If a person is injured because of unsafe conditions on another’s property, then that would be a premises liability case entitling the injured person to certain compensation for their injuries, medical bills and suffering. This compensation is referred to as damages and they fall into two categories: economic damages and non-economic damages.
An injured person’s economic damages are based upon different factors like the amount of medical bills and lost wages they have incurred as a result of their injury. These are primarily fixed sums and called economic damages because they are dollar amounts that we can specifically prove and substantiate. Other expenses that would also add to these economic damages would be things like the gas you paid to get to your medical appointments or medical supplies relating to your injuries that you had to pay out-of-pocket.
The broader category of damages is known as non-economic damages. These damages may consist of any disability, disfigurement, loss of consortium, or permanent loss that now limits your normal livelihood. These damages are determined based upon both your current health and future health as well as your past medical bills incurred and likely future medical bills to be incurred. For example, if we can show that the injured party will need a $50,000 surgery in the future, we can consider those expenses in determining their total damages.
Another type of non-economic damages is pain and suffering. Pain and suffering will generally be established through testimony at trial. The testimony normally comes from a physician or expert to testify about one’s injuries and the limitations that the injured party has and will suffer as a result of the incident. For example, if you slipped and fell on a grease covered floor injuring your knee and as a result had to receive a knee replacement, you will likely have some permanent range of motion limitations. The general range of motion for a knee may be 120-125 degrees, but that person may only be able to achieve a range of motion between 115-120 degrees. The pain and suffering measurement would then be the difference between what a normal range of motion would be and what that person is ultimately able to achieve in movement post-accident. Additionally, there may be times during the day when your injury is more painful than other hours of the day which also is considered when requesting non-economic damages for pain and suffering.
Pain and suffering can also be seen in disfigurement cases. For example, if you tripped and fell over a chunk of exposed concrete on a landowner’s driveway and sustained a facial injury resulting in a large painful facial scar that won’t go away even after skin grafting, we can recover damages for the resulting pain and disfigurement from the scar.
Damages may also be available for the spouse of the victim. These damages are known as “loss of consortium.” Loss of consortium is when someone’s life is severely altered as to change their way of life. Since the victim’s disability and/or permanency loss also affects the spouse’s interaction with him or her, this damage is specifically used to compensate the spouse’s loss.
In the context of premises liability, let’s say that a person falls on some defective stairs causing them to break their neck. As a result, that person may have become a paraplegic. There are multiple situations that could arise from this circumstance. The most obvious one is economic losses where that person can no longer support their family. However, this life altering event may also affect that person’s marriage, ability to be intimate with their partner, as well as other human interactions. All these factors will be a part of the spouse’s claim for loss of consortium.
In addition to loss of consortium, one may also suffer a loss of use of normal life. This claim focuses on such things that would affect one’s everyday activities. For example, bending, lifting, twisting, pushing, pulling, tying one’s shoes, or even putting a shirt on could pose difficulties for that injury. These injuries are more likely to be relatable to a jury when they are presented. The loss of past times like hobbies that one used to do may also be considered in determining one’s loss of use of normal life.
Lastly, an injured party may also seek psychiatric, emotional, or psychological damages because of an accident. For example, a person may have sustained a head injury altering their brain chemistry in a way that causes them to act differently and have behavioral or personality changes. If the injury was a result of a slip and fall accident, that same person may develop a phobia of stairwells or dimly lit areas. These fears or brain alterations may require that person receive treatment from a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.
Some conditions which they may be treated for include, but are not limited to, PTSD, depression, anxiety disorders or other similar conditions. The challenge with these conditions, as with any injury, is to establish a causal connection between the accident and the disorder. This causal connection should be clearly articulated by the treating physician. If you can establish that the injury was a direct result of the disorder, then these injuries and the resulting treatment and effect on one’s life may be claimed as damages.