Common Types of Slip and Fall Injuries and Compensation Amounts

If another party caused your injuries, you deserve compensation. Explore common slip and fall injuries and their potential settlement value.

Slip or trip and fall accidents all too often occur because a property owner caused a dangerous condition to exist on their premises, or failed to take reasonable steps to correct a hazard.

A fall’s impact on the body can have varying results. Depending on the landing surface, mechanics, angle of the fall, and other factors, serious injuries to different body parts can occur.

If you’ve suffered a slip and fall accident, it’s essential to understand the types of possible injuries you might have experienced.

Your injuries will determine how your slip and fall affects your life now and in the future. They will also determine the injury compensation you can receive from the at-fault party or their insurance company.

Slip and Fall Head Injuries

Even though fall victims frequently might try to catch themselves with their arms, slip and fall head injuries can vary in severity from a minor lump or bump to a life-threatening injury.

A head injury might occur if you:

  • Fall backwards
  • Fall forward and can’t extend your arms
  • Hit your head on objects as you fall, such as store shelving

Sometimes head injuries are severe and can lead to permanent disability or even death.

A person who has fully recovered from a relatively minor head injury can expect to recover a few thousand dollars for their medical costs, lost wages, and inconvenience. A slip and fall victim who is left permanently impaired may be awarded sums into the millions with the help of a skilled attorney.

The severity of the injury will determine an injured person’s symptoms, their recovery, and the medical care required for them to regain normal functioning (or as close to normal as possible).

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries, also referred to as “TBIs,” are perhaps the most severe type of head injury that a person can suffer. Almost all are associated with permanent emotional, behavioral, and physical impairment.

Falls are the number one cause of TBIs, accounting for nearly 50 percent of reported brain injuries.

Nearly half of patients hospitalized with a TBI will have long-term disabilities.

Physical symptoms of a TBI include:

  • Headache
  • Loss of consciousness from several minutes to hours
  • Clear fluids draining from the nose or ear
  • Weakness or numbness in fingers and toes
  • Loss of coordination

Closed Head Injury and Hematomas

Someone who hits their head on the ground when they fall might suffer a closed head injury.

Closed head injuries occur when the skull is intact after an impact, but the brain is injured.  Victims with closed head injuries are at risk for brain damage and other permanent effects.

Types of closed head injuries include:

  • Bruised brain tissue
  • Torn blood vessels of the brain
  • Swelling and pressure inside the skull

The brain’s outer blood vessels can suffer severe damage in a fall, causing a pool of blood, called a hematoma to form on the brain.

A hematoma puts dangerous pressure on the brain tissues. Doctors must relieve the pressure, or the brain could lose function. Some hematomas might require surgery.

People with a hematoma can seem fine, then gradually lose consciousness. If you know someone has hit their head in a fall, and they later lose consciousness or show other symptoms, call 911. Bleeding on the brain is a medical emergency.

Concussions Are Significant Head Injuries

If the head hits the floor or another hard object, a concussion may result from the brain hitting against the hard walls of your skull.

A concussion may result in:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Slurred speech
  • Appearing dazed
  • Loss of consciousness

Generally speaking, the loss of function caused by a concussion is usually temporary. However, repeated concussions can eventually lead to permanent damage.

Concussions and closed head injuries are forms of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Severe concussions can cause permanent changes in the brain, including changes that cause recurrent lifelong seizures.

Slip and fall victims who sustain a severe TBI can recover millions of dollars in damages. Those with moderate to severe TBI will experience significant lifestyle changes and ongoing medical expenses.

According to some estimates, over a lifetime, a mild brain injury can cost $85,000, a moderate one can cost $900,000, and a severe TBI can reach $3 million.¹

The U.S. spends approximately $76.5 billion in lifetime TBI costs. Direct medical expenses account for $11.5 billion, and $64.8 billion are for indirect costs such as lost wages, lost productivity, and non-medical expenses.

