Learn about the types and causes of slip and fall neck injuries. Find out what your claim might be worth and what you need to win your case.
Slip and fall accidents cause a variety of injuries that can range from inconvenient to disastrous.
Neck injuries in particular can be mildly uncomfortable for a few days or they can be crippling and life-changing. The difference between the two extremes is often closer than one would like.
For example, one person may fall and suffer a soft tissue injury in their neck. Another may dislocate or fracture a bone in their neck. Some victims can suffer a spinal cord injury and paralysis. The wide range of outcomes underscores the need to have good information about neck injuries and appropriate medical attention.
If you are injured by someone else’s negligence, you also need to be compensated for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
This article will examine the anatomy of the neck and common neck injuries. We unpack what you need to establish a strong claim, and cover the amount of compensation generally paid for slip and fall neck injuries.
How Slip and Fall Neck Injuries Happen
Slip and fall neck injuries can happen when property owners negligently or recklessly leave a dangerous condition on their property.
Whatever the cause of your slip and fall, if the property owner should have prevented the hazard, you may have a premises liability claim. In other words, owners have a duty to make sure their property is safe for others who come onto that property. When they fail to do so, they are legally responsible for the consequences.
Intentional or Reckless Conduct and Punitive Damages
A slip and fall injury is intentional if the property owner deliberately created or allowed a hazard to exist because they wanted to hurt someone.
A reckless property owner knows a hazard exists, but doesn’t care that someone might get hurt.
To an injured person, these distinctions may seem unimportant. However, if you prove your slip and fall injury was due to a property owner’s intentional or reckless behavior, you may be able seek punitive damages. Punitive damages can only be awarded in court, and are meant to “punish” the wrongdoer for exceptionally bad behavior.
Punitive damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages, meaning the money you get to compensate for your losses and pain and suffering.
Different Types of Neck Injuries
The neck is mainly composed of a flexible column of seven vertebrae, known as the cervical vertebrae. As with the lower spine, neck bones are separated from each other by intervertebral discs.
The neck protects the upper part of the spinal cord between the brain and the rest of the body. A slip and fall neck injury can cause a variety of medical problems.
Some potential neck injuries are:
- Soft tissue injuries. These happen when the muscles or ligaments in the neck are injured.
- Whiplash. Related to soft tissue injuries, whiplash is a blanket term for symptoms appearing after the head has been snapped back and forth. This can also indicate damage to the bones of your neck.
- Herniated discs. The discs between the bones of your neck partially slip into your spinal canal, causing significant and chronic pain.
- Cervical fracture or dislocation. The bones of your neck are either broken or knocked out of place by the impact of your fall.
- Spinal cord injury. The abrupt fracture or dislocation of vertebrae has torn or severed your spinal cord, which can result in paralysis or death.
Symptoms of a neck injury can vary based on the specific type and severity of the injury.
These symptoms can include:
- Difficulty turning your head
- Stiffness or pain in your neck
- Shooting or constant pain in your arms or legs
- Weakness or inability to move parts of your body
First Aid for Suspected Neck Injuries
Call 911. If you must give first aid to someone with a suspected neck injury, do not move the victim. Don’t move their head or neck, as this could make a spinal cord injury worse. Keep the victim still. Use rolled-up towels or carefully hold their head and neck to prevent neck movement until paramedics arrive.
If you must begin CPR, don’t tilt the victim’s head back. Pull the victim’s jaw forward to open the airway. If the person has no pulse, commence chest compressions.
If the victim is choking or vomiting, get someone to help you to keep the person’s head, neck and back aligned while rolling the person onto one side.
Effects of Neck Injuries
Given the wide range of conditions and symptoms that can arise from a slip and fall neck injury, its effects can range from inconvenience to complete destruction of your life.
A sprain or other soft tissue injury will likely cause pain and stiffness. Treatment can include pain-relieving drugs and application of heat. If symptoms persist, physical therapy or surgery may be needed.
Effects of whiplash, fractures and herniated cervical discs will require more serious treatment. Prescription drugs, therapy, and surgery may all be necessary to relieve the severe pain and disability caused by these conditions.
A broken neck is extremely serious. In conjunction with a spinal cord injury, a broken neck can result in complete or partial paralysis. Timely medical intervention, including surgery, is often necessary to ensure the best outcome for an injury victim.
Proving Your Slip and Fall Neck Injury Claim
Proving your injury starts with your medical bills and records showing the exact nature of your injury and linking your injury to the slip and fall.
These records will also establish the value of your neck injury claim in that they start providing numbers an insurance adjuster or court will use to calculate your compensation.
Note that, if you have a prior neck injury or condition, it may make proving your case more difficult. However, the mere fact that you are more vulnerable to neck injury because of a prior condition does not stop you from recovering from your injury. This is known as the Eggshell Skull Rule.
Medical opinions showing your prognosis will also be important, particularly in cases of paralysis or where a serious neck injury will restrict your ability to work or undertake other important activities in the future.
The records you will need include, but are not limited to:
In the event that you cannot negotiate a settlement with the property owner’s insurance company you may have to file a lawsuit. If it comes to that, medical care records and summaries can save a lot of work for you and your attorney.
Don’t get so wrapped up in medical evidence that you neglect the rest of your case. Find evidence showing the dangerous condition that caused your slip and fall. This can be photographs, videos or witness statements.
Also collect evidence from witnesses who knew you both before and after the accident. These witnesses can talk about how your life was affected, and they can also support your own pain and suffering testimony.
Neck Injury Claim Values
Soft tissue injuries are often painful, but they are not typically life-threatening or particularly difficult to treat. Soft tissue claims, which make up the majority of slip and fall injury cases, will generally get less than $10,000 in compensation.
If you have little or no medical documentation for your injury, expect to get nuisance value for your soft tissue injury claim ($3,000 or less).
On the other end of the spectrum, spinal surgery can often cost as much as $150,000, plus the associated costs of prescription drugs, therapy and other recovery. It’s easy for your economic damages to reach a quarter of a million dollars.
Pain and suffering, which is generally one to two times your economic damages, would increase total compensation to as much as $750,000. You would also have to add the amounts you lose from missing work, or amounts that you lose from not being able to work in the future.
Serious or permanent neck injury claims should be handled by an experienced personal injury attorney to get the full amount of compensation you deserve.
In 2019, a Florida jury awarded $1.9 million to slip and fall victim Stephanie Jenkins. Ms. Jenkins suffered two herniated discs in her neck, as well as shoulder and wrist injuries after she slipped on a wet floor at a convenience store.
Cases of brain damage, paralysis or wrongful death could also push a claim value into the millions of dollars, and almost certainly require a lawsuit to force the at-fault property owner or their insurance company to pay.
Take Action to Protect Yourself
The neck is a small but critical junction in your body. Even slight damage to it can have an enormous effect on your life and the lives of your family members. It’s critical that you protect yourself and hold others accountable when their actions or inattention result in a slip and fall accident.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a slip and fall, it’s important to take action as soon as possible. Contact a qualified personal injury attorney for a free consultation and legal advice.
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