Most of us have either fallen ourselves or have a friend or family member who has fallen. Often we think of a slip and fall as a minor event. We may even laugh about it. But the truth is, falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injury-related hospital admissions in Florida. Falls are the leading cause of injury death for older Florida residents. They are the fourth leading cause of injury death overall.
A slip and fall accident can happen almost anywhere, such as home, public places, or work. Many of these give rise to personal injury lawsuits. If you were injured in a slip and fall accident due to the negligence of another, you need help from an experienced personal injury lawyer.
People fall and are injured every day. But some injuries are the fault of another. There are three categories of people who are injured while visiting someone else’s property. The classifications affect the property owner’s duty of care. Someone such as a business visitor or shopper, who has been invited onto a piece of property, is known as an invitee.
The property owner should use a high degree of care, such as regular safety inspections. A licensee, or social guest, is present with the property owner’s consent and must be protected and warned of known dangers. A trespasser enters a property without the property owner’s consent, often illegally. In these cases, the only duty of care is that the property owner may not intentionally harm a trespasser.
Therefore, under Florida premises liability law, a landowner or business must maintain their property in a “reasonably safe condition” for customers or guests. If the 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. If the property owner fails to fix the problem, resulting in a fall and injury, the injured person may be able to sue under the theory of premises liability, which is a form of negligence.
The nature of the business and the circumstances of the fall play a part in determining whether the property was unsafe. For example, Florida building codes require that all surfaces meet minimum standards to keep the surfaces safe under both wet and dry conditions. The law provides that the accident victim must prove that the business establishment or property owner had “actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it.” It may be difficult to prove constructive knowledge. The plaintiff would have to show circumstantial evidence proving that the dangerous condition existed for so long that a reasonable person should have known about it or the dangerous condition happened regularly and was, therefore, foreseeable. If a property owner knows of a dangerous condition on their premises, they have a legal duty to fix the problem or take steps to warn others of the danger. Failure to do so may be evidence of negligence.
The property owners often claim that they took all reasonable precautions to prevent accidents and injuries. The burden is on the injured person to prove that such efforts did not meet the accepted standards of care. How long were the dangerous conditions allowed to continue? What else could have been done to correct the problem?
It may be enough to mop puddles occasionally, but when it is rainy, or the store is crowded, the manager should mop the floor more frequently. Were warning signs placed around a dangerous area promptly? If so, that may be adequate as a temporary solution, but the property owner can still be liable if they fail to find a long-term solution.
In considering defenses to slip and fall lawsuits, courts may take the general condition of the property into consideration. If there is a general failure to keep the property properly maintained, lit and staffed, then claiming that the injuries were unforeseeable seems less likely.
To prevail in a personal injury lawsuit, you have to prove liability. Did the defendant have a duty of care, fail in that duty, and as a result, cause your injury? This issue is not always clear cut. To prove that a “dangerous condition” existed, such as a spill in the grocery store or a broken stair, your attorney may use pictures or video footage, witnesses, and expert testimony.
The first question is, how did your injury occur? Falls happen so quickly, and sometimes the injured person assumes it was their fault. They may not understand exactly how it happened. For example, what if you fell down the stairs. How did you fall? Was there a handrail and were you holding on to it? Were the steps uneven? Were you carrying something? Did you trip over something? These are all facts that everyone involved in the lawsuit will want to know. Some of these circumstances may be the fault of the premises owner. Others, such as tripping over your own clothing, may have contributed to your injury. When determining liability, Florida uses the standard of pure comparative negligence. Under this rule, if you were partly to blame for your accident, you can still recover compensation.
Statute of Limitations
It is important to know that all states have time limits or statutes of limitations for lawsuits. It is essential to file your claim within those time limits, or you may lose the right to sue. In Florida, anyone who is injured in a slip and fall must file their lawsuit against the property owner within four years of the incident. If you are approaching this deadline, you should consult an attorney immediately.
Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall accidents happen in all kinds of ways, including:
- Slip and fall, where a spill or slippery object causes the fall
- Trip and fall, in which someone falls due to an uneven surface or an object in the way
- Step and fall, in which someone stumbles over a hole or unexpected low spot and is injured
Walking and going about our everyday lives can be risky. There are so many hazards underfoot that it is no wonder falls are so frequent. The National Floor Safety Institute reports that hazardous walking surfaces cause 55 percent of all slip and fall accidents. The following conditions can turn a walking surface into a hazard:
- Recently mopped or waxed floors
- Uneven transitioning from one floor to another
- Torn or curling carpeting
- Cluttered floors
- Loose floorboards
- Objects on the stairs
- Poorly constructed staircases
- Missing or unstable railings
- Defective sidewalks
- Parking lot potholes
Other causes include:
- Footwear. The National Floor Safety Institute reports that footwear causes 24 percent of slip and fall accidents. Any type of footwear that doesn’t provide proper traction or that causes instability can cause people to slip and fall at home, in public or on the job.
