The term “slip and fall” is used in personal injury cases where the injured person slipped or tripped while on another person’s property. Most slip and falls come under the broader umbrella of premises liability claims. At least eight million ER visits annually are the result of some type of fall; slip and fall incidents make up about 12% of that total. The most vulnerable group for slip and falls are the elderly, as approximately one in three people over the age of 65 will suffer a fall with injuries.
Where slip and fall fatalities are concerned, men and women experience about the same number of incidents. Overall, however, more women will experience a slip and fall accident, than men. Fractures are the primary injury associated with slip and fall accidents, with hip fractures being the most common type of fracture. Falls are responsible for more than forty percent of all nursing home admissions, and, sixty percent of nursing home residents will fall each year. Many conditions inside can contribute to both indoor and outdoor slip and falls, including:
- Poorly lit areas which make changes in floor height or other hazards difficult to identify;
- Freshly mopped floors or floors with spilled liquids without a warning sign;
- Items in stores which have are stacked to dangerous heights;
- Walkway obstacles which should have reasonably removed;
- Floor height differences with no warning signs;
- Narrow or poorly lit staircases;
- Uneven surfaces on sidewalks;
- Potholes on outdoor surfaces, and
- Slippery floors or sidewalks caused by snow, ice or rain.
Proving a Slip and Fall Claim
Slip and fall accidents can, surprisingly, be fairly difficult to prove. Every slip and fall case is different and your case will, in the end, turn on whether the property owner acted in a reasonable manner to make slips and trips less likely, and whether you were acting in a careless manner. In order to be successful with a slip and fall claim, you must be able to prove the cause of your accident was a dangerous condition and that the owner of the property was aware of the dangerous condition. The dangerous condition must have presented an unreasonable risk to you, and must be a condition you could not reasonably have anticipated.
Further, the owner of the property must have been aware of the dangerous condition and failed to correct it, or the dangerous condition must have existed for sufficient length of time that the owner should have discovered and corrected it. In other words, for a property owner to be held liable for your injuries, he or she must have been able to foresee that by ignoring the dangerous condition someone could be hurt. You must also be able to prove that you took reasonable precautions not to fall, given the circumstances. This means that if you trip over a leaf rake outside, where piles of leaves abound, the court may find you could have reasonably assumed, given the circumstances, that there might be a leaf rake in the area.
On the other side, suppose you and your family are eating in a restaurant. Another patron has spilled a drink, yet one employee after another walks around the spill rather than cordoning it off or cleaning it up. You are unaware of the spill, and fall on your way to pay your bill. The owner of the restaurant will probably be liable because a potentially dangerous condition existed that no one attempted to correct, even though they were aware of the condition. You have a responsibility to be aware of your surroundings, and property owners must take reasonable steps to ensure their property is free from dangerous conditions.
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Where Do Slip and Fall Accidents Occur?
Of course you could potentially slip and fall virtually anywhere, however some of the more common public areas where slip and falls occur include the following:
- Grocery stores, particularly when a liquid substance has been spilled;
- Shopping malls;
- Public restrooms;
- Construction areas;
- Stationary sidewalks;
- Escalators or moving sidewalks;
- Slippery areas around swimming pools;
- Bars, and
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Grocery Store Slip and Falls
Grocery stores spend millions in legal expenses and settlement amounts every year resulting from slip and fall accidents. The flooring surfaces in grocery stores are often slick or highly polished, making it difficult for shoppers to see a wet surface. Further, with a grocery cart in front of the shopper, seeing hazards can be that much more difficult. In other instances, spilled jars of food, which should reasonably have been removed, could be responsible for a grocery store slip and fall.
Slip and Falls at Florida’s Theme Parks
Florida’s theme parks are generally safe environments for the millions of visitors who walk through the entrances every year, however accidents do happen. Most slip and falls are more embarrassing than anything else, resulting in a bruise or perhaps a bloody knee. If, however the injury was due to the park’s negligence, and resulted in a serious injury, you could be entitled to compensation for those injuries.
It is important to note that most theme parks are prepared to defend themselves aggressively against a slip and fall claim. The Florida statutes which protect those hurt in a slip and fall on private or public property, apply equally to a Florida theme park. This means that whether you slipped in a restaurant on the premises, near a water ride, in the restroom, or anywhere else on the property, you could be entitled to damages.
Obviously, a theme park does not want bad publicity, so it is likely the park will either settle quickly (and quietly) for much less than your injuries deserve, or will deny all responsibility. Theme parks in Florida and across the nation are required to keep the parks safe, and to protect guests from hazards, including spilled drinks, spilled food, or slippery surfaces.
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Slip and Fall Statute of Limitations in the State of Florida
All states in the United States have statutes of limitations which govern the amount of time you have in which to file a claim for damages. In the state of Florida, those injured in a slip and fall (aside from filing a workers’ comp claim) have four years from the time of the accident to file a claim for damages. The same four-year filing deadline is applicable to any claim for property damage resulting from the slip and fall. If a loved one died as the result of a slip and fall accident, the family of the person can bring a wrongful death claim against the liable party. This type of wrongful death claim must be filed within two years of the person’s death, if that date is different from the date of the slip and fall. The above statutes apply to a claim against an owner of private or commercial property—different rules apply if you slipped and fell on government-owned property.
Potential Damages You Can Collect Following Your Slip and Fall
Florida follows “pure comparative negligence rules” for slip and fall accidents. This means the amount of compensation you are entitled to receive is reduced by an amount equal to the percentage of fault you bear for the accident. This means if your compensation for your slip and fall is $10,000, and it is determined you are 20 percent responsible for the accident, your compensation would be reduced by 20 percent, and you would only receive $8,000. The damages you receive for your slip and fall in the state of Florida could include the following:
- All medical expenses, including hospital, surgical, physician, rehabilitation, prescription drugs, etc.;
- Lost wages, and possibly loss of future earnings, depending on the extent of your injuries;
- Pain and suffering;
- Diminished quality of life, and
- Punitive damages, if there was malicious or willful negligence involved.
What to Do Following Your Slip and Fall
If you have been involved in a slip and fall, you may have suffered trauma to your head, cuts, scrapes, bruises or broken bones and fractures. Slip and fall injuries can result in considerable medical expenses and may even prevent you from returning to work. Following a slip and fall accident—even if you don’t think you are badly hurt—it is important that you seek immediate medical attention. Once the adrenaline rush from the accident has worn off, injuries may manifest.
If you are able, following your slip and fall accident, take photographs of the accident scene, making sure you have documented the hazard responsible for your fall. If there were witnesses to your accident, write down names and numbers. Taking a few minutes to thoroughly document your accident can be invaluable later on when negotiating a fair settlement. Your slip and fall attorney will also gather evidence on your behalf to show the owner was negligent in maintaining the property and that this negligence was directly responsible for your fall. If video surveillance is available, your attorney can use the video in order to determine how long the hazard was present.
How a Knowledgeable Florida Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
If you have been involved in a Florida slip and fall, you could have suffered serious injury, and may be unable to return to work for a while, or perhaps forever. Speaking to an experienced Florida slip and fall attorney from The Law Place is extremely important during this time, and the quicker you can do so, the better. With more than 75 years combined experience, our attorneys are well-versed in the laws surrounding a Florida slip and fall. Don’t wait, hoping your injuries will get better, or hoping the insurance company will pay you what your injuries are truly worth. Call The Law Place at 941-444-4444. “We are here for you.”