In March of this year, a New Jersey man agreed to receive a $3.7 million dollar injury settlement to resolve his lawsuit against his apartment complex, where he suffered serious head injuries from a fall on damaged concrete stairs. The settlement will resolve a lawsuit that lasted for more than five years since the original date of the injury, November 16, 2016.

Fall on Damaged StairsOn that date, the injured plaintiff, Dennis Higgins, was descending the concrete stairway toward the laundry room at the apartment complex, Skytop Gardens, when he encountered a damaged and crumbling section of concrete stair approximately 10 inches square. He tripped and fell on this damaged concrete, according to his lawsuit, and struck his head on the concrete wall of the stairwell, suffering a hairline skull fracture and multiple facial fractures.

His injuries resulted in a buildup of blood on his brain, and Higgins spent four days in a coma. After waking, he required two months in a rehabilitation facility, and even after this treatment, his injuries have left Higgins with permanent challenges. Higgins, now 62, has Downs’ syndrome, and his ability to move around and perform everyday activities has decreased relative to his capacity prior to his fall.

Several of the details of Higgins’ lawsuit make it a clear illustration of premises liability cases. In this case, the apartment complex, Skytop Gardens, had a duty of care to maintain its property and facilities in a reasonably safe condition, which Higgins’ attorney Barry Eichen argued that it failed to do, in that it allowed a section of the staircase to the laundry room to become damaged without acting promptly to repair the hazard. This negligent lapse, Eichen would have argued, resulted in the dangerous condition which Dennis Higgins ran afoul of, resulting in the trip and fall accident that caused his injuries.

As is often the case in premises liability claims of this nature, the attorneys representing Skytop Gardens attempted to argue that Higgins’ injuries actually had another cause unrelated to the fall. They claimed that he suffered a stroke prior to falling, for which of course the apartment complex could not be held responsible. This is a common defense tactic against claims of negligence, because one of the key components that the plaintiff must prove is that the hazardous situation that the allegedly negligent party allowed to arise was the proximate cause – in other words, the most direct or immediate cause – of the injuries suffered by the plaintiff. To combat this, defense attorneys will often seek access to the injury victim’s entire medical history and comb through it for any detail that they can use to concoct a plausible alternate explanation for the injuries suffered by the accident victim. In this case, it seems likely that the court did not find the alternate explanation presented by the attorneys for Skytop Gardens particularly plausible, as the apartment complex was willing to agree to the $3.7 million settlement.

To many people, $3.7 million seems like an impressive figure, even for injury damages, but there are a couple of factors involved in this case and the nature of the injuries suffered by Dennis Higgins that make the large sum more understandable. One of these circumstances is the fact that Higgins suffered permanent impairment of his mobility and his capacity to perform basic tasks. If Higgins now requires the use of mobility devices or the aid of care workers to do things that he formerly could do without help, then his damages should include the cost of paying for those devices or workers for the rest of Higgins’ life. Also, if Higgins’ new challenges resulting from his injuries cause a lessening of his independence or a loss of ability to participate in activities that brought him enjoyment, his attorney could argue that he is entitled to compensation for the damage to his quality of life.

Another factor that may have contributed to the value of the settlement Higgins received is the fact that he sustained multiple facial fractures. This type of injury is likely to leave lasting physical scarring or other changes to appearance or require reconstructive surgery to repair. Any type of injury that causes scarring or disfigurement is generally entitled to additional compensation, so if Higgins was left with lasting physical scars or other damage to his face, that likely added to the compensation he received for pain and suffering.

Making the choice to settle a lawsuit out of court rather than waiting for a ruling can be a difficult one. In Higgins’ case, it had already been more than five years since he was injured. Could he have been awarded a larger sum had he waited for the court to decide? Very possibly, but the lawyers for Skytop Gardens might have dragged the process out for years longer. For some families, an adequate settlement now is worth more than years of uncertainty down the line. It’s a hard decision that only the injury victim and their family, with the advice of their attorney, can make.

Contact MyNJInjuryLawyer Howard P. Lesnik

If you or a loved one suffered an injury in an accident in NJ, you should contact an attorney familiar with handling these claims. An experienced NJ Injury Lawyer will know how to obtain medical records, videos, photographs, experts, locate witnesses and contact the insurance company so you can make a claim for your injuries.

My NJ Injury Lawyer Howard P. Lesnik, Esq. offers complimentary strategy sessions to address any issue or questions you may have for your injury claim in NJ.

Please contact NJ Injury Lawyer Howard Lesnik, Esq., immediately if you were involved in an accident. I personally handle NJ personal injury cases on a regular basis. Please contact me now by email, by phoning 908.264.7701, or by completing the form to the right to schedule your complimentary 30-minute strategy session. Call me direct and I will answer 5 questions that you have about your potential claim.

fall on damaged stairs