Most of us have fallen at some point in our lives, whether due to our own clumsiness or because of some hazard—like a poorly placed object or slippery floor. While most falls are minor and may result in a simple bump or bruise, sometimes the outcome can be much different, resulting in serious life-changing injury. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), injuries sustained in accidental falls account for approximately 8.9 million ER visits each year. When these accidents occur because of the negligence of a property owner or some other neglectful party, victims may be able to recover for their injuries by filing a personal injury lawsuit.
The most effective way to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve after a Clearwater accident is to consult with an experienced trip and fall lawyer as soon as possible after an injury.
Common Causes of Clearwater Trip and Fall Accidents
There are many reasons that a trip and fall accident may occur, some of which may implicate negligence on the part of the party liable for the accident. Some of the most common causes of trip and fall accidents include the following:
- Debris on floors
- Exposed electrical wiring
- Uneven stairs
- Inadequate lighting
- Cracked pavement
- Uneven flooring
- Torn carpet
- Lack of handrails
- Holes in flooring
- Poorly placed fixtures
- Unmarked step-downs
Not all trip and fall accidents are caused by negligence, and it is important to have an attorney review the facts of your case in order to determine whether you have a claim. Other issues that may be relevant to your case include: whether you fell on commercial or private property, whether the condition was caused by a natural process, if you contributed to the accident, as well as others.
What kind of accidents count as a slip and fall?
The answer to this question is both complicated and simple at the same time. Simply, any slip and fall resulting in injury that occurred on someone else’s property because of negligence is considered a valid slip and fall claim. However, if you or someone you care for was recently injured in a slip and fall, I’m guessing that you want a little more information than that. To be more clear, in order for a slip and fall to be a valid personal injury claim the fall must have occurred because of an unsafe condition or hazard. Slipping and falling over your own feet while buying milk does not make a valid slip and fall case.
Likewise, not only must there have been a hazard present, but the landowner or manager must have also caused the unsafe condition or allowed it to persist. This second point is necessary for your ‘accident to count as a slip and fall’ because of the legal idea known as duty of care. Briefly, this precedent states that landowners have a reasonable duty to keep invited occupants safe on their property. When a owner does not take steps to make their property reasonably safe, they have acted negligently and the slip and fall claim moves closer toward valid.
As mentioned earlier, the landowner or manager must have also known about the hazard, or reasonably should have known, in order for there to be a valid slip and fall claim; oftentimes this is hard to prove. However, with the wide-use of cameras, nearly every slip and fall on commercial property is recorded on camera. This can be crucial in making or breaking a slip and fall claim. If the video shows that the hazard was there for a decent length of time before the incident, there is a good chance the property manager knew or should have known about the hazard. As soon as a landowner or manager knows of a hazard, they have a duty to either remedy the situation or at least alert people nearby. This is why you will often see “CAUTION” sign or cones in stores.
Is my injury serious enough for a slip and fall case?
Pursuing any type of personal injury case, but especially a slip and fall case, can be a hassle. Because of this, it’s worth considering how serious your injuries are before deciding to go through with a slip and fall claim. Attempting to seek damages from the property owner’s insurance company will almost always be difficult. If the insurance company decides not to pay for your losses, you will then need to file a lawsuit. This process can be time consuming, stressful, and costly.
Before making a slip and fall claim, considering whether the injury you received is worth the trouble. If you only incurred a few bruises or a scraped knee, it’s probably not worth pursuing. However, if you hit your head, tore something in your back, or broke a bone, then your injury is serious enough to consider pursuing.
Slip and fall accidents are not easy cases. But that doesn’t mean you should let someone get away with negligence while you foot the bill. If you think your case qualifies as a slip and fall, or just aren’t sure, contact the experienced slip and fall attorney at Dolman Law Group. We offer a free consultation where we can answer your questions and clear up these complicated issues.
What if the property owner claims that I’m to blame for my fall?
It’s quite common for a property owner (or more likely their insurance company or attorney) to argue that your fall was either completely your fault or partially your fault. This is particularly common in Florida because we have what are known as pure comparative fault laws.
