In serious slip and fall accident cases in Pennsylvania, injuries can result in temporary or permanent disability. It’s not uncommon for a slip and fall accident victim to lose weeks or even months of pay from missing work. Lost wages claims are completely separate from claims for medical bills and pain and suffering.
The most common injuries from slip and fall accidents are broken arms or legs, major knee or back injuries and head trauma, any of which can cause time lost from work. If another party is liable for a dangerous condition that led to a fall accident, the injured individual is entitled to be compensated for lost pay.
Pennsylvania law allows personal injury claimants to seek compensation for all financial losses that flow from an accident. This includes past and future lost wages caused by temporary or permanent disability.
Temporary Disability – Victim Returns to the Same Job
In most serious injury cases, the victim will return to work, but will have missed weeks or months. In these cases, the claim will include the wages lost during that time frame. For example, a pedestrian in Philadelphia falls on the sidewalk outside of a store in Center City. The sidewalk was grossly uneven due to roots of a nearby tree. The pedestrian breaks their right hand and needs surgery which results in 1 month lost from work. The individual uses all of their sick days and vacation to cover 3 weeks and then goes unpaid for the final week.
Compensation for Use of Sick Days and Vacation Time
In their lawsuit against the store, the lost wages claim would include both the sick pay and vacation used to cover the 3 weeks as well as the loss of 1 week. Even though the individual didn’t incur an actual out of pocket loss for the first 3 weeks, they still used all of their sick days and vacation days as a result of the injury. In other words, they technically lost those days as a result of the accident and injuries.
Permanent Disability – Total or Partial
In some slip and fall accident cases, the injuries will result in a permanent disability or a permanent loss of earning capacity. This in turn will lead to future lost wages. Exactly how much depends on the extent of the disability. In total disability cases, the individual cannot return to any form of work whatsoever. In these cases, the future lost wages claim will be significant—it’s basically a loss of all income from the date of the accident until retirement.
In partial disability cases, the individual can’t return to the same job, but can work limited hours or in a reduced capacity. In these cases, the future lost wages claim will be the difference between what the person was earning before the accident and what they will earn after the accident.
Using the same example from above, let’s say that the right hand fracture leads to disfigurement of the individual’s fingers. Before the accident, the individual was a general construction contractor and earned $50,000 per year. After the accident, the individual, who is right-handed, cannot return to work in construction. Instead, the only work they’re suited for is sedentary work, like a security guard, which averages $30,000 per year. In their fall accident lawsuit against the store, the lost earning capacity claim is the difference between the two incomes, projected until retirement age. The claim also includes other lost wage benefits like overtime, cost of living increases, retirement contributions, etc.
In addition to lost wage claims, injured individuals can make claims for other financial losses related to the injury and accident. The most common claims include household help, i.e., paying someone to help run the household, including daily activities, child care, cleaning, maintenance, etc.
In many slip and fall accident cases, the property owner’s insurance company will step in and cover the claim under a commercial, homeowner or renter insurance policy. Most businesses that are open to the public are covered under a general commercial insurance policy that would cover a fall accident that happened on the insured property, i.e., store, parking lot, etc. For slip and fall accidents that happen on private property, a homeowner or renter insurance policy would likewise cover the accident.
In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for a slip and fall accident for an adult is 2 years from the date of the incident. For minors, the statute of limitations is 2 years from the date the minor turns 18. However, waiting too long to investigate a slip and fall accident case is not advised. Slip and fall accidents must be investigated as soon as possible in order to identify the parties responsible and to find all evidence that supports the case.