Attorneys who represent victims of falls on someone else’s property sometimes refer to themselves as slip and fall attorneys. But the fact is, falls happen for all sorts of reasons. Slipping is one of them, but so is tripping, losing one’s balance, or getting injured because of a property feature like a crack in the sidewalk or a loose railing. Whatever the manner a person gets injured in a fall, if someone else’s actions contributed to the incident, the person injured may have the right to seek compensation under Florida law. Speak with the experienced Florida Slip and Fall Lawyers at Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman to learn more.
Injuries from falls represent a serious health risk for many Floridians. Older Florida residents and visitors—those 65 and older—face particular danger from falls, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nationally, one in four older adults falls every year. Falling once double’s a person’s chances of falling again. And falls are immensely costly; the CDC reports the annual health care cost of older adult falls in Florida totals approximately $4 billion per year.
About Our Slip and Fall Injury Practice
Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman are affiliated law firms with years of combined experience representing Florida residents and visitors who have suffered severe injuries and tragic deaths through no fault of their own. Our firms have recovered millions and millions of dollars on behalf of our clients, including in cases involving preventable, catastrophic falls on someone else’s property.
People sometimes feel reluctant to get the help of a lawyer after they fall. Falling can be embarrassing. No one wants others to think they’re unsteady on their feet. Fall victims often think they should just tough it out, rather than making an issue out of an injury. At Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman, we understand these concerns. And yes, sometimes a fall is just a fall. But Florida’s premises liability laws exist to keep all of us safe. By speaking up and seeking compensation for injuries you sustained in a fall, not only might you recover compensation the law says you deserve, you also do your part in holding wrongdoers accountable and in making the places where we eat, shop, and recreate safer for everyone.
About Premises Liability
Believe it or not, there is an entire body of law devoted to assigning liability for injuries someone sustains when they fall on someone else’s property. It is called premises liability law. Here is an overview of how that area of the law works (Please note: There are some circumstances where you could have rights to compensation for an injury you sustain in a fall at home, too. We won’t get into them here, but we urge you to contact us with questions if you fell at home and think another person or company might be to blame).
Florida, like most states, recognizes that owners and occupiers of property have duties to keep visitors to their properties safe from harm. If an owner/occupier fails in this duty, and a property visitor gets hurt as a result, then the owner/occupier may have legal liability for damages to the injured person.
But not every visitor sets foot on a property for the same reason, and not all properties have the same features. So, the law classifies property visitors into three general categories that establish the duties the owner/occupier of the property owes to keep them safe from harm.
Invitees Are Owed The Highest Duties of Care
Visitors with express or implied permission to set foot on someone else’s property for the (typically business or official) benefit of the property owner/occupier are called invitees. Property owners/occupiers have a legal duty to take all reasonable measures to keep invitees safe from harm. They must maintain the property in a safe condition for visitors, and must warn visitors of any unsafe condition until it is fixed. Invitees include customers at any type of business that is open to the public, such as stores, restaurants, and amusement parks.
Licensees Have Lesser Protections
Visitors to a property who have express or implied permission to enter property principally for their own benefit are known as licensees. Property owners/occupiers owe licensees a slightly lesser duty of care than is owed to invitees. Property owners must not affirmatively injure licensees, and must warn them of known dangers on a property. But the owners/occupiers do not have an obligation to keep a property in safe condition all the time for licensees, as they do for invitees. Licensees include people visiting a public park or beach, and (confusingly) people invited over to someone else’s house as a social guest.
Trespassers Are Owed The Least Protections (Unless They Are Children)
Property owners/occupiers owe almost no protection to trespassers, who have no permission, express or implied, to enter someone else’s property. The only duty the owner/occupier owes to a trespasser is not to willfully or wantonly injure that person. And even that duty is limited by stand your ground laws and legal principles that give homeowners certain rights to defend their property against the commission of a crime. But, the law treats child trespassers differently. Property owners/occupiers have a duty to take reasonable steps to keep children safe from harm on their properties, even if the child is a trespasser, when a property has a feature (such as a swimming pool or a trampoline) that would be attractive to a child.
Any time someone falls and gets injured on someone else’s property, their lawyer’s first job usually is to identify which type of visitor they were on the property where they sustained their trauma. That, in turn, will help the lawyer determine the degree of potential legal liability the property owner/occupier has to the injured client. At Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman, we encourage anyone injured on someone else’s property to come speak with us, no matter what permission you had to be on the property when the injury happened.
