Simply put, falling objects injuries are injuries sustained from being hit by falling objects. These injuries result from structures or other objects falling onto a person from a higher place. In many cases, this also involves a dangerous building, or something that was negligently placed. These injuries could also involve some amount of recklessness, such as a person dropping or throwing objects from a higher area.
The most common injuries associated with falling objects include the head, neck, shoulder, and back area. These injuries can be very serious in nature considering the weight of the falling objects, and the height from which they fell.
Some examples of the most common falling object injuries include:
- Injuries resulting from a construction site accident, such as a falling beam;
- Injuries resulting from a structure collapsing;
- Items falling from trees, stairs, ledges, or other elevated places;
- Broken shelves or overhangs;
- Items falling from a shelf in a store;
- Items falling out of a moving vehicle, such as crates falling off of a truck; and
- Injuries resulting from someone dropping objects, such as someone dropping something from a window onto the sidewalk below.
What Legal Theories Apply to Falling Objects Injuries?
Injuries caused by falling objects often result in a lawsuit in order to recover a damages award. In order to do so, there are two legal theories that are most commonly used.
The first theory, negligence, refers to the failure to use reasonable care, with that failure resulting in the harm, damage, or the injury of another person. As a legal theory, negligence is based on a person’s failure to take certain precautions, whereas most other legal theories are based on a person’s direct actions. An example of negligence in regards to falling objects would be a person failing to properly secure an object, which resulted in that object falling and injuring someone.
In order to prove negligence, there are four elements that must be fulfilled by the plaintiff:
- Duty of Care: The plaintiff must show that the defendant had a duty of care to prevent the objects from falling in the first place. In general, a duty of care is owed to another person in any situation in which there is a possibility that other people could, foreseeably, be injured due to their actions (or lack thereof). Some groups of people owe a higher duty of care than others; these groups include lifeguards, doctors, and drivers. This is to ensure the safety of the people in their care;
- Breach of Duty: The injured party must then prove that the defendant somehow breached their duty of care with their actions, or lack thereof. Such a breach would occur when a person does not act as reasonably as any other person would in a similar situation. In order to prove a breach, the standard is that the evidence must show a greater probability than not that the defendant breached their duty. This is the lowest standard of proof, and is known as a preponderance of the evidence;
- Causation: Next, it must be proven that the negligent act, such as failing to secure an object, was the actual and proximate cause of the injuries being claimed. This is known as causation, and several factors are considered when determining if the act was actually the cause of the sustained injury. The “but-for” test will likely be utilized by the court; it is a test in which it must be shown that the injury would not have occurred “but for” the defendant’s negligent actions; and
- Damages: Once the other three elements have been met, the plaintiff will then need to prove that there was some quantifiable damage resulting from the failure to exercise due care. These damages could be physical injuries, monetary losses, or some combination of the two.
The second legal theory is Res Ipsa Loquitur. This term means “the thing speaks for itself,” and states that harm would not ordinarily occur unless someone was negligent. Some courts have applied this theory to cases involving falling objects, especially objects falling from a moving vehicle, because they reason that these objects are unlikely to fall unless they are improperly loaded or fastened. There are three basic elements that must be met in order to prove res ipsa loquitur:
- Common Knowledge: It is common knowledge that the sort of accident that caused the resulting harm does not occur without negligence;
- Control: The equipment or conduct that caused the resulting injury was, at all times, under the defendant’s control; and
- Involuntary: The resulting injury was not one that the injured party assumed voluntarily, or contributed to in any manner.
Are There Any Legal Remedies for Injuries Caused by Falling Objects?
Whether damages may be recovered, and what kind of damages, depends on the exact specifics of the circumstances. Cases involving negligence may result in the liable party paying damages to compensate the injured party for their sustained injuries, and associated costs. In cases involving recklessness or intentional behavior, the award could include punitive damages on top of other types of damages.
Compensatory damages most commonly cover the cost of medicine, hospital expenses, therapy or rehab expenses, and property damage. Other damages could include special damages, which are intended to cover other costs such as lost wages, or highly specific medical or therapy related expenses. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant in order to dissuade them from future repeated behavior. These damages could include court ordered education or community service.
Some falling objects cases result in a class action lawsuit. An example of this would be when many people are injured by the same type of defective product. Another example would be a single incident which lead to the injury of a large group of people, such as a building collapsing during an event.
Do I Need an Attorney For a Falling Object Injury Lawsuit?
If you are involved in a case involving falling objects, you should consult with a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney. An experienced personal injury attorney will help you gather evidence supporting your claim, and even file a lawsuit on your behalf. Finally, an attorney in your area can represent you in court as needed.