Slip-and-fall accidents happen frequently, sometimes resulting in serious injuries.
If you slip, fall, and injure yourself in Queens, New York, you may be able to sue the property owners or at-fault party for your injuries and associated damages. Assuming you have the makings of a strong case, your primary concern may be, how much is your slip-and-fall claim worth?
Unfortunately, there is no hard value for a fall injury — or for any personal injuries, for that matter. The value of a claim depends on several factors that are unique to each individual situation.
Only once you have factored those considerations into the mix can you come up with an estimated value for your claim. Even then, how much you stand to recover boils down to the stubbornness of the insurance company you are up against, the negotiation and litigation skills of your slip-and-fall accident attorneys, and/or the discretion of jurors.
Though there is no way to know the true value of your claim until you near the end of the negotiations and settlement processes, the best Queens, NY slip-and-fall attorney can help you estimate a figure to use as your jumping-off point.
A sound starting figure that you can rationalize during the negotiation process can eliminate the need for too much back-and-forth, incentivize insurers to take you seriously, and speed up the settlement process. Most importantly, a good starting figure can help you work toward and secure the maximum amount of compensation for your injuries.
The Average Cost of a Slip-and-Fall Accident
It is difficult to determine an average value of slip-and-fall claims given that so many individual factors affect each case. However, data from the New York City Comptroller website indicates the often-high costs associated with New York City slip-and-fall injuries. Per the data, the city paid out $545.8 million in personal injury settlements in 2020.
Sidewalk claims accounted for 10% of the total 15,553 personal injury claims filed that year and $51.6 million in damages. If each slip-and-fall claimant were to receive the same amount of compensation, they would receive an average of $33,183.
Bear in mind that these figures only take into consideration the money the New York City government paid out in a single year. Moreover, they focus on sidewalk claims and nothing more. They do not consider private claims or claims that arise out of slips and falls in stores, private offices, public buildings, or other locations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a bit more insight into the average value of slip-and-fall claims. Per a report, the total cost of non-fatal falls in 2012 was $30.3 billion. Hospitalizations accounted for the majority of costs, at $17.2 billion.
The average cost of non-fatal falls in 2012 was $9,463. However, when averaging the costs of falls based on whether victims required hospitalization, a single emergency room visit, or an outpatient visit, the averages varied significantly, at $26,562, $4,673, and $5,625 respectively.
Types of Damages You Can Recover
Though averages are nice to have, they do little to help you determine the value of your claim. While your attorney may use an average as a starting point, an experienced slip-and-fall lawyer will likely consider the types of damages you can recover first and foremost:
Medical expenses are the easiest types of damages to calculate and the most difficult for insurers to fight. They include hospitalizations, emergency room visits, medical devices, follow-up visits, physical therapy, surgery costs, in-home care, and more.
Property damage is also easy to calculate, as you merely need to provide the fair market value of any items you lost or broke in your fall. Examples of property you can claim include cellphones, laptops, and jewelry.
Like with medical expenses and property damage, lost wages are difficult to fight. This is because there is generally hard proof — such as in the form of pay stubs and/or tax returns — that shows how much you earned pre-injury and how much you earned post-injury. You can recover lost wages for any days you missed for recovery and any time you miss for doctor’s visits, physical therapy, etc.
You can also recover lost savings, missed bonuses and promotions, loss of future earnings, diminished earning capacity, and the like.
Pain and Suffering:
Pain and suffering is non-economic damage and difficult to calculate. Courts and insurers typically award these types of damages in cases that involve severe and catastrophic injuries that affect a person’s overall quality of life.
They are subjective and require the finesse of skilled slip-and-fall accident attorneys to recover.
If your claim is successful, you can likely add attorney fees to the list of losses for which you hope to recover.
This list of damages is not exhaustive. The best slip-and-fall lawyers can listen to your story and identify other ways in which your accident affected your life.
Factors That Affect the Value of Your Claim
Once you and your attorney identify the types of damages you may recover, it is time to start calculating the value of those damages and your claim as a whole. When calculating the value of your claim, your attorney will assess several factors in addition to the types of damages you can recover.
Six of the most important factors are as follows.
The Total Value of Economic Losses
Neither insurers, nor jurors can argue with losses that come with receipts or other forms of proof. For this reason, one of the first things your personal injury lawyer will do is have you gather any and all evidence of monetary loss, including medical bills, treatment costs, receipts for prescription medications, therapy and rehabilitative expenses, proof of loss of income, repair costs (for broken devices, etc.), transportation costs and more.
Your attorney will add up these losses and use the sum as the minimum value of your claim.
