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 Fort Lauderdale 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.
Why Choose Our Fort Lauderdale Slip and Fall Attorneys
- A $300,000 settlement for a client who slipped and fell in a restaurant parking lot due to the failure of the property's owner or possessor to repair known hazards.
- An $82,000 settlement for a client who suffered a SLAP tear during a slip and fall accident. This involves a particularly painful injury to the tissue that surrounds the socket of the shoulder joint. The defendant initially denied liability for the accident, and later alleged that the victim's injuries were not as serious as she claimed. The initial settlement offer in this case was $35,000.
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
Are there things I can do to help my slip and fall case?
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.
Does premises liability only apply to commercial buildings?
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.
What is the statute of limitations for filing a slip and fall suit?
Most slip and fall lawsuits must be filed within four years of the injury.
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?
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.
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. Dolman Law Group 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.
Do I need an attorney for my slip and fall case?
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.
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.
What are some of the facts about slip and fall accidents?
Falls are a frequent cause of emergency room visits, accounting for 1 million emergency room visits each year. Of those falls, approximately 12 percent are slip and fall accidents, which can cause serious injuries and even death. Death rates from falls are on the rise and have increased by 30 percent in recent years.
We don't have numbers for Fort Lauderdale slip and fall accidents, but according to the National Safety Council's statistics, 15.2 falls per 100,000 population took place in Florida. Slip and fall accidents are also extremely costly, and the financial burden may prove devastating for some individuals. Many slip and fall accidents are preventable. Below, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions that we hear from our clients.
What are the common causes of slip and fall accidents?
Some of the most common causes of slip and falls include the following:
- Unmarked wet or slippery floors
- Icy or snowy surfaces
- Crumbling or improperly maintained sidewalks
- A sudden dip or rise in floor level
- Torn, loose or raised carpets
- Unsafe balconies, decks, porches, or similar structures
- Items left on the floor
- Defective or damaged staircases
- Inadequate signage warning of a hazardous area on the property
- Poorly lit walkways and staircases
Other common causes include:
- Nursing home neglect. Seniors have a much higher risk of falling, and when they do fall, the injuries tend to be more severe, and the recovery process takes longer. Nursing home administrators and employees must remain especially vigilant to guard against falls.
- Footwear. According to the National Floor Safety Institute, footwear causes 24 percent of slip and fall accidents. Shoes that cause instability or do not provide enough traction can also cause falls.
- Weather conditions. While property owners can't control the weather, they do have to keep paths, parking lots, and other walkways as safe as possible. People often fall on wet, icy, or oily walkways and parking lots.
- Improper training and prevention in the workplace. Work areas, especially those in manufacturing and construction, often have slippery surfaces or insufficient lighting. On-the-job training, well-maintained spaces, and proper footwear can help avoid accidents.
What are the most common injuries caused by slip and fall accidents?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of five falls causes a serious injury. Some of the most common types of injuries are:
- Traumatic brain injuries. Most people think of traumatic brain injuries in terms of organized sports. However, falls are actually the most common cause of brain injuries. Even if your head does not hit the ground, a fall that jolts your brain may cause a traumatic brain injury. The symptoms of a traumatic brain injury may not be immediately apparent, so it is important to seek medical attention following a fall. A brain injury can have long term consequences, so it is critical to obtain the necessary treatment promptly. An untreated traumatic brain injury can lead to serious secondary injuries.
- Bone fractures can include wrist and arm fractures, as well as dangerous hip fractures and skull fractures. Falls are responsible for 95 percent of hip fractures. Hip fractures cause pain, suffering, limited mobility, and may require surgery. If you slip and fall, there's a five percent chance that you're going to break a bone, and this becomes more likely as you get older. However, no matter what your age or health, you may qualify for compensation.
- Back and neck injuries, like whiplash, ruptured discs, and spinal cord injuries, are potentially disabling.
- Knee and leg injuries can take a long time to heal. Knees are one of the most complicated and easily damaged joints in the body. Falls can lead to painful dislocations, tendon tears, and fractures.
- Sprained ankles or wrists often take a long time to heal. Although we often think of them as minor injuries, they often prove inconvenient and painful and may limit mobility.
- Shoulder dislocations. Falling onto an outstretched hand, arm, or shoulder can cause a shoulder dislocation, resulting in significant pain and suffering. The injury may require long-term treatment or surgery.
- Soft tissue injuries, such as torn muscles, and ligaments, bruises, cuts, and abrasions, may not show immediate symptoms, but if left untreated, such injuries can cause chronic pain.
Who is responsible?
To recover compensation for a slip and fall injury, you must prove that another party caused the accident that led to your injuries. The law often turns on the classification of the person who suffered the injury. There are three legal classifications for individuals who are on someone else's property.
Business visitors, such as customers to a restaurant or department store, are owed the highest duty of care; social guests are second; and trespassers just must not be intentionally harmed. If the property owner fails to maintain the property or adequately warn others about hazards, the owner may be liable. The property owners have less of a duty of care to trespassers, because they are uninvited, although there are still some exceptions.
For example, Florida's Attractive Nuisance Doctrine states that property owners may be liable if there is something on the property that draws children in and also poses a danger to them, such as a swimming pool, playground equipment, or construction equipment.
