How Much Is Pain and Suffering Worth in a Slip and Fall?
Unintentional injury is a leading cause of death, and the second most common cause of these injuries is accidental falls, including slip-and-falls. Nearly 700,000 people die in the US from falls each year.
Sometimes, fall survivors may be eligible for a premise liability claim. Winning one of these cases can earn victims millions of dollars in damages, or compensation for their losses.
One type of loss victims can claim after a slip and fall accident is emotional and physical pain and suffering. But how much is pain and suffering worth in a slip and fall accident? The answer to this question depends on multiple factors.
This guide will explore these factors. Read on to understand the accidents and injuries that may lead to a slip and fall claim, the types of damages available, and how pain and suffering compensation is calculated.
What Is a Slip and Fall Accident?
A slip and fall accident happens when your feet can’t maintain friction with the floor, causing you to stumble and fall to the ground. Legally, a slip and fall accident is a specific type of personal injury claim.
Premise Liability Claims
If a slip and fall accident occurs in the workplace, it falls under workers’ compensation laws. But if you obtain your injury while on someone else’s property, you may have a premise liability case on your hands.
Premise liability claims occur when unsafe or risky conditions on someone’s property (including government property) lead to an injury, such as a slip and fall. Before filing a premise liability case, the victim or their lawyer must be able to prove negligence.
In premise liability cases, negligence means that the property owner failed to maintain safe conditions on their property, usually unintentionally. The victim’s injury happens as a direct result of those unsafe conditions.
Another requirement for filing a premise liability case is that the injury leads to actual loss. There are many types of losses, one of the more common ones being the cost of medical expenses.
Slip and Fall Injury Causes
A property’s conditions may be considered unsafe if, for example, the building has uneven floors or structural issues. Other risky conditions that commonly lead to slip and fall premise liability claims include:
- Wet or slippery flooring
- Loose electrical cables
- Low or no lighting
- A lack of safety precautions like handrails
- Unravelled carpeting
Importantly, these unsafe conditions can also happen for reasons not due to the property owner’s negligence. Working with an expert slip and fall injury lawyer can help victims find evidence for the link between the two.
Common Types of Slip and Fall Injuries
Slip and fall accidents can be fatal. When they are not, victims may obtain only a few scrapes and bruises. But one in five falls lead to serious injuries like broken bones, head injuries, or lifelong disabilities.
The good news about these more severe injuries is that they can significantly increase the value of your claim. The same is true of injuries that lead to lifelong disabilities or disfigurement.
Slip and fall injuries fall into two categories: soft tissue or hard injuries. Soft injuries can be more difficult to prove, though not impossible. Learn more about the difference between these two categories next.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries are virtually invisible. They don’t lead to broken bones or open wounds; instead, they impact areas of the body like the muscles and tendons. Sprains and strains are two common types of soft tissue injuries.
Soft tissue injuries may not seem serious at first glance, but they can cause significant pain. Moreover, they can lead to complications affecting someone for the rest of their life.
The risk of complications is higher after soft tissue injuries that affect nearby blood vessels or cause nerve damage. Even wearing a splint for a soft tissue injury can cause chronic issues, particularly joint problems.
Hard injuries are obvious to the naked eye. Because they are more common and apparent, they are much easier for judges, jury members, and insurance providers to empathize with. They can be painful, disabling, and expensive to treat.
Some common types of hard injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Dislocated bones
- Head injuries
- Spinal injuries
- Open wounds
These injuries can take significant time to heal, leading to lost wages and other expenses. Like soft tissue injuries, they may also lead to complications, lifelong disability, or disfigurement.
Damages Available in a Slip and Fall
Compensatory and non-compensatory damages are available in personal injury cases, including slip and fall premise liability claims. These damages include:
- Economic Damages
- Non-Economic Damages
- Punitive Damages
Economic and non-economic damages, also known as special and general damages are compensatory. They compensate the victim for their physical and emotional losses.
Punitive damages are the only kind of non-compensatory damage. They do not compensate the victim for losses incurred but are designed to punish a particularly reckless or negligent defendant.
Economic damages are also known as special damages. They are the easiest type of compensation to obtain because they are quantifiable. In other words, a judge or insurance company can easily calculate them.
Why? Economic damages pay the victim back for expenses incurred due to their injury. Below, we will discuss three of the most common types of economic damages, but more may be available depending on the situation.
A victim’s medical and legal expenses can be part of their compensation package. However, they must be expenses acquired due to the slip and fall injury.
Medical expenses can include surgery, medication, rehabilitation, and any other costs incurred from getting treatment for their injury. Victims may also be eligible for compensation for future medical bills related to their injury.
Victims can also get compensated for legal costs, but only for services obtained to file the premise liability case. Luckily, there is usually no upfront cost for personal injury lawyers’ services since they work on contingency fees.
