Slips and falls are among the most common premises liability cases. While these sorts of cases seem like they would be simple, they’re often anything but simple. If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident on commercial, residential, or public property, an experienced slip and fall lawyer can help you to determine whether you have a case and, if so, guide you through the legal process of obtaining the maximum amount of compensation available to you.
Facts About Slips and Falls
The National Floor Safety Institute provides the following information about slips and falls:
- Each year, falls account for about 8 million visits to the hospital emergency room. Falls are the most common reason for patients to visit the hospital ER, accounting for 21 percent of all hospital visits. Around 12 percent of all falls involve a slip, as well.
- Women are more likely to suffer a slip and fall incident than men are. However, fatalities from falls are equally divided between men and women.
- Slips and falls are the primary reason for missed time from work.
- Floors and flooring materials directly contribute to around 2 million falls each year.
- Five percent of people who fall suffer a bone fracture. Hip fractures are among the most serious fractures, particularly among the elderly. Half of all elderly patients who receive a hip fracture will be unable to return home or live independently after the fracture.
- One-third of the population over the age of 65 will experience a fall each year. Half of those who suffer an injury from falling have fallen before.
- Falls are the leading cause of death for individuals over the age of 85, and are the second leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 65-84. With each decade of life, the likelihood of an injury due to falling increases.
- Falls account for 87 percent of all fractures seen in people over the age of 65, and are the second leading cause of spinal cord and brain injuries.
- Twenty-two percent of slip and fall injuries result in more than 31 missed days from work.
- The cost of slip and fall injuries in the United States is estimated at around $13 to 14 million per year.
- About 60 percent of all compensable fall cases occur on the same level, rather than from elevation.
How Do Slip and Fall Accidents Happen?
Slip and fall accidents may happen because of a dangerous condition that is present at a residential, commercial, or public building. Some of those conditions include:
- Debris, liquid, or ice on the floor
- Damaged flooring, including holes in the tile, upraised tiles, worn carpet, or cracked or uneven pavement
- Exposed electrical wiring
- Uneven stairs
- Missing or broken handrails
- Inadequate lighting
- Poorly placed fixtures
- Inadequate signage warning of danger
Common Slip and Fall Injuries
There are many common injuries that can happen when a person slips and falls or trips and falls. Among these injuries are:
- Broken bones or sprains: While most broken bones or sprains are not serious, as pointed out above, some fractures—such as hip fractures to an elderly person—can be deadly. Fractures can take a long time to heal, resulting in significant missed work.
- Shoulder injuries: Generally shoulder injuries occurring during a fall happen when an individual attempts to catch themselves with their arm.
- Back, neck, and spinal cord injuries: Common in falls that involve stairways or a fall from an elevation, back and spinal cord injuries are not just painful, but can be life-threatening or life-altering as well. Other common injuries affecting the back or spine include bulging or herniated discs, fractured vertebrae, whiplash, and other injuries to the soft tissue.
- Head injuries: Falls are the second most leading cause of traumatic brain injuries. Brain injuries can be life-altering and result in not only missed work but a loss of future earning ability also, if the injured individual is unable to return to the job they did before the injury occurred.
What Is a Premises Liability Claim?
A premises liability claim is a form of negligence lawsuit. Premises liability occurs when a property owner or one in control of maintaining a property fails to ensure that there are no hazards present and someone is injured as a direct cause of that hazard. In order to prove a premises liability case, the injured party must show:
- The property owner owed a duty of care to the claimant.
- The property owner failed to use reasonable care in maintaining or operating the property.
- The claimant was injured due to the property owner’s negligence.
The duty that a property owner owes to a visitor is dependent on the type of visitor. There are three types of visitors, according to Florida law, including:
- Invitee: Also referred to as a business invitee, this category of visitors has been invited to the property by express or implied invitation or is there doing business that both parties mutually desire. Some examples of invitees include store patrons or repairmen who come to a property owner’s home. Invitees warrant the highest level of duty of care from the property owner, which includes regular inspections of the property and prompt repair of unsafe conditions or posted warnings of the danger.
- Licensee: A licensee is someone who enters or stays at the property. This includes social guests such as friends or family members. Licensees are owed a duty of care by the property owner to keep the property safe by fixing known issues and/or warning the visitors if the property owner knows of conditions that may harm them.
- Trespasser: A trespasser is a visitor who enters the property without the property owner’s consent or knowledge. The duty of care owed to trespassers is to not intentionally create dangerous conditions.
In addition to these three visitors, the law also provides for special considerations for children when it comes to premises liability cases. Known as the attractive nuisance doctrine, property owners are required to safeguard any potentially dangerous feature on their property that may attract a child’s natural curiosity and lead them to harm. Some features that fall under the attractive nuisance doctrine include swimming pools, abandoned cars or refrigerators, construction equipment, or other items that a child might find fun to play in or around.
The damages that one may be eligible to receive in a slip and fall case include:
- Economic damages, which are specific expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, and loss of future wages and/or earning ability
- Non-economic damages, including pain and suffering
- Punitive damages, damages that are intended to punish defendants for their negligence in especially egregious cases
Sometimes, a third party or even multiple parties can be named as defendants in premises liability cases. One example of this would be if both the property owner and a company leasing the property were responsible for the condition that caused your injury. Another example would be if you slipped and fell in a parking lot due to a condition that was covered in a contract that the property owner had with a third-party company responsible for parking lot maintenance.
