If you’ve slipped or tripped on someone else’s property and been injured, you may be entitled to compensation. But, property owners aren’t necessarily responsible for every slip and fall accident that happens on their premises. Here’s what you need to know about slip and fall injuries, when you may be entitled to compensation, what types of damages may be available, and how to find the best slip and fall lawyer for you.
Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall accidents happen for many reasons. Some common causes include:
- Water or another substance on a floor or other walking surface
- Loose or broken concrete on a sidewalk or porch
- A broken or faulty stair rail
- Debris on the floor or other area where people walk
- A change in the level of the floor that isn’t easily noticeable
- A loose floorboard or carpet not properly tacked down
- A hole in the ground
- Poorly lighted stairways and halls
- Broken or defective stairs
Some slip and falls are also caused–or partly caused–by the injured person’s own actions. For example, someone might slip or trip because they are looking down at their phone while walking and accidentally step off the walkway or don’t notice a change in level.
Injuries Resulting From Slip and Fall Accidents: Types and Severity
Some falls result in little or no injury. Most of us have slipped or tripped at some point and suffered no more than a skinned knee or a blow to our dignity. But some slip and fall injuries are more serious. In some cases, a slip and fall can be fatal.
Some examples include:
- Broken bones, particularly hips, knees, ankles, wrists, shoulders, and arms
- Soft tissue injuries such as sprains and strains
- Neck injuries, such as a sprain, muscle strain, or whiplash
- Spinal injuries, including a fracture or herniated disc
- Head injuries, including traumatic brain injury (TBI)
Many of these injuries are short-term. However, some can be long-term, lifelong, or even life-threatening. Spinal injuries may cause ongoing pain and limitations, and even paralysis. A head injury may resolve in days or weeks or months, or may cause permanent impairment.
Signs You May Have a Slip and Fall Case
Since not every slip and fall or trip and fall means you have a claim for damages, you may be wondering how to tell whether you have a slip and fall case. You may have a claim against the property owner if:
- You fell due to some problem with the property, like faulty maintenance or a hazard that wasn’t well-marked
- You had a right to be on the property at the time of your injury
- You suffered damages due to the fall, such as incurring medical expenses and missing work
Of course, the analysis as to whether you have a valid slip and fall lawsuit is a bit more complicated than checking off each of the bullets above. The best source of information about whether you have a claim and what type of damages you may be entitled to is a local slip and fall attorney.
What You Must Prove in a Slip and Fall Injury Case
When you pursue a claim for damages, the burden is on you and your injury lawyer to prove that the defendant is liable for your injuries, and to prove your damages. You’ll have to show that:
- The property owner owed you a duty of care–the duty owed depends on whether you are visiting a business, are allowed on someone else’s property for another reason (such as a social visit), or are trespassing, and
- The property owner breached or failed in that duty, and
- That their failure to live up to their duty caused your fall, and
- That you suffered damages as a result of your fall
You will also be required to prove the nature and extent of your damages.
What to Know If You’ve Had a Slip and Fall Accident
If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident on someone else’s property, the steps you take immediately after the accident can impact both your recovery and your personal injury claim.
If you’re able, you should take pictures or video of the area where you fell and whatever hazard caused you to fall. If there were witnesses to your fall, or even witnesses who observed the dangerous condition, ask for their contact information.
If you are injured, you should seek medical attention right away. If the injuries don’t seem too serious, you may be inclined to wait and see whether you’re better the next day (or the next). But, the full extent of injuries isn’t always immediately obvious, and delaying medical care can make those injuries worse. That could mean more pain, a longer recovery period, and in some cases even long-term damage.
It’s also in your best interest to contact an experienced slip and fall lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. The sooner your attorney gets started, the better opportunity they will have to collect evidence before it has been lost or destroyed and get witness statements while memories are fresh.
The Role of Comparative Negligence in a Slip and Fall Case
When one person–in this case, the property owner–is entirely responsible for a slip and fall accident, they may be liable for all damages associated with the fall. But, it isn’t always that simple. In some cases, the injured person is also partly to blame. Imagine, for example, that a floor is slippery because a spill hasn’t been cleaned up, and the store management has not posted a sign warning that the floor is wet. If the spill has been there long enough that the store staff should reasonably have known about it, or if a member of the staff does know about it, they’ve almost certainly failed in their duty.