Neck, Back, and Hip Injuries

Slip and fall injuries to the neck and back are very common. Neck injuries from a fall can range from simple sprains, to whiplash, bulging discs, and even life-threatening spinal cord damage.

Back injury claims from a slip and fall incident can also include herniated discs, broken vertebra, and spinal cord injuries. Some victims also injure the tailbone from falling onto a hard surface.

There is also a high risk of hip injuries in slip and fall accidents, especially for older people. Further, depending on how a fall victim lands, several types of injuries can occur in a single accident.

Soft Tissue Sprains and Strains

Slip and fall accidents can result in sprains and strains in the victim’s back, neck, or hip.

A sprain is the overstretching or tearing of ligaments, which are the connective tissues that help hold bones together. A strain is the overstretching or tearing of muscles or tendons.

Sprain and strain symptoms are:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Weakness
  • Decreased flexibility

Soft tissue injuries, including sprains, strains, and whiplash injuries to the neck, are generally settled by insurance companies in an amount equal to your medical expenses and lost wages with an additional 1 to 1.5 times that amount added to account for your pain and suffering.

Whiplash Neck Injuries

The violent force of a slip and fall can cause whiplash injuries. Whiplash can damage the neck muscles, ligaments, discs, joints, nerve roots, and even the spinal cord.

People who sustain whiplash might not experience any pain or symptoms until a few hours or days after a fall.

Symptoms include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Worsening of pain with neck movement
  • Loss of range of motion in the neck
  • Headaches
  • Tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back, or arm

Whiplash injuries can take some time to heal, but they’re usually treated with over-the-counter or prescription pain medication.

Herniated Discs in the Neck and Back

Discs are cushions between the vertebrae that stack up to make a person’s spine. A herniated disc refers to a tear or bulging with one of these discs that puts pressure on the spinal cord of the nerves that branch out from the spine.

Herniated discs often happen when a person’s back is forcefully stressed or twisted in a fall. They can occur anywhere along the back or neck.

Herniated discs can cause pain, a pins and needles sensation, weakness, and numbness to areas of the body affected by the involved nerve. Sometimes disc herniations require surgery.

Spinal Fractures and Dislocations

Severe falls can cause fractures and dislocations in the bones of the spine, called vertebrae, anywhere from the neck down to the tailbone. The severity of these injuries depends on the amount of force with which a person fell or hit an object. Treatment might include surgery, prescription pain medications, and stabilizing the neck or back with braces.

Dislocations frequently occur with a fracture or with damaged ligaments. Dislocations are where the bones in the neck or back move out of their natural position.

Dislocations can cause spine instability. Further, all spinal dislocations have the potential to damage the spinal cord, which usually requires surgery.

Minor dislocations might return to normal on their own with the passage of time and the use of a collar or brace.

Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI)

As the term implies, a spinal cord injury is an injury to a person’s spinal cord, the main highway of nerves running from the brain down through the protective canal formed by the vertebrae.

Falls account for more than 30 percent of all spinal cord injury cases in the United States.

SCIs can occur in the neck or the back, and they typically coincide with a neck fracture or dislocation.

Paralysis below the area of the injury is common, and treatment often involves surgery. Some SCI survivors need a permanent respirator to help them breathe and will live with a profound disability for the rest of their life.

Spinal cord and other catastrophic injuries are best handled by an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure the best financial outcome for the slip and fall victim. 

Tailbone Injuries

The tailbone is a small triangular bone at the bottom of a person’s spine. Backward falls can cause the tailbone to bruise or even break.

Tailbone injuries are associated with soreness in the tailbone region, and some people can’t sit comfortably after a tailbone incident. These injuries take time to heal but don’t typically require surgery.

Hip Joint Dislocations and Bursa Injuries

The hip joint is dislocated in a slip and fall when it’s knocked out of its normal location. Hip dislocations are associated with extreme pain. Nerve damage is also typical and may result in a person losing feeling in their foot and ankle.