- Weather conditions. Wet or icy walkways or can cause a slip and fall. Rain mixed with oil leaks can make parking lots hazardous. While you can’t always predict the weather, property owners have a responsibility to maintain walkways as safely as possible.
- Improper training. Many slip and fall accidents happen in the workplace. Some work areas, especially those in the manufacturing and construction fields, have slippery surfaces, or inadequate lighting. On the job training helps avoid many slip and fall accidents.
- Nursing home neglect. Seniors have a much higher risk of falling, and when they do, the injuries are more severe. Nursing home administrators and employees are responsible for properly monitoring and assisting their residents.
Injuries Caused by Slip and Fall Accidents
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of five falls causes a serious injury. Slip and fall injuries include:
- Broken bones. A fall can put severe pressure on the bones. As you get older, you are more likely you are to break a bone. However, no matter what your age or health, you may be entitled to compensation. Hip, wrist, and ankle fractures are common injuries resulting from falls.
- Knee damage. Knees are one of the most complex joints in the body. When you fall, you may twist and damage your knee. Many knee injuries take a long time to heal and may require knee reconstruction.
- Sprained ankles or wrists. It may not seem like a serious injury, but a sprained ankle or wrist is inconvenient and painful. It may interfere with your mobility and your ability to care for yourself. Sprains and strains often take a long time to heal.
- Shoulder dislocations. You may reach out as you fall and hit or jar your shoulder. Strained or dislocated shoulders may require surgery, as well as a long-term treatment plan for recovery.
- Spine or nerve damage. The spine and nerves are delicate. Your nervous system is involved in everything your body does, including controlling your muscles and regulating your breathing. In a slip and fall accident, you may damage nerves as a result of stretching, cuts, or direct trauma. In some cases, spine or nerve damage causes permanent disability.
- Traumatic brain injury. You may think that a traumatic brain injury only happens if your head hits the ground. However, even without direct impact, if the fall jolts your brain, you may suffer a traumatic brain injury. These injuries are serious because you may not experience the symptoms or recognize the severity of the injury right away. If a traumatic brain injury is not treated, a traumatic brain injury can lead to secondary injuries that are also serious.
What Damages Might You Recover From a Slip and Fall Injury?
A person who is injured in a slip and fall accident may recover damages for most costs and losses associated with the accident. Damages may include:
- Medical expenses including treatment in the emergency room, hospital stays, 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 in the event of permanent disability if the victim is unable to return to his or her previous job
- Pain and suffering, such as physical and emotional pain
If you have been injured in a slip and fall, you need to document your medical injuries carefully. Whether you have broken bones, cuts, and bruises, or other injuries, you need more than just your word for it that you’re hurt. You gather this evidence by seeking medical attention. You should seek medical attention as soon as you know that you’re hurt in a slip and fall. If you have visible injuries, take photos. You should also keep a diary of your daily pain levels.
Medical records, such as charts and medical tests, play a key role in your lawsuit. They may be used as evidence of your injury and to support the amount of damages that you are trying to recover. In many cases, past medical expenses and expected future medical expenses are a major part of a damage claim.
Orlando Slip and Fall FAQ
When someone slips and falls—whether at Walmart, Universal Orlando Resort, or the Amway Center, we may treat it as a joke and a minor incident. However, a fall is no laughing matter. It can cause serious injuries and have long-term personal and financial consequences.
Yellow caution signs warning of slippery floors and other dangers help prevent some accidents, but falls still occur daily. According to the National Floor Safety Institute, over one million emergency room visits occur due to slips and falls every year. In one recent year, 39,443 people died in falls either at work or at home.
Slips and falls constitute a primary cause of injury for every age group. However, older adults face particular risks. About one-third of adults over 65 sustain injuries in falls each year. More women experience a slip and fall accident, although fatalities resulting from a fall occur equally between men and women. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls accounted for 5 percent of the job-related fatalities for women, compared to 11 percent for men.
These accidents happen everywhere—at home, in stores, restaurants, and other public places. Sometimes no one bears liability for these accidents, but other times, a hazardous situation resulting from negligence causes the injury.
How Do Slip and Fall Accidents Commonly Happen?
