What is a slip and fall lawsuit worth? There is no one number. The compensation a victim in a slip and fall accident receives depends on the negligence of the party at fault for the accident, the severity and extent of the injuries, and the impact of the injuries upon the victim’s life. It also depends on what it cost to treat the injuries, what it will likely cost in the future, and other economic harm suffered by the victim.
Let’s discuss the factors that constitute the worth—the ultimate amount of compensation—of a slip and fall claim. Read on to learn what a slip and fall attorney can do for you today. Contact Dolman Law Group today to discuss YOUR case.
What Is a Slip and Fall?
The type of accident colloquially termed a “slip and fall” actually refers to several different types of accidents. One can literally slip and fall. If someone spills a soda at the local supermarket, for example, and the liquid causes you to slip, it’s a classic slip and fall. You can also trip and fall, as you might if carpet on a hotel’s floor has been inadequately tacked down.
There is also an accident known as a “step and fall,” where a person might step in a hole on inadequately maintained stairs or an unexpected low spot on a dark sidewalk. These are addressed under slip and fall law.
Premises Liability Law
Slip and fall accidents are a category of premises liability law. Business property owners, under Florida law, have a duty of care to their customers and to the public. They are responsible for seeing that their premises—the places they do business—are safe. There should be no areas where members of the public could be harmed through no fault of their own.
Property owners should maintain their premises in a safe condition. In a store, for example, there should be no spilled liquid. In a hotel, there should be no lumps in carpet that anyone could trip over. In rental properties, spaces should be well-maintained. There should be no low places where someone could trip on a sidewalk or holes or defective places in stairs where anyone could trip or slip.
However, not all property owners always maintain their premises safely. Store owners and landlords sometimes put off maintenance. If they allow their premises to become unsafe, they have breached the duty of care. The breach in the duty of care means they were negligent in their duties as property owners.
It is the negligence that creates liability for an accident that occurs as a result of the breach of duty of care. If an owner can be proved negligent, and that negligence caused an accident which in turn caused you to be injured, you can bring a suit for a slip and fall under premises liability law.
But what if the owner believes the premises are safe? After all, it is not unheard of for landlords, for example, to argue that their basement stairs are completely safe, despite a burned-out lightbulb that makes safe navigation virtually impossible.
The law turns to a reasonable person standard in these cases. The premises can be deemed unsafe under the law if a reasonable person would believe them to be unsafe. Most reasonable people, for instance, could agree that insufficient or no light in a basement makes the stairs unsafe to walk.
What if the premises are unsafe, but some event or action occurs suddenly makes them unsafe? Couldn’t the business owner argue that they didn’t know the premises were unsafe, because they had been previously?
In that case, the law also turns to a reasonable person standard. A business owner is responsible for fixing and responding to events or actions that make the premises unsafe if a reasonable person knew or should have known they had become unsafe.
Part of the owner’s duty of care is to fix or remedy the situation within a reasonable period of time, as well. If someone spills liquid in a grocery store, the manager or employees should clean it up as soon as possible. They can’t wait several hours, because a court is highly unlikely to consider that a reasonable period of time.
In addition, if a premises becomes unsafe, business property owners should clearly mark the affected area as unsafe. They can place cones, hazard tape, or warning signs so that customers can clearly see the unsafe area.
What Type of Injuries Result From a Slip and Fall?
A slip and fall may sound mild, as if injuries would always be minimal. They aren’t. Slip and fall injuries can range from bruises incurred from slipping on a wet floor to traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) or spinal cord injuries sustained in a fall down a flight of stairs. Roughly 800,000 people go to the hospital annually because of injuries sustained in a fall, according to the National Safety Council.
Injuries caused by a slip and fall can include:
- Broken bones
- Spinal cord injuries
- Other soft tissue injuries
How Much Are These Injuries Worth?
The FIVE MOST IMPORTANT FACTORS in determining how much your injuries are worth are:
- The amount of economic damage caused. This is arrived at by calculating, first, the medical bills the person has already incurred. Medical bills include emergency services, treatment at a doctor’s office, hospital, surgeries, prescription medication, physical and rehabilitative therapy, prescription medication, and more. These bills may also include those incurred for expenses related to medical and related care, such as assistive walking devices or retrofitting the home if the person has become unable to walk.
- If the person’s injuries are also likely to need future treatment, an estimate is made of the cost of future treatment. Experts may be called in to testify about the advisable course of treatment and the length and extent of future treatment.