Often, victims must take time off from work to recover from their injuries. Sick or vacation time may be available for some victims, but others must go without a paycheck during recovery.
Lost wages can be part of a compensation package after a slip and fall claim. You may be able to get paid back for sick days and the vacation time you used or that should have accrued while you were away from your job.
Bonuses, commissions, missed promotions and raises, and overtime are also available. All victims need is a letter from their companies to prove their position, regular working hours, salary or wage, and the number of hours or days of missed work.
Loss of Earning Capacity
Victims do not just have the right to collect wages lost during recovery but for future wages lost. This type of compensation is known as diminished or loss of earning capacity.
Loss of earning capacity is more commonly awarded to victims who obtained permanent disabilities or disfigurement from the injury. These complications make someone unable to work the same job or work a job at all.
Calculating lost earning capacity can be challenging. The judge or insurance company must consider factors like your role, skill levels, wage or salary, past earnings, and life expectancy.
Non-economic damages are also known as general damages. They are more difficult to calculate and, therefore, harder to obtain in a slip and fall case since they are psychological or emotional in nature.
These damages are intangible. Judges, jury members, and insurance companies can’t see these damages, and they don’t leave a paper trail as special damages do. Here are some non-economic damages victims can obtain and the types of evidence that may help prove them.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering can be mental or physical (more on the difference in a moment). As with any type of compensation in a premise liability case, the pain and suffering must directly result from the slip and fall injury.
Victim testimony is the best line of evidence for physical and emotional pain and suffering. Proving physical pain is somewhat simpler because pain severity scores, visible scars, and significant medical expenses can also count as evidence.
Emotional pain is far more difficult to find evidence for. In addition to victim testimony, a good lawyer will tap into your social circle, asking friends and family to give statements about the emotional suffering they’ve witnessed.
Loss of Enjoyment
People whose injuries interfere with their day-to-day activities may experience a decline in their quality of life. Quality of life may encompass physical, mental, and spiritual health; relationship, education, and social status; and a sense of freedom, autonomy, and belonging.
In legal terms, a reduction of quality of life due to a personal injury is called loss of enjoyment. Loss of enjoyment is another type of general damage available to slip and fall victims.
Again, victim and witness testimonies are among the best ways to prove loss of enjoyment. A big indicator of loss of enjoyment is if the victim can no longer participate in activities they used to be passionate about.
Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium is uniquely available in wrongful death claims. Wrongful death is a type of personal injury case that can come about from a premise liability issue that leads to someone’s death.
The family of the person who passed away can file a lawsuit against the negligent property owner and obtain compensation for the loss of their loved one. One type of compensation is called loss of consortium.
Loss of consortium is also known as loss of companionship for spouses, parents, or children. Loved ones can receive compensation for loss of love, support, and guidance through victim and/or witness testimony.
The last type of compensation is punitive damages. As mentioned, punitive damages don’t pay the victim back for their expenses or suffering. Instead, ordering punitive damages is a punishment for defendants.
A judge might order punitive damages in a slip and fall premise liability case if the property owner showcased extreme negligence.
For example, imagine if the property owner intentionally made their property unsafe, knowing it would cause someone’s injury. Or consider a situation where a property owner knew about the unsafe conditions and chose not to disclose them to guests, leading to someone’s injury.
Technically, there is no way to prove punitive damages. However, victims can work with lawyers with experience earning this type of compensation for clients to increase the chances of receiving a punitive award.
Types of Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering comes in two forms: physical and emotional. A victim may be eligible for one or both types, depending on factors like the severity of your injuries, mental health complications, and more.
Physical Pain and Suffering
Physical pain and suffering compensation is tied to the severity of the victim’s injuries. The more severe the injury, the longer the person will endure the pain.
Some states specify the types of injuries that qualify for physical pain and suffering awards. In general, the following may be eligible, though this list is not exhaustive:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Broken bones
- Dislocated joints
- Internal organ injuries
- Muscle or ligament tears
Injuries resulting in nerve damage or paralysis or that lead to the development of chronic headaches are also eligible for physical pain and suffering awards.
Communicating with a healthcare provider about the level of physical pain and suffering is an integral piece of evidence. The victim’s testimony is helpful but can be disputed if not reported.
Emotional Pain and Suffering
Emotional pain and suffering refers to psychological stress and trauma that happens due to the slip and fall injury. It can also encompass life changes people undergo due to new disabilities or disfigurement.
Conditions and experiences that may qualify someone for this type of general damage include but are not limited to:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms
- Anxiety or symptoms of an anxiety disorder
- A reduction in quality of life
- The development of cognitive disabilities
Victim and witness testimonies are crucial for describing the level of emotional pain and suffering. After all, these are not things a judge, jury, or insurance company can see, and it can be challenging to show the direct link between these psychological symptoms and the original slip and fall injury.
