Learn about all the damages to include in your slip and fall injury claim. Pursue the full compensation you deserve for your losses.
In 2015, the total medical costs for falls in the U.S. totaled more than $50 billion.¹ This number doesn’t even include losses such as pain and suffering or property damage.
Injuries from slip and fall accidents can be costly. Injured victims can understandably be unsure about what financial and personal losses they can include in their claim.
Slip and fall victims are entitled to seek reimbursement for economic losses, such as medical bills and lost wages. They can also receive compensation for non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering and scarring or disfigurement.
Personal injury claims are a way for injured people to receive financial reimbursement for their losses. If one party acted unreasonably or negligently, causing the victim’s injuries, they must make the victim “whole” again.
Making victims whole means compensating them so that they stand in the same position as before they were injured.
Liability for Slip and Fall Damages
Personal injury claims have two essential factors – liability and damages.
Liability refers to legal responsibility. If a person or business causes a slip and fall injury, they are legally responsible or liable for the resulting damages.
Damages are the financial and personal losses that a victim suffers after a slip and fall accident.
For example, if a person has to pay for medical treatment after falling, they experience financial damage because of the payment. The payment represents a loss of money that wouldn’t have taken place but for the accident.
In slip and fall cases, the liable property owner is responsible for reimbursing the injured victim for any damages or losses that they suffer.
Of course, no amount of money will ever rewind the clock and make it as if someone’s slip and fall never happened. But by paying for damages, the liable party helps cure the harm caused by the slip and fall.
The compensation that slip and fall victims should expect after an injury depends on the types and amounts of damages they suffered on account of the accident.
If someone only gets minor bruising or scrapes from a fall and doesn’t need medical attention, they won’t have a valid damage claim. In such a minor case, the victim did not incur any real losses.
However, you would have a valid claim if, after an accident, you needed emergency medical care and eventually physical therapy. The cost of these services, and the pain of going through with them, represent real financial and personal damages that a liable party is responsible for.
Sometimes called exemplary damages, punitive damages are awarded to punish wrongdoers above and beyond liability for the victim’s losses.
If the person or entity who caused your injuries acted deliberately or with extreme disregard for your safety and well-being, you might have the right to ask the court for punitive damages.
Punitive damages typically only apply in cases involving big businesses and are not given to help reimburse an injury victim. Rather, they’re awarded to help deter the at-fault party and others from behaving in similar ways in the future.
You won’t get punitive damages outside of a courtroom. Insurance companies won’t pay for punitive damages in a typical injury settlement.
A court may allow an award of punitive damages in a personal injury lawsuit, but courts normally reserve punitive damages for cases involving the willful, malicious, oppressive, fraudulent, or reckless behavior of the at-fault party.
Some states, including Alaska, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Oregon, and Utah, have a split-recovery statute. Under these laws, a portion of punitive damage awards goes to the state instead of 100 percent going to the injured party.
Types of Damages in Slip and Falls
Compensatory damages stand in contrast to punitive damages. These are the damages that most injured persons ask for after a slip and fall accident. As the name suggests, compensatory damages are meant to compensate or reimburse injured parties for their losses.
Compensatory damages come in two different categories – special and general damages.
Also known as economic damages, special damages have a pre-set monetary value, so there’s no debating what the damages are worth. Almost all slip and fall claims will ask for special damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and more.
1. Medical Care Expenses
Medical costs unnecessarily burden slip and fall victims, regardless of whether or not the injured person has health care coverage.
Common injuries in slip and fall cases include:
- Broken arms, wrists, or collarbones
- Fractured hips
- Sprained ankles or wrists
- Knee damage
- Shoulder injuries
- Spine and nerve damage
- Traumatic brain injury
All of these injuries require medical treatment, which can include both short-term and long-term care. Regardless of the treatment required, the medical care will cost money and result in other legitimate expenses.
When calculating your medical expenses, be sure to consider all the medical care you’ve received due to your slip and fall injury. Start from immediately after your injury going through to the present.
If you’ll need continued medical care, calculate these expenses into your damages as well.
You should include:
- Ambulance services
- Emergency room care
- Hospital stays
- Physical or occupational therapy
- Chiropractic care
- Lab work and other diagnostic tests
2. Lost Income and Wages
Some slip and fall injuries keep people from returning to work right away or keep them from going to work in the future. If this applies to you, you’re entitled to seek damages for lost wages and other lost earnings.
When calculating your lost wages, start with the first day that you missed work because of the accident and continue counting each day you had to miss because of your injuries.
If you’re still off work or limited in your ability to earn wages in the way you did before the fall, try to estimate values for these losses as well.
Also, be sure to account for any bonuses, tips, or commissions that you lost by not working.
3. Out-of-Pocket Expenses
You should consider all other injury-related expenses you incurred when calculating the value of your slip and fall compensation.
Out-of-pocket expenses might include:
- Fuel, parking, and hotel expenses for traveling to and from medical appointments
- Prescription medications
- Over-the-counter medications
- Medical equipment such as crutches, walkers, slings, wheelchairs, or respirators
- Replacement household services, including housekeeping, grocery shopping, childcare, and yard work while you were physically unable to accomplish them
- Any other costs you incurred due to your injury
If you anticipate future out-of-pocket expenses, estimate and include values for these in your injury claim as well.
4. Property Damage
Special damages can also include the repair and replacement of damaged property. For instance, if you broke your wedding ring in a slip and fall incident, your damages should cover the cost of repairing or replacing your ring.
Other examples of damaged property:
- Cell phones
- Other electronic devices
General damages are also called non-economic damages.
