A trip and fall case is a type of tort. A tort is a wrongful act committed by one party that results in a loss suffered by another party. It can either be intentional or unintentional. When a tort is committed, the victim (plaintiff) can seek to recover their losses by filing a claim against the party(ies) responsible (defendant (s)). If the claim is successful for the plaintiff, the court will award damages, which are monetary awards paid to the plaintiff by the defendant that seek to offset the losses the plaintiff endured due to the defendant(s) negligence. The amount of damages can range greatly and depends on factors such as the severity of the injury, how much it impacted the plaintiff’s life, and how much it could continue to impact their life going forward. Damages can seek to compensate the plaintiff for both direct financial losses and losses relating to pain, suffering, and loss of general enjoyment of life. The court will determine which damages are appropriate to award and will rely both upon the facts of the case and legal precedents set by past court decisions. In this blog, we will examine the types of damages that can be awarded in a trip and fall case.
The Nature of Trip and Fall Incidents
Trip and fall accidents are common, injuring tens of thousands of Canadians each year. They can happen when someone falls from a higher level to a lower one or when someone falls on the same level. They often occur when there is insufficient traction between the walking surface and the footwear of the individual who falls or when an obstacle causes someone to trip and lose their balance. While many trip and falls are accidents, there are also instances wherein the negligence of a property owner or occupier was the cause of a trip and fall and the resulting injury.
Trip and fall incidents are a type of tort claim. When a trip and fall occurs on someone else’s property due to their negligence, an injured victim can file a premises liability claim against the property owner(s) and/or occupier(s). The injuries a person experiences as a result of a trip and fall can vary significantly, from a minor bruise or sprained ankle to a catastrophic brain injury or even death. Very rarely are personal injury cases identical. The variable details and facts surrounding each case make it unique, and the damages a victim may be entitled to will vary. The value of each unique claim will depend upon the individual facts of the case, including the injuries suffered, the severity of those injuries, and the current and future monetary losses incurred.
Types of Damages
There are two main types of damages in trip and fall cases:
- General or non-pecuniary damages
- Special or pecuniary damages
General damages seek to compensate a plaintiff for non-pecuniary losses. These are non-economic damages such as damages for loss of enjoyment of life and damages for pain and suffering. Special damages seek to compensate a plaintiff for pecuniary losses, or losses where the plaintiff is able to prove specific economic damages. Under the two primary umbrellas of general damages and special damages, there are additional subcategories of damages.
General or non-pecuniary damages are awarded to the plaintiff for the pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of amenity, and loss of recreation they experienced as a result of the negligence of the owner(s) and/or occupier(s) of the property where their fall and injury occurred. Determining an amount for these types of damages is difficult, and the court will consider a variety of information in order to make an appropriate assessment. They will consider various factors, including:
- The plaintiff’s health prior to the trip and fall
- The plaintiff’s health at the time of the trial
- Severity of the plaintiff’s injuries and impairments sustained
- The plaintiff’s pain levels they experience on an ongoing basis
- The plaintiff’s ability to function after the injuries
- Plausibility the plaintiff’s health may improve or decline over time
- Amount of general damages previously awarded by the court to plaintiff’s with similar cases
General damages are not intended to provide complete restitution for the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary losses since it is, in most instances, not possible to provide financial compensation sufficient to erase or minimize one’s pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. The goal of these awards is to provide a kind of consolation to the plaintiff. Since the calculation of general damages cannot be an exact science, the courts became concerned that the awards could become excessive. In the 1970s, the Supreme Court of Canada handed down several key decisions which served to place a limit on the amount of general damages that can be awarded in a case. The cap was established in 1978 and set at $100,000. That amount gets larger over time because it is adjusted for inflation. It currently stands at approximately $381,481.48. The maximum amount or upper limit cap allowed will only be awarded to a plaintiff who has experienced a catastrophic injury and is reserved for cases with rare circumstances. In most cases, the amount awarded is much lower than the upper limit cap and in line with the severity of the injuries and losses incurred by the plaintiff. Amounts vary from case to case. Experts, like mental health professionals, are used to help the court determine the impact the losses have had on the plaintiff’s life.