Slip and fall accidents account for many unintentional injuries. We often hear about falls at home, and in fact, about half of all accidental deaths in the home involve a slip and fall; however, these accidents can occur anywhere and at any time. People fall in parking lots, on sidewalks, in shopping malls, in grocery stores, and wherever else people frequent. In Florida, wet and slippery surfaces can cause many slip and fall accidents.
Sometimes more than one factor may contribute to a slip and fall. People may have a false sense of security in someone’s home. However, according to the National Safety Council, falls that happen at home often occur in congested areas, on stairs, or ladders. Tripping hazards may include throw rugs, electrical cords, or doorway thresholds.
At work or in public places, people may fall in dimly lit parking lots or on uneven sidewalks. Construction workers may fall from scaffolding or other high places.
Typically, slip and falls most frequently occur in areas that have:
- Uneven floors or loose carpeting. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), floors and flooring materials contribute directly to more than 2 million fall injuries each year.
- Insufficient lighting in parking lots or along walking paths.
- Badly designed or constructed stairs or stairs without appropriate railings.
- Litter, clutter, or obstacles in walkways.
- Failure to provide adequate warnings in hazardous areas.
- Slippery floors.
- Broken or uneven sidewalks.
What Types of Injuries Do Fall Victims Sustain Most Frequently?
Regardless of the cause of the accident, a fall can have severe consequences. As with any accident, all kinds of injuries can occur. Some of the most serious types of slip and fall injuries include damage to the spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.
Common injuries caused by falls also include the following:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). These injuries range from a mild concussion to catastrophic brain damage. TBIs do not always present immediate symptoms or signs, so victims should always seek medical care after a fall to rule out TBIs.
- Spinal cord injuries. These often prove severe and may result in paralysis or other permanent damage.
- Broken bones. Five percent of those who fall suffer one or more broken bones. Falls constitute the most common cause of hip fractures, especially in older adults.
- Neck injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Torn tendons and ligaments
- Cuts, bruises, and scars
- Damaged nerves
- Sprains. These injuries can prove as painful and difficult to heal as fractures. Overextending joints and tendons can lead to a slow and painful recovery.
What Does Florida Law Say About Slip and Fall Accidents?
When a person slips, trips, or falls and sustains injuries on another person’s property, this constitutes a slip and fall accident, a type of personal injury lawsuit. If the accident resulted from another party’s negligence, a private property owner, the owner of a business, a transit company, or a government entity will likely bear liability for the accident, or multiple parties may share liability.
Other parties may bear liability, such as someone who performed maintenance on the property. Negligence can arise when a person fails to use due care, breaches that duty, and someone else sustains injuries due to that breach of care.
Florida has two laws that define liability for slip-and-fall accidents. According to Florida’s premises liability law, a property owner bears liability if he or she acted negligently by failing to keep the property free of hazards and conditions that can cause slips and falls.
Negligence can arise when a person fails to use due care, breaches that duty, and someone else sustains injuries due to that breach of care. The responsible person may bear liability if he or she either knew of the hazard, or should have known, and failed to remedy the problem.
If property owners or managers discover a hazard, they should remove the danger or place proper warning signs in that location to prevent serious injuries. The owner’s duty of care depends on whether the victim qualifies under the law as a trespasser, a licensee, or an invitee.
The other law concerns the premises liability for transitory foreign substances in a business establishment, which focuses more on public areas, such as sidewalks, parking lots, (although not privately owned parking lots), and streets. The statute states that if a property owner fails to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition, that party will bear liability for any injuries caused by those unsafe conditions.
If your slip and fall injury occurred on public property, such as property owned by a city, state, local municipality, or other government agency, the process of pursuing a personal injury claim might involve a different process and different laws. These types of cases may involve different procedural steps, such as filing a Notice of Claim. Also, these lawsuits may involve different deadlines and statutes of limitations. In some cases, the doctrine of sovereign immunity protects certain government employees and agencies from a lawsuit. However, under specific conditions, the state may waive sovereign immunity.
How Do You Prove Fault in a Slip and Fall Accident?
Many slip-and-fall cases involve falls on slippery surfaces, uneven walkways, or staircases. You may feel shocked and injured immediately after a fall, but if possible, try to take pictures, or ask someone to take them for you. Take pictures of puddles or spills and any warning signs in the area. Note any video cameras in the area that may have recorded your fall. Take photos of a defective staircase from several angles. Is there a handrail? Is there only one handrail? Or are the handrails at the wrong height? Are there obstacles or torn carpet on the stairs? A construction expert can assess whether the stairs have design defects using your photos.