If the defendant argues that they are not at fault at all, then negligence and liability will be examined by your attorney and challenged within the court. More likely, however, is that the defendant will claim that you are partially responsible for your own injuries. This is a common tactic when the defendant knows that they are at-fault, but wants to lessen the amount they will have to pay. If this tactic is successful, the amount you are deemed to be liable is directly correlated to the amount of compensation you will receive.
Some examples a defendant may use to claim that you are partially responsible for your fall are:
- You weren’t watching where you were going (for example, while texting)
- You were wearing inappropriate or unsafe footwear
- You were in an unauthorized area of the store or property
- You didn’t heed a posted warning sign
- You should have noticed the hazard and avoided it
Some of these example may sound silly or trivial, but insurance companies and defense attorneys will go to great lengths to reduce their liability.
Under Florida’s pure comparative negligence law, any damages awarded will be reduced according to the percentage that the injured was responsible for the accident. Quite simply, if a jury find that you were 10% responsible for your fall, then you will only be entitled to 90% of the damages. Therefore, if they award $10,000, you will only receive $9,000. This direct percentage comparison is where the “pure” in pure comparative negligence comes from. Even if your case doesn’t go to court, it’s likely that the negotiating attorney will use the same principal to reduce the agreed upon settlement amount.
Injuries Caused by a Slip Trip and Fall
- Sprains and Fractures – Although most sprains and fractures are not serious injuries, some of these afflictions can cause significant damage. When any bone is broken or muscles torn, there can be permanent damage that may affect the patient for a long time. When a person loses feeling or control of a body part, or when a fracture causes infection or other complications, the results can be severe.
- Shoulder Injuries – The nature of a slip and fall injury creates serious consequences for a victim’s shoulder. When a person falls, they naturally move their arm to catch their body; it’s an involuntary reaction. This may save the body from certain harm, but it can be brutal on the arm and shoulder. This jolt can cause a shoulder dislocation, tear of the muscle, or fracture to the bones in that area. Further, one may cause damage to their brachial plexus, which is a network of nerves that control your hands, arms, and shoulders. The damaging of these nerves can cause life-long injuries, affecting the way the hand and arm function. If you’ve ever tried to live your life without one arm (perhaps while living with a cast or sling), you know how difficult and draining this can be.
- Hip Fractures – According to the CDC, more than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls. If a person slips and falls and fractures their hip, especially if they’re older, things can get devastating, fast. These injuries can cause victims to be bedridden for long periods, which is bad news for the elderly. According to the University of Florida, elderly adults can lose 20% of their muscle mass for every week they’re in bed; recovering from hip surgery can take months. Needless to say, a fracture can be a much bigger deal than some assume. In fact, one out of five hip fracture patients die within a year of their injury; this tragedy is an effect of being bedridden more than the from the fracture itself.
- Back and Spinal Cord Injuries – When a person falls, often their footing comes out from under them, causing a “head-over-heals” type motion. Once the body comes in contact with the hard floor or steps, the back can be severely injured. After all, the spine and accompanying nerves are delicate and cannot tolerate such force. Disc herniation, spinal fractures, and nerve damage, all possible results of a slip and fall, can be seriously painful and debilitating conditions that will likely cause the victim problems for a lifetime.
- Head Injuries – Traumatic brain injury is one of the most serious type of injuries a person can endure. According to the CDC, a majority of TBIs are caused by slip and fall injuries. As mentioned earlier, the ‘head over heals’ type motion that happens when you slip can easily create the conditions for a victim to land on their head. These injuries are almost guaranteed to change a person’s life. When someone suffers a head injury from a slip and fall, they’re often left with no choice but to seek compensation to help them with what are sure to be extensive hospital bills and missed work.
Contact a Clearwater Trip and Fall Attorney Today
Trip and fall accidents can result in significant medical expenses and lost income, as well as non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and loss of quality of life. These and other losses may be compensable by filing a Florida personal injury claim. To schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced Clearwater trip and fall lawyers, call our office today at (727) 451-6900. If you would like to send our office an email, please fill out the contact form available on the right side of this page.