Another line of evidence for this type of damage can come from a medical provider, therapist, or psychologist.
How Much Is Pain and Suffering Worth in a Slip and Fall Accident?
Pain and suffering can be calculated in two ways. First, it can be calculated as a function of the value of any economic damages awarded. Second, a daily rate approach can be used to assign a dollar amount to daily suffering.
Victims may or may not receive the entire amount of pain and suffering compensation a judge assigns, depending on their share of fault. We will talk more about New York’s fault laws in a moment.
The Multiplier Approach
The multiplier approach is more commonly used because it is much easier to calculate. The first step is determining the amount of economic or special damages to be awarded.
Then, the judge or insurance company will multiply the value of this award by a factor of 1.5-5, the multiplier. The multiplier used will depend on some of the factors we discussed above, such as:
- The severity of the injury
- Whether or not complete recovery is expected
- If complete recovery is expected, how long the process will take
- The extent to which the injury affects the victim’s day-to-day life
Recall how we mentioned judges award punitive damages in cases where the defendant was reckless or particularly negligent. Punitive damages can also increase the multiplier for pain and suffering in slip and fall cases.
The Per Diem Approach
The per diem or daily rate approach to calculating pain and suffering compensation is less common. Judges or insurance companies must assign a specific amount to the victim’s daily pain and suffering.
There are different ways to calculate the daily rate. One of them is to use the daily income the victim used to earn before their injury. That daily income is equal to the per diem rate.
However, this method of calculating a daily rate considers how long the victim will be in recovery. If the injury is chronic or results in permanent disability, the per diem approach isn’t as useful.
Maximizing Pain and Suffering Compensation
The severity of a slip and fall victim’s injury is one of the main factors determining pain and suffering compensation. You can’t control this factor, but there are other things you can do to maximize your award.
Maximizing slip and fall compensation begins at the scene of the accident. If you can, collect evidence that can help link your injury to the unsafe conditions of the premises. Evidence may include:
- Photos of the unsafe conditions that caused your accident
- Photos of your injuries
- Contact information for witnesses
- Your medical records
- Your medical bills
Photos are among the most crucial pieces of evidence a victim can have. But if the injuries are severe, you may not have time to take photos, giving the property owner time to remedy the unsafe condition.
In that case, consider asking a friend or loved one to take photos of the scene. You can also report your injury to law enforcement. The police officers will take photos or have police camera footage to use in your case.
Go to a Doctor
The first thing you should do after a slip and fall is to seek medical care. If you don’t see a doctor, the judge or insurance company can argue that your injuries must not have been severe. Your award will also be greatly reduced since there are no past, present, or future medical expenses to reimburse.
When you do see a doctor, ensure you follow all treatment recommendations. Attend follow-up sessions and complete any rehabilitative therapy your doctor orders.
If you fail to adhere to your treatment plan, the judge or insurance company can use this against you. Again, this may look like your injuries weren’t serious, lowering your ultimate reward.
Minimize Your Fault
New York is a no-fault state. That means victims can bring a personal injury lawsuit no matter how much their own negligence contributed to the slip and fall accident. Even if someone is 99% responsible for their accident, they can still file a claim and recover damages for their injuries.
However, New York is also a pure comparative negligence state. That means that the amount an at-fault victim receives in compensation will be reduced by their share of the fault. For example, if someone is 99% at fault and wins $100,000 for pain and suffering, they will only bring home $1,000.
You can reduce your share of fault in a few ways. Namely, never admit fault to the property owner, your insurance company, or the property owner’s insurance company. Fault is also negotiable, which is where a slip and fall lawyer can help.
Hire an Attorney
Whether you want to settle with an insurance company or file a lawsuit against the owner of the unsafe premises, you need a slip and fall attorney on your side.
An attorney can help victims obtain additional lines of evidence, such as police reports from the accident. Experienced premise liability lawyers also know the arguments to make to maximize your compensation.
As mentioned, you have nothing to lose when you retain a personal injury lawyer. These legal professionals work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only get paid if you win your case.
Work With an Experienced Slip and Fall Attorney in Brooklyn, NY
So, how much is pain and suffering worth in a slip and fall premise liability case? The answer depends on the extent of your injuries. It also hinges upon proving that the owner of the premises neglected to remedy unsafe conditions on the property, directly resulting in your accident and subsequent injury.
Were you recently injured in a slip and fall accident on someone else’s property? Depending on the circumstances, you may have the right to compensation.
The personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Fredric Masure have won slip and fall victims millions. Contact us for a free consultation and find out how much your case could be worth.