Comparative Negligence in Slip and Fall Cases
All types of negligence cases in Florida are subject to the state’s comparative negligence rule. What this means is that claimants may seek compensation even if they’re partially responsible for their own injuries. However, any damage reward they receive will be decreased by the amount of responsibility that the court determines they bear. For example, if you obtained a damage award of $100,000 but you were found to be 20 percent responsible for your accident, your award would be reduced by 20 percent, meaning you would receive $80,000.
Frequently Asked Questions About Slip and Fall Cases
Q: Are there things I can do to help my slip and fall case?
A: Slip and fall cases require proof of not only injury but that the dangerous condition that caused the injury and the property owner’s knowledge of that condition and failure to fix it. As such, the more evidence you have to prove your case, the better. Photographs of any visible injuries, as well as the condition that caused them, are helpful. Documentation of your expenses, including medical costs, prescriptions, and missed work due to injuries are also crucial, as are witness statements. Keep copies of all written information pertaining to your case, and be sure to get the name and contact information from anyone who witnessed the accident and any managers or supervisors you spoke to.
Q: Does premises liability only apply to commercial buildings?
A: No. Slip and fall accidents can happen anywhere. It is possible to file a premises liability claim against a residential property owner, even if the property owner is your own landlord; the owner of a business; or even a governmental entity. Each type of case has its own unique facets and challenges. Claims against governmental entities, for example, feature stringent noticing requirements that aren’t seen in other types of premises liability cases.
Q: What is the statute of limitations for filing a slip and fall suit?
A: Most slip and fall lawsuits must be filed within four years of the injury.
Q: I fell at a public park. Is there any reason why I wouldn’t be able to file a slip and fall lawsuit against the city of Ft. Lauderdale, since it is a city park?
A: There are many reasons why you wouldn’t be able to file a slip and fall lawsuit against the city. Not all slips and falls constitute liability on the part of the property owner. If your own actions were the entire cause of your slip and fall, you can’t sue the property owner. If you fail to prove that the property owner—in this case, the city—had knowledge that the dangerous condition existed or if warning signs were clearly posted near the hazardous condition, it’s unlikely you would have an actionable claim. If you accept a settlement agreement with the city’s insurance carrier, you also likely can’t file a claim in court. If you miss a deadline for notification or let the statute of limitations pass, you also may not be able to file a lawsuit. Likewise, if your injuries were not serious and caused a minimal amount of damages, it might not be in your best interest to pursue a legal claim.
Q: Can I File a Slip and Fall Claim on my Own?
You technically can try to handle a slip and fall injury claim all on your own. While it is technically possible for you to attempt to handle a claim like this without any help, there is a significant risk that you can make mistakes that can damage the value of your claim. When dealing with an insurance company, they will notice that you do not have the assistance of an experienced attorney so they will take the opportunity to use every trick in the book to diminish the value of your claim or deny it outright. Handling a denied claim without any experience with slip and fall cases is incredibly difficult. That is why it is highly recommended you at least speak to an attorney about your case. Sibley Dolman provides free consultations and is more than happy to show you how enlisting our assistance will ultimately result in your getting a settlement that you can be satisfied with.
Q: Do I need an attorney for my slip and fall case?
A: While the legal system allows individuals to represent themselves in cases, it is not advisable to do so in a premises liability case. Premises liability is a complex and time-consuming matter involving negotiations with insurance companies, expert medical testimony, and the filing of petitions and other events that are best left to those who have been trained to complete these tasks. Having an experienced slip and fall attorney is one of the best ways to help ensure you receive fair compensation for your injuries.
Q: The insurance company that provides coverage to the business where I was injured has offered me a settlement. Should I take it?
A: Maybe. First, you should talk to an experienced slip and fall attorney who can help you determine the total cost of your damages. The danger of accepting a quick settlement offer from the insurance company is that the compensation they’re offering you may not be enough to cover the cost of your damages, and if you agree to it, you cannot go back and ask for more money later. Your attorney can help you decide whether an offer is appropriate to accept.
Need Help? Contact a Ft. Lauderdale Slip and Fall Lawyer
In a city the size of Ft. Lauderdale, there is no shortage of commercial and governmental properties, and there are residential neighborhoods as far as the eye can see. While all of these represent the vitality of our area, they also represent potential opportunities for slip and fall accidents to take place. If you’ve been injured due to a slip and fall accident, you may be facing physical pain, lost wages, mounting medical bills, and a future that is uncertain due to your injuries. Let us help.
The knowledgeable slip and fall lawyers at Sibley Dolman have helped many people obtain the compensation they need to recover from their injuries through artful negotiation, aggressive representation, and extensive investigation. We look forward to meeting with you during your free consultation and case evaluation so we can give you answers to your questions and explain to you what your legal options are. Contact us at Sibley Dolman online or by calling (754) 208-1130 to schedule your consultation today.
Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP
100 SE 3rd Ave
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33394
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