Surgery isn’t typically required with a dislocation, as a physician can pop the hip bone back in place. Hip dislocations usually result in a person using crutches, and most people need physical therapy to help with recovery.

Bursitis results from damage to the fluid-filled sacs that surround a person’s hip joint. The condition causes aches and pains in the hip and on the outside of the thigh.

Walking is usually difficult with hip bursitis, and victims of this condition usually require physical therapy.

Hip Fractures Can Be Disabling

Hip fractures are a severe type of slip and fall injury. Nearly all hip fractures require surgery, and some will need metal plates and screws placed in the bone to hold it together.

Recovery can take months, requiring physical therapy and rehabilitation. Elderly slip and fall victims may never recover from a broken hip.

Symptoms of a broken hip include pain, one leg turned at an odd angle, or one leg appearing shorter than the other. If you suspect a hip fracture after a slip and fall, call 911 and try to keep the person warm and still until emergency help arrives.

Fractured hips, spinal cord damage, and severe brain trauma are the kinds of permanently disabling injuries that can be life-altering for the slip and fall victim and their families. Liability for the at-fault property or business owner can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.

Shoulder, Arm, and Leg Injuries

A slip and fall can also cause serious damage to the shoulders, arms, and legs.

People instinctively attempt to catch themselves with their arms extended whether they fall backward or forwards. While this motion often prevents injuries to other parts of the body, it can injure a person’s shoulders and limbs.

Broken Bones

Fractures are one of the most common injuries caused by slip and fall accidents. Reaching for an object while falling or using hands to break a fall increases the risk of a broken arm, wrist, or hand.

Falls from slip and trips over uneven flooring, poorly maintained stairs and walkways, and parking lot hazards like potholes can also result broken leg, ankle, and foot bones.

Some breaks are minor and may only require a few weeks to heal. Other breaks are more complicated, requiring months of physical therapy, surgery, and prescription pain medications. Severe fractures can lead to loss of function, sensation, and deformity.

Broken arms, wrists, and even ankles don’t typically require long-term lifestyle changes or care, although some may need surgery. Compensation for these types of fractured bones, including pain and suffering, can generally run between $50,000 and $300,000.

Shoulder Tears from a Slip and Fall

Individuals who fall straight down or land on their sides are more likely to sustain a slip and fall shoulder injury, like a rotator cuff tear. Falling on or hitting your upper arm or back can also cause rotator cuff tears.

A rotator cuff consists of four muscles in the upper arm and shoulder region. These muscles help you raise and rotate your arm. Tendons attach the cuffs to your bones. If those tendons tear, the result is a rotator cuff tear.

Rotator cuff tear symptoms include:

  • Tenderness and soreness during use
  • Inability to raise your arm
  • Difficulty sleeping when lying on the affected side
  • Pain associated with pressure

Once the shoulder heals, a person may require physical therapy to help increase shoulder movement.

Shoulder Separation or Dislocation

A shoulder separation, or sprain, occurs when the shoulder ligaments tear. Falls frequently cause sprain injuries if the hand or arm extends to stop the fall. Sprains can cause severe pain and reduced shoulder movement.

Treatment includes keeping the arm in a sling, physical therapy, and sometimes surgery.

Similarly, falling onto an extended hand, arm, or shoulder, or forceful twisting can result in a shoulder dislocation. A dislocated shoulder needs urgent medical attention.

Doctors can correct the dislocation by putting gentle traction on the shoulder to pull it back into place. Surgery isn’t usually required.

Slip and fall shoulder injuries are often settled for the sum of the economic damages, with one or two times that amount for non-economic damages. For example, the total claim for a rotator cuff injury with surgical repair could be between $80,000 and $100,000.

Common Slip and Fall Knee Injuries

Many bones and ligaments come together at the knee. If you twist your knee as you fall, you’re more likely to suffer a knee injury.