- The monetary value of any wages lost from work due to the injuries are tabulated.
- If the injuries are likely to make the person lose wages from work in the future, or unable to return to work at all, the economic value of their prospective wages are tabulated. This may include estimating future increases in wages that the person would have received had they not been injured, for example.
- The amount of noneconomic damage caused by the injuries is added to the economic damages. Noneconomic damages include pain and suffering from the accident. This is obviously more subjective than either calculating what has already been paid for medical bills or wages lost, and the amount of pain and suffering varies according to injury.
Because of this, insurers often use a multiplier, usually added to the economic costs. The multiplier is usually a number between 1.5 and 5. While this assessment is also somewhat subjective, the lower figures are applied to injuries that cause less pain and suffering. How is this determined? Well, injuries that can be treated fairly simply, or that heal fairly quickly, are considered to have caused less pain and suffering. A sprained ankle, for example, may receive the lowest multiplier, 1.5.
But a catastrophic injury such as a spinal cord injury that has caused paraplegia will likely get the highest multiplier, 5. A catastrophic injury changes someone’s life irrevocably. A paraplegic may be unable to walk again, to engage in the activities of daily life again, or to work at previous occupations again. They may need around-the-clock care for the rest of their lives.
The multiplier for noneconomic damages is added to the actual and forecast economic costs. Let’s say you suffered a sprained ankle. The treatment cost $10,000. The insurance company of the at-fault party determines the multiplier should be 1.5. Your slip and fall is thus worth $10,000 + $15,000 ($10,000 x 1.5), for a total of $25,000.
On the other hand, let’s say a friend of yours suffered a spinal cord injury that left him unable to walk or work at a former occupation. So far, his medical bills have totaled $1 million. Surgeons and doctors concur that future medical costs could total another $1 million. His total wages lost from work are estimated at $1 million. Given the catastrophic nature of this injury, the multiplier assigned is 5. The total damages are thus going to be:
$3 million in economic damages + ($3 million x 5 for noneconomic damages) = $18 million as a total damage award,
Do Any Other Factors Affect What My Injury Is Worth?
Other factors may affect what the injury is worth, by affecting the multiplier up or down the scale.
Doctors, for example, don’t always agree on the best course of treatment. The costs of one recommendation might be lower or higher than another.
Younger people may receive more compensation than older ones for serious and catastrophic injuries, because the harm caused will last for a longer portion of their lives and thus cause more pain and suffering.
At times, an injury may have a greater impact on one individual than it would have on another. What if you are a guitarist in a successful musical group, for example, and your slip and fall injury breaks your arm in such a way that you will never attain the proficiency you had before? In that case, courts might consider that the accident and its injuries have a much more serious impact on your life, its prospects, and your livelihood than it would have had on another individual.
What Should I Do if I Slip and Fall?
If you slip and fall, there are FOUR IMPORTANT steps you should take:
- Take pictures. Many people have smartphones, and pictures of the area, what caused the slip and fall, and general conditions of the premises are invaluable evidence. It’s also prudent to take pictures of your injuries. If you don’t have a smartphone, take notes on what happened, what the conditions were, and when it happened.
- Get the contact information of any witnesses.
- Alert the manager of the premises. You are doing this so that the manager can fix or remedy the situation, primarily. Also, however, a court may question why you didn’t bring the situation to the attention of a manager (or staff, if a manager isn’t available) before leaving the premises.
- Seek medical attention. If you are seriously injured (broken bones, lacerations), ask the manager or a staffer to call an ambulance. If not, go to an emergency room or doctor’s office immediately to be checked out. Do this even if you don’t feel like you sustained injuries. Serious injuries, such as concussions, often aren’t felt by the people who suffer them. Be sure to get complete records of your injuries and what the doctors found.
One cautionary note about telling managers you are injured. In many large business establishments that cater to the public, such as hotels, resorts, and theme parks, there may be doctors or other medical personnel on call to treat people who have slipped and fallen. That might sound great in theory.
But remember that medical personnel who work for these companies may have an incentive to downplay your injuries. After all, if the company is liable, the company may have to pay you for treatment and other damages. The companies themselves very likely see potential injuries as a risk to their profits, and they are likely in the business of managing risk to those profits. They may believe that you are not as injured as you are, but whether they believe it or not, they have a vested interest in minimizing your injuries.
The most prudent course of action is to consult your own doctor or, if you are far from home, an independent doctor or hospital.
If you have further questions about what a slip and fall might be worth, an experienced personal injury attorney can help.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765