A premises liability case, or slip and fall case, is a common type of personal injury claim in which an individual falls and sustains injuries on someone else’s property. Damages incurred from slip and fall accidents can range from minor to severe, depending on the gravity of the plaintiff’s injuries. Due to various factors, calculating these damages can be quite complicated and may require the assistance of an economic expert to determine an accurate settlement figure. If your law firm requires such services, The Knowles Group works nationwide with attorneys and litigation firms to provide calculations and expert witness testimony for damages incurred during slip and fall cases. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
What Are Slip and Fall Damages
Slip and fall damages describe the alleged losses a plaintiff claims to have suffered due to the defendant’s alleged negligence. These damages fall into three major categories: economic (or special), non-economic (or general), and punitive damages applied to cases involving extreme negligence. The value of these damages depends on the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries and each party’s ability to prove their proposed value using the evidence at hand.
The economic damage category includes any objectively verifiable losses claimed by the plaintiff. Special damages may consist of losses such as past, and future medical bills, past, and future lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, incidental expenses, and property damage. Each can be objectively verified and proven with financial documentation such as receipts, tax documents, and bank statements.
The non-economic damage category includes all subjective losses claimed by the plaintiff due to the slip and fall accident. General damages may include physical pain and suffering, emotional pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of self-esteem. Unlike economic damages, non-economic damages are not objectively verifiable. Instead, they are based on the subjective experience of the plaintiff. This makes them more difficult to quantify and a primary subject of dispute during settlement negotiations.
This damage category is reserved for cases involving extreme negligence or intentional wrongdoing. They are included when the court determines additional penalties are necessary to punish the defendant for an egregious act.
Average Slip and Fall Settlement Values
The value of slip and fall settlements can range significantly depending on various factors, including injury severity, plaintiff carelessness, and the negligence of the defendant. While no single number can be stated as an average, here is a range of settlement figures based on the severity of the plaintiff’s proven injuries:
$0 to $50,000
The average settlement value in the United States for slip and fall cases resulting in minor injuries ranges between $10,000 and $50,000. A settlement of this value would likely include injuries such as a broken bone(s) or head trauma from which the plaintiff was able to fully recover.
$50,000 to $200,000
Settlements valued between $50,000 and $200,000 may involve more serious injuries that affect the plaintiff beyond a reasonable recovery period. This may mean the plaintiff will continue to experience pain and suffering for the foreseeable future, potentially indefinitely. Settlements of this value may also include punitive penalties due the extreme neglect or intentional wrongdoing on the part of the defendant.
$200,000 to $1,000,000+
Settlements with a value of $200,000 and up are awarded to plaintiffs who may experience severe (paralysis, brain damage, etc.) or fatal injuries. Once again, these settlements may or may not include punitive penalties.
Is There A Formula For Calculating Slip and Fall Damages?
In practice, no one-size-fits-all equation is used to calculate the damages of every slip and fall injury claim. The circumstances surrounding each case are unique and, therefore, require deep consideration when calculating the value of damages. For this reason, both parties must work with an experienced personal injury lawyer and economic experts to ensure a fair and just settlement value. That being said, there are rough calculations an individual can complete to determine an estimated value of the damages.
While calculating economic damages only requires adding all the objective financial costs together, calculating general damages is more complicated. Due to the subjective nature of these damages, a standard method for determining non-economic damages involves multiplying the total special damages by a “damage multiplier,” between 0-5, depending on the severity of the plaintiff’s pain and suffering. Based on this information, an equation for the estimated value of slip and fall damages could be as follows:
Estimated value of damages=
(Total value of economic damage) + (Total value of economic damages x Damage multiplier)
James was walking to his departure gate at the Seattle airport after a weekend business conference. He was excited to get home and go on a family vacation to celebrate his anniversary and daughter’s birthday. As he was walking, he failed to see a puddle of liquid on the white linoleum floor. He slipped and fell, hitting his head and breaking his wrist. Multiple people came to his aid, stating that they had complained about the spill to airport staff 15 minutes before. James was brought to the hospital and spent a week recovering from the head injury and wrist surgery. As a result, he missed his family vacation.