Common Slip and Fall Injuries
The scary thing about falls is that even one that looks minor can cause severe, even life-threatening injuries. This is particularly true for older Floridians whose bones tend to be more brittle, and for children whose brains are still developing. Below are some of the most common types of injuries we have seen in our practices at Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman resulting from accidental falls.
- Broken bones (especially wrists and hips). As we age, our bones become more prone to breaks. For older Floridians, the bones that absorb the brunt of the impact in even a simple fall are often the hip (when someone falls to their side) and wrist (when someone extends their arm to cushion a fall). Of course, a person of any age can break a bone in a fall, and falls can break just about any bone in the human body depending on the circumstances.
- Brain injury. In a fall in which a person takes a blow to the head, brain injury is a real and significant danger, and one that often goes undiagnosed until long after the accident. If you fall and hit your head, always consult with a doctor right away. There are telltale signs of concussion and/or traumatic brain injury that simple exams can reveal. Do not assume that just because you feel okay immediately after a fall that you are, in fact, okay. Brain injuries can take time to show symptoms, and can affect your judgment and ability to make decisions.
- Spine injury. A fall that impacts or exerts unnatural force on a person’s spine can result in a catastrophic injury to the spinal cord (the bundle of nerve fibers protected by the spine that transmit the brain’s messages to the body). A rupture of the spinal cord, or even swelling around it, can cause temporary or permanent paralysis.
- Nerve and soft tissue damage. The impact of a fall can cause permanent damage to nerves, and can inflict tears, sprains, and other trauma on soft tissue such as muscles, ligaments, and tendons. While most of these injuries may heal, they can also lead to chronic pain conditions that have a devastating impact on a person’s quality of life.
All of the injuries above, if severe enough, can lead to the fall victim’s death, either directly or because of secondary health complications. In other words, a loved one may not have passed away immediately from falling and breaking her hip, but fatal health events, such as stroke or organ failure, triggered by the initial trauma of the fall could still make the fall a contributing cause for which your family is owed damages.
How We Can Help
The most important thing to do after falling on someone else’s property is to seek appropriate medical care. Your health comes first. Visiting the doctor will help make sure you receive the treatment and information you need to make a full recovery from the injury you sustained.
Once your (or your loved one’s) health has stabilized, take time to consult with an experienced Florida slip and fall attorney from Dolman Law Group or Sibley Dolman. An initial consultation with our team is free, confidential, and comes with no obligation to hire us to help you. Here are some of the ways we have helped our clients in slip and fall cases.
Investigating the Fall
The sooner we can get started investigating a client’s fall, the better. Property owners tend to try to fix the property condition that led to a fall right away. It makes sense that they would do that, but it makes it all that much more important that we act quickly to preserve evidence—visual and physical—of the scene of the fall. That evidence may help prove how the fall happened, and what the owner/occupier’s responsibility should have done to prevent our client’s injury.
Negotiating with Insurance and Others
As lawyers who have spent decades representing victims of falls, the teams at Sibley Dolman and Dolman Law Group know their way around a negotiation. Our experience gives our clients a fair shot at negotiating reasonable, appropriate settlements with insurance companies and lawyers for property owners/occupants. Without the help of skilled lawyers like us, fall victims and their families risk being victimized all over again by insurance adjusters and defense lawyers whose only goal is to limit their financial exposure.
Taking Cases to Court
Most slip and fall cases in Florida, and elsewhere, settle out of court. That is just the reality of the legal system. But the only way to have a strong bargaining position in a settlement negotiation is to be ready to go to court, and win, if it comes to that. At Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman, we take pride in our skills as trial lawyers. We have the reputation as a winning team in the courtroom, and the track record to back it up. Of course, no one can predict the outcome of a trial, but because we’re known as fighters for our clients in the courtroom, we put our clients in the best possible position to recover the compensation they deserve.
Florida Slip and Fall Frequently Asked Questions
Slip and fall accidents victims are often seriously injured and do not know where to turn. In some cases, a victim suffers a traumatic brain injury and their families are looking for answers. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions regarding slip and fall accidents.
What types of accidents are considered slips and falls in Florida?
Slip and fall accidents are broadly described as any time a victim loses their balance and falls. This phenomenon could occur in a variety of circumstances, such as on a flat surface like a wet driveway that is covered in leaves, an office floor where the carpeting or tile is loose, or on a staircase due to a defective handrail. Sometimes trip and fall accidents are called slip and fall accidents. Either way, these accidents can and do cause serious injury to their victims.