The evidence you provide will help support your case. You should gather and preserve records and other evidence as soon as possible after the fall, because as time goes on, it may prove difficult to locate.
Valuable evidence may include:
- Repair and inspection records
- Police reports or reports of your accident, as well as others who may have experienced the same hazard
- Medical records concerning your injury
- Statements from witnesses who saw the accident or knew about the hazard
- Any correspondence or records, such as emails, or other evidence that establishes that the other party knew about the risk.
What Compensation Might You Receive?
Certain evidence, such as medical records, bills, pay stubs, expert testimony, and other testimony regarding the devastating impact of your injuries, supports your damage claim.
In a Florida slip and fall case, you may qualify to pursue compensation for:
- Non-economic damages (including pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and
- Economic damages (including medical bills, lost wages, property damage, such as broken glasses, etc.).
Florida law does not impose a cap on damages in a slip and fall case against a private owner or operator of a business in Florida.
Do Workers Who Sustain Injuries in a Slip and Fall Accident Qualify for Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
Slip and fall incidents constitute the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims, as well as occupational injuries for those aged 55 years and older. Falls occur in all manufacturing and service sectors, but most fatal falls occur in construction, mining, and some maintenance activities. Falls account for one-third of on-the-job deaths in the construction industry.
The workers’ compensation system provides cash benefits to employees who suffer an injury or become disabled due to an on-the-job or work-related injury or illness. In the workers’ compensation system, employees give up their right to sue an employer for injuries from work-related accidents in exchange for receiving benefits for all work-related accidents or injuries, regardless of fault. In some cases, you can file a third-party claim against a negligent party outside of your employment relationship that contributed to your accident and injuries.
Will Your Slip and Fall Case Go to Trial?
Only 4 percent of personal injury cases result in a trial verdict. Instead, in most cases, the parties settle out of court by mutual agreement before or during the trial. Generally, soon after a slip and fall accident, the other party’s insurance company will contact the injured person or that party’s representative and make a settlement offer. Insurance companies want to conclude cases as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
When the insurance company offers a settlement, the injured party may not have all of the necessary information about the injuries and the financial consequences of the fall. Accepting an offer of settlement may prevent a legal claim in the future. Therefore, you should consult an attorney before accepting an offer or signing a release or any other documents.
What Should You Do After a Slip and Fall Accident?
In the aftermath of a slip and fall accident, you may feel unsure about how to proceed. You may feel embarrassed or think that you only sustained minor injuries. However, after any fall, you should seek medical attention.
For some injuries, symptoms do not become apparent until later. Approximately 25 percent of those injured in a slip and fall accident do not report the incident or seek medical attention. For your protection, report your slip and fall injury accident to the property owner, manager, or responsible party as soon as you can. Keep a copy of any written reports.
- Keep copies of all medical records, expenses, documentation of lost wages, and insurance company correspondence.
- Gather contact information for any witnesses.
- Keep a journal. You may forget the details of a traumatic event, such as a fall. Write down all of the details concerning your accident and resulting injuries. Note any hazards, inclement weather, or lighting conditions. Keep track of your recovery process and the impact your injuries have on your daily life.
- Use caution when speaking to other parties or their insurance representatives. You may want to post pictures or information about your accident on social media, but you should avoid this, as such information could affect future legal proceedings.
- To protect your rights, always consult an attorney as soon as possible after the accident.
What Is the Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitation constitutes a legal deadline that requires you to file a lawsuit within a certain time. If you fail to meet that deadline, you will miss out on your opportunity to file a lawsuit.
Florida law provides that you must file your lawsuit within four years from the date the fall occurred. In general, injured parties must file a negligence lawsuit within four years of the date of the injury. If the fall killed someone, the deadline for the surviving family to file a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the death. However, each case consists of unique facts and circumstances, so consult an attorney to ensure your case falls within the applicable statute of limitations.
What Our Slip and Fall Attorneys Can Do for You
If you have been injured in a slip and fall, contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. An experienced personal injury attorney will evaluate your case and advise you on your legal options. They have the knowledge and the resources to gather the evidence necessary to prove your claim. The lawyer will also handle all communications with the insurance company, which relieves stress and prevents the injury victim from making a statement or otherwise accidentally jeopardizing his or her claim. As your case proceeds, your attorney will prepare and file all necessary legal documents within the proper time limits and in the proper court. The discovery process is important because it allows your attorney to examine evidence that may be relevant to your case. Your attorney will negotiate an out of court settlement and/or represent you at trial.
The dedicated Orlando slip and fall attorneys at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman are ready to work tirelessly to represent your interests and obtain the best possible outcome for your case. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, call 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) or contact us online.