Types of Damages in Slip & Fall Cases
As previously mentioned, economic experts must consider several factors when calculating slip and fall damages. While this is not a complete list, here are some of the significant factors considered by economic experts, along with examples of how they might apply to our hypothetical situation:
- Medical Bills
- Lost Wages & Loss of Earning Capacity
- Incidental Expenses
- Punitive Damages
- Pain and Suffering
- Damage Multiplier
Generally, valid slip and fall cases will be worth, at minimum, the total value of medical expenses. This includes all past and future medical expenses incurred by the plaintiff due to the slip and fall accident. This includes expenses such as hospital bills, cost of surgery, cost of medication, physical therapy, and the like.
In James’ case, his slip and fall injuries generated medical bills, including an ambulance ride, one week in the hospital, surgery costs, multiple visits to a neurologist, physical therapy, and medications for $87,450.
Lost Wages & Loss of Earning Capacity
Lost wages include any past and future income & employment benefits the plaintiff cannot collect due to the accident, in other terms, anything the plaintiff would have earned if it weren’t for the accident. On the other hand, loss of earning capacity pertains to any future work the plaintiff loses the ability to perform due to the slip and fall accident or anything the plaintiff could have made if it weren’t for the accident.
In James’ case, instead of spending a week enjoying vacation with his family, he spent a week in the hospital recovering from his injuries. Additionally, his doctors have ordered an extra two weeks of recovery at home. James will be claiming three total weeks of lost wages amounting to $9,500
Incidental expenses include additional costs aside from medical treatment related to the accident incurred by the plaintiff, such as transportation to and from appointments, extra child care, house cleaning expenses, etc.
James incurred several incidental expenses, including a new plane ticket home, the deposits he put down on his vacation, transportation to follow-up appointments, and more amounting to $3,000.
In cases involving extreme negligence or intentional wrongdoing, punitive damage may be included to punish the defendant for an egregious act and must be considered when calculating the settlement value.
In James’ case, there’s no evidence of extreme negligence or intentional wrongdoing. The liquid that caused his fall was not placed there on purpose, and an airport employee was collecting the necessary janitorial supplies as James’ accident occurred.
Damage multipliers are commonly applied to the total economic damage value to determine the value of non-economic damages. A number between 0-5 is used depending on the severity of the plaintiff’s pain and suffering. A damage multiplier of 0-2 may be reasonable if the injuries are mild to moderate. A damage multiplier of 3-5 may be appropriate if the plaintiff suffers severe injuries.
In James’ case, he experienced pain and suffering, but it wouldn’t be considered severe. He experienced the physical pain of a head injury and broken wrist, but the more significant factor was that he had to cancel an important family event. As a result, his legal representation provides support for and applies a damage multiplier of 2 to the general damage calculations.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering are some of the least predictable factors in damage calculations. A plaintiff may claim to be afflicted by many forms of pain and suffering, including physical, emotional, loss of enjoyment, loss of self-esteem, and more. The validity of their pain and suffering depends on the severity of their injuries and the circumstances surrounding the slip and fall accident claim.
James’ accident incurred a total of $99,950 in economic damages. Multiplying this amount by the damage multiplier selected results in $199,900 in general damages. Therefore, James’ legal team will demand $299,850 in compensation for his slip and fall claim.
Evidence of Premises Liability in Slip and Fall Accidents
If a plaintiff expects to receive the compensation they’re seeking, they must prove the property owner was negligent in their maintenance and attention to the premises where the slip and fall accident occurred. Unlike other personal injury lawsuits, this burden to prove premises liability depends heavily on the plaintiff’s ability to provide collected evidence such as accident reports, photos of the hazardous conditions, video surveillance footage, and witness testimonies. In addition to proving negligence, the plaintiff must prove the negligence of the property owner led directly to their injuries. Finally, the plaintiff must establish that their own “carelessness” did not contribute to the accident; otherwise, their settlement may be reduced. In essence, proof of premises liability supported by timely evidence collection is critical to any slip and fall claim.
Forensic Experts Accurately Calculate Slip and Fall Damages
The Knowles Group has been providing professional economic services on behalf of thousands of attorneys since 1979. We’ve provided expert witness testimony for personal injury cases in multiple state and federal courtrooms across North America for plaintiffs and defendants alike. When it comes to slip and fall settlements, a forensic economist’s calculations and witness testimony can serve as vital evidence for your case. Contact us today to discuss your case and schedule a free consultation.