To determine the classification of an injured person, the court may consider:
- How the visitor is using the property
- Whether the property owner should have foreseen or anticipated the accident
- The visitor's reason for being on the property
- Whether the property owner took reasonable steps to warn others of the dangerous condition
Many slip and fall accidents occur at work. In such a case, you may qualify for a workers' compensation claim, meant to pay for your medical bills and replace your lost income while you cannot work. When an employer provides workers' compensation insurance, then the employee generally cannot sue the employer in the event of a slip and fall accident at work. However, if someone other than the employer caused the fall, the employee may bring a lawsuit against that person or company, depending on the circumstances.
Slip and fall injuries may also occur in federal, state, or local government buildings, such as the:
- Post office
- Public library
- Motor vehicle administration
- County hospital
- Police department
Slip and fall claims against a governmental body are complicated and have special deadlines.
What is the law in Florida regarding slip and falls?
Claims resulting from slip and fall accidents are based on the theory of negligence. Generally, slip and fall cases are premises liability cases, which refers to a property owner's legal obligation to make his or her property safe for guests and other visitors. Property owners are required to act with the same level of care that an ordinarily prudent person would have exercised under similar circumstances. Because of this legal obligation, property owners may face liability for injuries suffered by their guests.
Florida premises liability law states that businesses and property owners must maintain their properties in a reasonably safe condition for customers and/or visitors. If the property owner or manager knows or should have known that the property is unsafe in some way, he or she must fix the problem without delay. Otherwise, the owner may face liability for injuries suffered by anyone who lawfully visits the property.
For example, under Fort Lauderdale building codes, all surfaces must meet minimum standards to qualify as safe under wet and dry conditions.
- If you are grocery shopping and the sprinklers go on in the produce section, and you fall and suffer an injury, is the store liable?
- Was the store owner or manager negligent?
- What if only a short time had passed, or management did not know the sprinkler had gotten the floor wet?
- What if an employee or manager saw the wet floor and ignored it or failed to warn customers?
- Even if no one saw the hazard, should the store still have known about the danger?
A warning sign may be a temporary fix, but how long did it take the business to correct the underlying problem? It is important to determine how and where your injury occurred, as well.
Business and property owners often claim that they took all reasonable precautions to keep their premises safe. The injured person must prove that these precautions did not meet the accepted standards of care. The overall condition of the property may be a factor in this issue. If a property is badly maintained, inadequately lit, or generally not cared for, injuries are probably more foreseeable.
What evidence will help a slip and fall case?
Each case is unique, but there are a few important types of evidence that you will probably need to prove your case with:
- Medical bills and records. One of the key elements of a Fort Lauderdale slip and fall case is establishing that the injured person suffered harm as a result of the accident. Documenting your injuries is an essential part of this process. No matter what kinds of injuries you have suffered, you should seek medical attention right away and continue with your medical care as necessary. The records of your care will help to establish the timeline, and the medical bills will help calculate the total value of your claim. If your injuries are visible, take pictures. It is also a good idea to keep a journal, recording your daily pain levels and how the injury has affected your life.
- Documentation. Other types of documentation may help prove that the property owner was negligent. An accident report, which contains the basic information about the accident and the parties involved, often proves very useful. Photographs or videos of the accident scene may show hazards that contributed to the accident. Take pictures of the precise location of your fall, including any icy spots, stairs, or other hazards. Take notes of any details of your fall, including the date and time. Also, keep your shoes and clothing, as they may be relevant pieces of evidence later. If you can't take pictures yourself, ask a witness to do it for you. Also, note any security cameras in the area.
- Witness statements. Any witness statements that support your claim may help disprove any false allegations about the cause of the accident that the defense puts forward. People sometimes forget details or become confused, so it is best to gather witness information early on in the process. In addition, expert witnesses may testify about unsafe property maintenance or inadequate safety measures.
What types of damages might you recover in a slip and fall accident claim?
When a slip and fall injury resulted from someone else's negligence, the injured party may sue to recover damages for losses related to the accident.
Damages may include:
- Medical expenses, including emergency care, hospital stays, ongoing doctor visits, therapy, and rehabilitation costs
- Rehabilitation costs, including physical and occupational therapy and assistive devices, such as canes, walkers, and wheelchairs
- Future medical expenses for permanent or long-term disabilities
- Lost wages for missed work
- Loss of earning capacity if a permanent disability prevents the victim from returning to his or her previous job
- Pain and suffering, such as physical and emotional pain
Have you sustained an injury in a slip and fall case?
You may feel embarrassed in the immediate aftermath of a slip and fall accident, but you should never apologize for your injuries, blame yourself, or make excuses. The defense may end up using your statements against you down the road.
All states have a window of time, known as statutes of limitations, in which plaintiffs must file their lawsuits. Individuals injured in Florida slip and fall accidents must file their cases within four years of the incident. Therefore, to obtain full and fair compensation for your injuries, promptly consult an attorney.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a slip and fall accident, you should speak with an experienced, dedicated Fort Lauderdale slip and fall accident lawyer. For a free case evaluation, call the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA today.
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 our Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys help.
The knowledgeable slip and fall lawyers at Dolman Law Group 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 Dolman Law Group online or by calling (754) 208-1130 to schedule your consultation today.
Fort Lauderdale Office
150 E Davie Blvd Suite 201-2
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
Phone: (754) 208-1130
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