Special damages, also known as pecuniary or economic damages, are awarded to the plaintiff in cases where they can provide specific economic losses that occurred as a result of their injury related to the trip and fall incident. These can include:
- Past and future income loss
- Past and future expenses such as the cost of:
- Health care treatment
- Mobility aids like a wheelchair or cane
- Medical equipment or supplies as a neck collar, tensor bandages or anything else recommended by the plaintiff’s healthcare providers
- Upkeep and maintenance of a home and property, including housekeeping
- Modification to a home or vehicle to make it wheelchair accessible
- In-home nursing or attendant care
- Travel to and from healthcare appointments, including parking and mileage
- Vocational training or rehabilitation
Unlike general damages, special damages can be quantified. Special damages can be related to the loss of property, the cost of services rendered, expenses incurred, loss of income, and loss of assets. They also include financial losses that will likely be incurred in the future. The amount awarded will be contingent upon the plaintiff’s ability to demonstrate provable economic losses. They must be able to provide clear documentation such as receipts, bank or credit card statements, invoices, or contracts. In order to strengthen the plaintiff’s case, expert evidence may be used in order to help prove the claim for losses. Unlike general damages, there is no cap or limit on special damages. The goal of awards for special damages is to restore the plaintiff to the financial position they had before the trip and fall-related injury.
Do I Have a Trip and Fall Case?
While falls are sometimes the result of clumsiness or carelessness, many trip and fall accidents are the direct result of a property owner or occupier’s negligence. Property owners and occupiers have a responsibility to ensure visitors are safe by making certain that their properties are free of potential hazards. If they fail to maintain a safe environment, and you are injured as a result, you may have a claim against them for negligence and may be able to obtain compensation for your injuries and losses.
In these negligence cases, a plaintiff or injured party must be able to prove that the property owner was negligent and that their negligence was the cause of the injuries and damages. In British Columbia, the Occupiers Liability Act describes and details the legal duties and responsibilities of property owners and occupiers. These protections establish and define the duty of care owed to all people who are allowed to enter a property and help to differentiate between accidents and acts of negligence clearly.
Have You or a Loved One Been Injured as a Result of a Property Owner’s Negligence?
Klein Lawyers has an outstanding track record of handling trip and fall cases. We understand how to identify and investigate trip and fall incidents and determine whether or not there was negligence on behalf of property owner(s) and/or occupier(s). We have the resources, knowledge, and experience British Columbians need to get the justice and compensation they deserve.
We will start by conducting an in-depth investigation into the evidence of your case. We will take the time to really listen to your story, obtain any registry searches, incident reports, medical records, and witness statements, and thoroughly evaluate your potential claim. During the case, we will retain key experts to establish the critical details of the injury that occurred. We strive to make this process as easy for you as possible. You will focus on your life and recovering from your injuries while we focus on your case.
We keep you informed throughout the entire case so you never feel like you are in the dark. We want you to understand the process and feel comfortable asking any questions along the way. Too often, we hear concerns expressed from potential clients about what the process will be like, what they will need to do, and how often they will hear from their lawyer. We will make it clear right from the start so that you know what to expect, and we will stay true to our commitment to you. Communication and transparency are important to our team, and you will recognize that as our client.
Klein Lawyers Can Help
Klein Lawyers has over 30 years of success and experience in the legal field. During that time, we have worked hard to earn the trust and respect of British Columbians who need legal representation. Working with an experienced lawyer is critical, and our team understands the trust clients place in us when we are representing them. We value that trust and feel honoured that so many clients choose our law firm to fight for them. We are passionate about obtaining the best possible outcome for our clients.
Contact Us Today
Contact the Klein Lawyers team today at (604) 874-7171 for a free consultation with a Vancouver trip and fall lawyer. We serve clients injured in British Columbia and Class Action and Mass Tort clients throughout Canada. There is no obligation, and your consultation is completely confidential. We are here to help victims of a property owner and/or occupier’s negligence receive the justice they deserve.