Ligaments run from the thigh to the lower leg. Each knee has four ligaments, including the medial collateral ligament (MCL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), and the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). A fall can damage one or more.

Damaged ligaments cause severe pain, swelling, or the knee to buckle or give way when walking. The ligaments in the knee have a lengthy healing process, and treatment often requires surgery.

Other knee injuries may include:

Falling While Pregnant

Falls are the most common cause of minor injury during pregnancy. They also represent 25 percent of traumatic injuries in pregnancy.

Stairs and slippery surfaces together account for 72.5 percent of the falls during pregnancy.

Pregnant women, as opposed to non-pregnant women, are more prone to fall because of the changes taking place in their bodies.

A slip and fall injury during pregnancy can be traumatic, especially in the latter half. During the first trimester, the uterus is still located within and protected by the pelvis. The amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby also helps provide cushioning and protection.

In the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, injuries to both mom and baby are more common and severe. Falls that end with a direct hit to the abdomen are of significant concern.

Any woman who experiences a slip and fall during her pregnancy should seek medical care immediately.

Concerning symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Uterine contractions
  • Lack of or decreased movement of the baby

Falls during pregnancy can cause:

  • Premature delivery
  • Placental abruption (the placenta coming partially or fully off the internal uterine wall)
  • Loss of amniotic fluid
  • Skull injuries to the baby
  • Severe and life-threatening bleeding for the mom or baby

Treatment depends on the severity of the injuries and the medical status of the baby. Some mothers might be fine. Some might need to be on bed rest for the remainder of their pregnancy, and others might need to deliver their baby immediately.

The Eggshell Skull Doctrine

If a pregnant woman slips and falls, the at-fault party’s insurance company might use her pregnancy as part of their defense. They might argue that she wouldn’t have fallen if she weren’t pregnant.

The argument seems like it would lower the insured’s level of blame for the incident. However, the eggshell skull doctrine prevents an insurer from making this contention.

The eggshell skull doctrine, also called the “thin skull rule,” prohibits a victim’s weakness, frailty, sensitivity, or feebleness to serve as a defense. At-fault parties must “take their victims as they are.”

The negligent party who causes a pregnant woman’s slip and fall, is responsible for her new injuries. They’re equally responsible for the worsening of any pre-existing or prior health conditions that she had before falling.

Potential Injury Compensation

People hurt in slip and fall accidents should seek financial compensation for their damages from the at-fault property owner or manager. Generally, damages are either economic or non-economic.

Economic damages include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earning potential

Non-economic damages include:

Settlements usually include both economic and non-economic damages.

Common Factors Affecting Injury Compensation

No two slip and fall claims are the same. Many factors can impact the amount of compensation injured persons receive.

These factors include:

  • The extent of physical injuries and their necessary medical treatment
  • The long-term effects of the injury
  • Disfigurement or disability
  • Damage caps
  • Applicable insurance policy limits
  • The claim’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Any shared fault for the accident

The more severe the injury, the higher the compensation a victim should receive.

For example, a slip and fall victim who suffers a traumatic brain injury will receive more for their damages than someone who fell and broke their wrist. Likewise, a pregnant mother who delivers a premature baby with complications will receive more than a mother who only spends one night in the hospital for monitoring.

Severe or complicated slip and fall injury claims should be handled by an experienced injury attorney to maximize the victim’s compensation. Insurance companies are notorious for offering less money to claimants who are not represented by an attorney.

It costs nothing to meet with a seasoned injury lawyer. Most work on contingency fees and provide free consultations so that you won’t owe any money upfront.

There’s no obligation and it costs nothing to find out how you and your family can benefit from legal representation.

Dustin Reichard, Esq. is an experienced attorney with 20 years of work in the legal field. He’s admitted to the Illinois State Bar and the Washington State Bar. Dustin has worked in the areas of medical malpractice, wrongful death, product liability, slip and falls, and general liability. Dustin began his legal career as a JAG... Read More >>