What types of injuries are common in Florida slip and fall accidents?
Any type of fall could result in a serious injury. Keep in mind, fall injuries will vary depending on several factors which include the overall health of the person falling. A child who falls is less likely to suffer as serious an injury as an older youth.
The age of the victim can play a role in the type of injuries suffered in a slip and fall accident as well. Those who are in good physical condition and slip and fall, but can catch themselves before they hit the ground, may suffer a sprained or broken ankle or even a broken wrist from their fall. A senior citizen who falls could suffer from a broken leg, hip, or pelvis.
Back, neck, and head injuries are also common in slip and fall accidents. Some victims strike their head hard enough to cause long-term damage—such as a traumatic brain injury. Even if you believe you do not have a serious injury after a Florida slip and fall accident, a medical professional should see you.
Who are the most common victims of Florida slip and fall accidents?
While anyone can be a victim of slip and fall, children and seniors tend to suffer injuries more frequently in slip and fall accidents. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that senior citizens who suffer from a slip and fall accident are more likely to suffer injuries that result in their death. While some data is old, this study showed as many as 30,000 seniors lost their lives in slip and fall accidents. It also showed that more than 3 million emergency room visits a year result from seniors in slip and fall accidents.
Older adults are not the only people at risk from falls. In fact, the World Health Organization reports that falls represent the second leading cause of accidental and unintentional injury deaths worldwide every year, after traffic accidents. Along with older people, children face a high risk of taking catastrophic falls, because of their higher rate of risk-taking. Other groups that deal with heightened fall risk every day include those who work in potentially hazardous, high-height conditions (such as construction workers), users of alcohol, pain medications, and illicit drugs, and anyone who visits a location that is potentially unsafe (whether it is inherently so or because of poor upkeep).
Where are Florida slip and fall accidents most likely to occur?
A slip and fall accident can occur anyplace; outdoors in a parking lot, on a sidewalk going into an office building, at the workplace, in a store or shopping center are just a few examples. Certain businesses may see a higher probability of slip and fall accidents as a result of the very nature of their business. This is largely because of the use of liquids. For example, amusement parks, restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, and even movie theatres could experience a higher degree of risk for slip and fall injuries.
Office buildings with primarily tile floors are also highly likely to see increases of slip and fall accidents, particularly after the cleaning crew has washed and polished a floor. This is also true when there is a lot of traffic and it is raining outside. While Florida does not have some of the same hazards as areas with cold and snowy winters, water on a tile floor can be just as hazardous.
If I slip and fall in a Florida store, is the store always liable?
The simple answer is no, they are not. To establish liability in a slip and fall accident, the property owner must be aware there is a problem or have a reasonable expectation there will be a problem. If you enter a grocery store and the person in front of you drops a bottle of vinegar on the floor which shatters and you slip and fall, the property owner could not have foreseen that problem.
On the other hand, if a store employee was unloading a pallet of merchandise and drops a bottle of juice which shatters and remains there for several hours, the store could be liable because the employee had an obligation to report and/or clean up the spill.
What happens if I slip and fall at work in Florida?
Florida has complicated worker’s compensation laws. If you are injured on the job, you have a responsibility to file an accident report and a claim. Workers’ compensation laws may require that you pursue compensation through your employer’s insurance, and that can limit your recovery to economic damages. However, if you are a contractor who is working in a facility, you could file a civil lawsuit. Additionally, if your injuries were caused by a third party (such as a delivery company employee, coworker, or another person who does not work for your employer), you may still have the basis for a Florida slip and fall case if you were injured at work—and in those cases, you can pursue non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
Are Florida slip and fall claims difficult to prove?
Yes, they are. Slip and fall claims require the injured person to demonstrate that the property owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard which caused the accident. This is one reason the attorney handling your claim would need to know the reason for your fall, how long the hazard existed, and how often the owner of the property was onsite inspecting for defects. In many cases, surveillance tapes, business records, and accounts from witnesses may help provide this type of proof.
The legal definition of constructive knowledge is: “knowledge of a particular fact, circumstance or set of facts or circumstances which could be obtained by exercising the degree of care which a person of ordinary diligence would exercise in the same or similar circumstances.”
Does the reason I am on a property matter if I am injured in a Florida slip and fall accident?