Since general damages don’t come with a corresponding bill or receipt (like special damages), they’re often difficult to calculate.
Nevertheless, they are normally included within a slip and fall injury claim. How much you seek for general damages will depend on the specifics of your slip and fall case.
General damages for injury claims may account for:
- Pain and suffering, which refers to the real pain and discomfort you experienced at the time of the accident and the suffering you experienced as a result of the injury and its treatments
- Disfigurement or scarring, which is compensation intended to cover the embarrassment or humiliation you might endure because of severe scarring or an amputation
- Physical impairment or disability, for example, not having the ability to care for yourself after a brain injury or not being able to walk independently due to a spinal injury
- Mental anguish, which includes compensation for feelings of distress, fear, anxiety, depression, trauma, or grief
- Loss of consortium, meaning the loss of marital, parental, or other benefits of important relationships
- Loss of enjoyment of life, which applies when your injury keeps you from enjoying everyday activities like exercise, recreational pursuits, hobbies, traveling, and family traditions, among many other things
As a rule of thumb, general damages have two to four times the value of a victim’s special damages.
Example: Slip and Fall Injury Damages
Rose was at the local movie theater when she slipped on a freshly mopped bathroom floor. There were no signs warning her that the floor was wet.
As a result of the fall, she broke her kneecap and required several surgeries.
Rose couldn’t return to work for six months and needed extensive physical therapy. She had to drop out of her bowling league and couldn’t attend her niece’s out-of-state wedding the month following her injury.
With the help of her injury attorney, Rose determined she’d suffered the following special damages:
- Medical expenses including surgery and physical therapy
- Lost wages for six months
- Out-of-pocket expenses including travel costs, crutches, and prescription pain medications
- Property damages for her shattered eyeglasses
Her general damages included:
- Pain and suffering from the initial injury, surgeries, physical therapy, and healing
- Loss of enjoyment as she had to quit her bowling league and missed her niece’s wedding
- Loss of consortium as her injury negatively impacted her relationship with her husband
Rose’s special damages amounted to $175,000. Her lawyer settled her claim with the movie theater’s insurance company for $437,000 (which included compensation for both special and general damages).
Receiving fair compensation for her injuries was possible, in part, because she was able to identify and provide evidence supporting all the damages in her claim.
Proving Compensatory Damages
Slip and fall injury victims can’t just say they suffered damages and expect the insurance company to hand over money. The victim has the burden of proving not only that they were injured, but that the insured property owner caused their injuries and should pay.
More specifically, victims must prove that:
- There was a hazard that caused their injury
- The property owner was negligent by failing to remedy the hazard
- They suffered real, verifiable damages
In a slip and fall case, you need to prove your case by a “preponderance of the evidence.” You must establish that your version of the story is more likely true than not true. Another way to look at it is that you must show that over 50 percent of the credible evidence is in your favor.
Demonstrating Special Damages
Special damages are usually simple to prove with copies of records and documents related to your medical treatment, missed days of work, etc.
Be sure to save bills and receipts for all your medical appointments and out-of-pocket expenses such as prescriptions, durable medical equipment, or chiropractic care.
Employment pay stubs and tax records can be helpful to prove your lost wages. You can also establish how much the at-fault party owes for your lost income with a letter from your employer.
The employment letter should detail:
- Your normal pay rate
- How many hours you missed
- Your total amount of lost wages resulting from your injury
If applicable, your employment letter should discuss lost opportunities for overtime, as well as any paid vacation time or sick leave, sometimes known as PTO (paid time off), you used because of your injury.
Even if you’re self-employed, you still have a claim for lost income. To demonstrate your financial losses, you might need tax returns, profit and loss statements, and evidence of lost assignments after your injury. Any documentation showing lost income after your slip and fall can help support your claim.
If you have damaged property, save receipts for the out-of-pocket expenses for repairs or replacements.
The Challenge of Proving General Damages
General damages are harder to prove as there might not be concrete evidence for their existence. Insurance adjusters are naturally suspicious of general damages since they don’t have any method to measure someone’s distress or suffering.
However, general damages are just as integral to a slip and fall claim as special damages. The impacts of general damages can be permanent and even more difficult for victims to deal with than special damages.
Proof of general damages often comes from testimony or statements from yourself or applicable third parties.
Evidence in support of your general damages might include testimony from:
- Your treating physician
- A mental healthcare provider
- Friends or family who knew you before the accident
Depending on the types of general damages you need to prove, your medical records might also serve as evidence.
Using other cases similar to yours as examples is sometimes helpful in receiving fair compensation for general damages. You can research jury verdicts in your state or county online or at your County Clerk’s office.
Showing what victims of similar accidents and injuries receive for their general damages can establish a starting point for negotiating a settlement with an insurance adjuster.
Maximizing Your Slip and Fall Compensation
Initially, it might not make sense to pay for a personal injury attorney when you attempt to recoup money for your damages. However, one of the surest ways to maximize your slip and fall compensation is with legal representation.
With a lawyer on your side, you have an advocate who’ll ensure you identify and include all of your special and general damages in your claim. Your attorney will know what it takes to prove your damages and other ways to maximize your damage award.
If you’ve recovered from a minor slip and fall injury, you might decide to handle your own injury claim. If you were badly injured, or not sure about the value of your claim, you owe it to yourself to talk to an attorney.
Most reputable injury attorneys provide a free consultation. If you decide to hire them, most won’t require any payments upfront. Instead, they work on contingency fees. Attorneys working on a contingency fee basis are paid a pre-arranged percentage of your settlement or court award once it’s received.
Under this arrangement, you can receive the legal help you need without having to worry about how you’ll pay for it. It costs nothing to explore your options.
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