The Likelihood That You Will Need Future Care and Treatment
Next, your attorney will consult with your medical team to determine the likelihood that you will need ongoing care and treatment. If you do, he or she will include future medical expenses in your claim for damages and get to work on finding an expert to testify on your behalf.
Future Lost Wages and Loss of Earning Potential
If your injury causes you to have to take on light-duty work and, therefore, undergo a pay cut — or if it prevents you from returning to work for the foreseeable future — your lawyer for slip-and-fall accident will tabulate the economic value of your prospective wages.
Those should include benefits, potential promotions, bonuses, health insurance and other forms of compensation you would have earned had you not acquired an injury.
The Value of Your Noneconomic Damages
Next, your attorney will attempt to value your noneconomic damages. The attorney’s subjective valuation of your case is based in part on their skills, knowledge of applicable laws, familiarity with the insurance carriers and local courts/judge’s valuation practices.
Some states have what the law refers to as “damage caps.” These caps limit how much fall victims and other litigants can recover in noneconomic damages. To date, just eight states maintain caps on personal injury recoveries.
Not only is New York not one of them but also, it is one of nine states with constitutional provisions preventing courts from using them.
Your Level of Fault
Finally, your level of a fault will affect how much compensation you can recover, or determine if you can recover at all. As a pure comparative fault state, New York allows plaintiffs to recover so long as at least one of the involved parties is found to be at least 1% at fault.
The courts or insurers will merely diminish damages in proportion to the level of a fault the plaintiff assumes. For instance, if you assume 25% fault for your accident, the deciding parties will diminish your final award by 25%.
By knowing which factors will affect the value of your claim, your attorney can help you better prepare your case and maximize its value.
Using the Multiplier Method To Calculate Noneconomic Damages
Calculating your noneconomic damages — the biggest of which is likely to be pain and suffering — is likely the biggest hurdle you will face when attempting to determine for how much you should sue the property owner or at-fault party. Because of the subjectivity of noneconomic damages, it is easy to over-value or under-value losses within this category.
To avoid over-or under-valuing your subjective losses, your slip-and-fall accident attorneys will estimate a value using one of two methods that insurers commonly use.
The Multiplier Method
The multiplier method is the most common method insurers use to calculate non-economic damages.
This method involves adding up all your special damages — which are your economic losses — and multiplying the sum by a “multiplier,” which is a number typically between 1.5 and 5. The insurer or jury will consider several factors related to your case — including the severity of your injuries and how greatly they have impacted your life — to determine a fair multiplier.
It is important to note that your total award will include the calculated value of non-economic damages plus your total economic damages.
An example of how an insurer or jury will calculate your total settlement or award is as follows:
- Your total economic losses amount to $15,000.
- Your legal team and the insurer agree on a multiplier of 3.
- Your total noneconomic recovery, then, would amount to $45,000.
- Your total recovery would amount to $60,000 — $15,000 in economic losses and $45,000 in noneconomic losses.
Though this process is also somewhat subjective and prone to dispute (the insurer will obviously want to use a lower multiplier, while your legal team will argue for a higher multiplier) it often yields fair settlement amounts and awards.
The Daily Rate Approach
Though a less common means of calculating noneconomic damages, the daily rate method, or “per diem” approach, can also help you maximize your recovery.
Via this strategy, you would set a justifiable daily rate for your pain and suffering. You would then multiply this rate by the number of days you lived with pain and suffering because of your injuries.
The daily rate approach has the potential to be much more subjective than the multiplier method, hence why it is not the preferred option. For this reason, if you use this approach, it is important to be able to justify the daily rate you select.
The best way to do this is by setting a rate that is equal to or close to equal to the amount of your actual daily earnings. The argument for using your daily earnings is that having to deal with pain and suffering each day is equivalent to the effort you exert going to work.
Illustrated, the per diem method may look like the following:
- You sustain a back injury in your slip-and-fall accident and must take pain medications for five months and undergo physical therapy for three more months. You must also equip your home, vehicle, and office with special accommodations to make sitting more comfortable for an additional three months. You spend roughly 12 months, or 365 days, living in pain and discomfort.
- Before your accident, you earned $60,000 annually or $240 per working day of the year.
- Your daily rate, then, would be $240.
- You would multiply $240 by the number of days you suffered, or 365.
- Your total recovery for pain and suffering, calculated using the per diem method, would be $87,600.
Partner with the Best Slip-and-Fall Accident Attorneys in Queens, New York
If another person’s negligence causes you harm, entrust your case to a legal team that has decades of experience and several impressive wins under its belt. Entrust your case to the slip-and-fall accident attorneys at Elliot Ifraimoff & Associates, PC, law firm.
To see how our team will use its expertise, resources, and tenacity to help you fight for the compensation you deserve, schedule your free consultation today.