken out of context, and used to devalue your claim.
As the complaints about Walmart Claims Services, Inc. suggest, claims adjusters can often use avoidance as a tactic to reduce a claim as well. While the claimant is waiting for a response, the statute of limitations on their claim is ticking away. The statute of limitations is a statutory deadline for filing a claim in court.
If you fail to file the claim before the deadline, you likely will lose the right to seek compensation for your injury. However, why does this matter if most personal injury claims resolve out-of-court through settlements?
The problem is that an out-of-court settlement is a provision of compensation in exchange for not taking the case to court. If the provider leads the claimant on in a bid to settle out of court and draws conversations beyond the statute of limitations, the claimant cannot recover compensation.
In addition to managing communication with the insurance provider—and keeping that communication focused on settlement negotiations rather than the release of the claimant's medical records or asking the claimant the same questions over and over again to procure slightly different answers—an experienced slip and fall lawyer will preserve their client's right to use the court system.
Finding a Lawyer Who Is Not Afraid of Litigation
Having a lawyer is crucial when filing a slip and fall claim against Walmart. It's also essential to find one who will fight for your right to compensation, whether that fight takes place in settlement negotiations or the courtroom. Contrary to television and movie portrayals, most lawyers don't spend their days embroiled in courtroom drama. In fact, many personal injury lawyers only choose cases that are likely to settle because they are not comfortable in court.
When selecting an attorney to help you with your Walmart slip and fall claim, ask them about their trial experience. If a claim against Walmart does go to court, they have the resources to fight. You need an attorney who won't back down.
What If You Can't Afford an Attorney?
Luckily, most personal injury attorneys use a contingent fee billing method, which makes their services available for anyone who needs them, regardless of financial status. The contingent fee means you do not have to pay for your attorney's services until there is a positive outcome to your claim.
Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Walmart Claim
Knowing the difficulty of dealing with corporations such as Walmart and their self-created liability insurance company, you need to hire a slip and fall lawyer for your claim to succeed.
Here are some other actions you can take to protect your claim:
- Avoid talking to the claims adjuster without your attorney present. Do not agree to provide a recorded statement for the claims adjuster.
- Do not post on your social media accounts after the accident. Claims adjusters will find claimants' social media accounts and use their posts to suggest that the claimant wasn't really injured or that the injury did not occur as they said it did.
- Seek medical attention immediately for your injury, attend all follow-up appointments, and follow the instructions from your doctor. This is as much for your health and well-being as it is for the benefit of your claim.
- Gather any evidence you have to prove your claim. Common evidence used in these cases includes photos of the hazard that caused your slip and fall, testimony from witnesses who saw the fall, a detailed personal diary of time missed from work and other impacts of your injury, employment records showing your earnings to prove lost wages, the clothing you wore when the accident occurred, and surveillance footage from the store. Your attorney will likely need to act quickly to preserve this footage.
Proving Your Claim
To have a successful slip and fall accident claim against Walmart (or any other company), you must prove the elements of negligence:
- The company is connected to the property where the accident occurred by ownership or lease.
- There was a hazard on the property that the company was aware of or reasonably should have been aware of.
- You were injured on the property.
- The hazard caused your injury.
Did you slip and fall at Walmart? Contact a slip and fall lawyer near you for your free case evaluation.