Yes, it does matter why you were on a property at the time of injury. Premises liability law says owners have a duty of care to the people they are inviting on to their property. This means that if you are trespassing and you are injured while on the property due to a slip and fall accident, you may lose the right to sue the property owner. An example of someone who is invited onto a property and then becomes a trespasser is if they were to enter a facility and walk through an area that is closed off to the public. If you are slip and fall while walking in this area you could be considered a trespasser versus an invitee.
Are there time limits for filing a Florida slip and fall accident lawsuit?
Yes, there are limits for filing a suit. In general, Florida Statute 95.11 allows you to file a lawsuit within four years of the date of your injury in a slip and fall case. However, there are several exceptions. For example, if you lost a loved one due to injuries suffered in a slip and fall accident in Florida, you have only two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Claims against a municipality for a slip and fall injury on city- or town-owned property is also shorter. This is why it can be important to discuss your case with a Florida slip and fall lawyer as soon as possible after an injury occurs.
What type of damages may I claim in a Florida slip and fall lawsuit?
Regardless of the type of Florida slip and fall lawsuit filed, you can try to hold the responsible party accountable for certain financial items. These include:
- Lost wages – Both current and future lost wages.
- Medical bills – The cost of caring for your injuries including tests, medical devices, doctor visits, prescription drugs, rehabilitation costs, and mileage going back and forth to visits.
You may also claim non-financial items, including:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium/companionship
It can help to discuss the types of compensation you should seek when filing a slip and fall accident lawsuit with an attorney who has premises liability claims experience.
How much compensation could I expect to recover for my Florida slip and fall injuries?
This is perhaps the most difficult question victims of slip and fall injuries ask attorneys.
The problem is that there is no easy answer to this question because these factors could affect how much compensation victims could collect:
- Extent of injuries – The primary factor is the extent of the injuries a victim suffers. Someone with a broken leg is likely to get less compensation than a victim who suffered a traumatic brain injury.
- Lost time from work – The longer you are out of work, the more compensation you may be entitled to collect in a lawsuit. This is a direct monetary cost to you, and you could be entitled to become financially whole.
- Cost of treatment – The more complicated the treatment for your injuries, the more expensive they will be. Medical bills are a complicated matter because your private or employer-provided insurance may pay for the costs initially, but you may have to reimburse them if you obtain a Florida slip and fall settlement.
These are just a few factors that could play a role in how much you might reasonably anticipate being compensated for in a premises liability lawsuit after a slip and fall accident. Discuss this further with a Florida slip and fall attorney when you meet so you will have a better understanding of what types of damages you may include in your lawsuit.
How do I know who is responsible for the injury I suffered after a Florida slip and fall accident?
When you hire a Florida slip and fall attorney to handle a slip and fall case, they will begin seeking evidence to support your claim. For example, witness statements, statements from people who work in the building where you were injured, and surveillance tapes could help identify the root cause of a slip and fall accident.
Generally, the property owner is responsible for the underlying problem. However, there are exceptions such as if you were in a slip and fall accident in the workplace, but the maintenance in the building was done by an outside company. More than one party may have caused the conditions that resulted in your fall as well. A lawyer could help identify the responsible parties and help in your efforts to hold them accountable.
I am out of work due to my injuries. How can I afford a Florida slip and fall attorney?
First, you can schedule a free consultation and discuss your injuries and your case with a well-respected Florida slip and fall attorney who understands how Florida laws work. Once this is done, the lawyer would advise you on what options are available to you and help you decide which option is best for your specific circumstances.
Should you decide to move forward and file a lawsuit against the parties responsible for your slip and fall injuries, it is common for lawyers to work on a contingency fee basis to secure a settlement on your behalf. You should speak with your lawyer ahead of time about other costs including filing costs and decide how those fees will be handled.
If you suffered an injury in a Florida slip and fall accident, or you lost a loved one because someone ignored a hazardous condition resulting in their death, contact a Florida premises liability lawyer for a free, no-obligation consultation. This could help you understand your legal rights as well as determine the best way forward.
Call Our Florida Slip and Fall Attorneys Now
Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman want to hear from you if you have sustained an injury or tragic loss as a result of a fall on someone else’s property in Florida. If you act now, you may have the ability to recover substantial compensation.
With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach the Florida personal injury lawyers at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP, at 833-552-7274(833-55-CRASH), or you can write to us using our online contact page.
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Dolman Law Group
800 N Belcher Rd
Clearwater, FL 33765
Phone: (727) 451-6900