But, the spill involved a blue raspberry snow cone. The liquid and ice is electric blue and immediately obvious against the pale gray tile. The injured party didn’t see the spill because they walked into the aisle looking down at their phone instead of in front of them. Or, they were running down the grocery aisle and didn’t see the spill in time to stop. In these situations, the injured party is likely partly responsible for their own accident.
In Florida, the injured party can still recover damages if they are not more than 50% responsible. But, the amount of damages you may receive is reduced by your percentage of responsibility. In this example, if the store was 70% responsible and the injured shopper 30% responsible, the shopper could recover 70% of their damages.
Documenting Evidence After a Slip and Fall: A Step-by-Step Guide
As mentioned above, the burden of proof is on you when you file a slip and fall lawsuit. You’ll have to prove that the property owner was negligent, that the negligence caused your injury, and that you suffered damages. You’ll also have to prove the amount of your damages. That means you’re going to need a lot of evidence.
First, you’ll want to document whatever you can at the scene of the accident (assuming you are well enough to do so safely). That includes photos or video of the area where you were injured and the hazard that caused your fall. You’ll also want to get contact information from any witnesses, and ask them to send you any photos or video they took.
You will also want to collect any video footage from security cameras on the property or nearby. This is one good reason to contact a slip and fall attorney immediately after your accident—this footage is often deleted regularly, so you may lose your chance to preserve evidence if you don’t act quickly.
It’s also important to establish a medical record, starting with getting checked out right after your accident. You’ll need to follow your doctors’ orders. If you need to miss work, make sure you get a doctor’s note, even if your employer doesn’t require it. And document everything relating to your injury as you go along, from pain and limitations you face in daily life to anything you have to purchase or pay for due to your injuries.
Statute of Limitations in Slip and Fall Cases: Understanding the Time Constraints
The statute of limitations for most slip and fall cases in Florida is two years. That means that a personal injury lawsuit based on your slip and fall accident must be filed within two years of the date you fell. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to wait until the time has nearly expired. When you retain a slip and fall attorney soon after your injury, your lawyer can advise you on how to protect your claim, gather evidence while it is fresh, and attempt to negotiate for a settlement that will get compensation in your hands sooner.
If you were injured before March 23, 2023, your claim is governed by a different statute of limitations. You may have longer to file your slip and fall lawsuit. Your attorney can explain which statute of limitations applies to your case and how long that means you have to file your case.
Negotiating a Settlement in Slip and Fall Cases: Tips for Success
When you’re negotiating with an insurance company to settle a slip and fall claim or any type of personal injury claim, it’s important to remember that the insurance company is not on your side. The representative may seem friendly and helpful, but you must always remember that their job is to save the insurance company money. With that in mind:
- Don’t get too conversational—stick to the facts and your claim without speculating about the other driver or talking about how you’re feeling today.
- Understand that a quick settlement offer is usually intended to cut off your rights before you know what your claim may be worth.
- Never suggest that you may in some way have been responsible for the accident, or even partially responsible.
- Make sure you have the evidence on your side in hand.
- Make sure you have a clear understanding of the damages you have incurred and their value.
- Avoid entering into a settlement when you don’t yet know the full extent of your losses.
Unfortunately, even if you put in the work to gather all of the relevant evidence and negotiate with the insurance company with a solid understanding of the value of your claim, you are at a disadvantage.
When you work with an experienced Florida slip and fall lawyer, your attorney creates a buffer between you and the insurance company, meaning they can’t take anything you say out of context and use it against you. Your attorney can also gather evidence that you might not know how to access, and put together a well-supported demand letter. And, if the insurance company doesn’t make a fair offer, your lawyer can file the case in court.
Get the Help You Need with Your Slip and Fall Case
A slip and fall injury is jarring and can create a sudden disruption in your life. One minute, you may be turning down an aisle to grab a can of soup, and the next waiting for an ambulance.
When you’re injured because a property owner didn’t live up to their responsibilities, that property owner should be responsible for damages such as lost income, medical expenses, and even pain and suffering. Of course, their insurance company won’t usually cheerfully write you a check. Your best next step after you’re injured in a slip and fall accident is to connect with a personal injury lawyer who will fight for you.
At Harrell & Harrell, P.A., we’ve been helping injured Floridians fight for fair compensation for decades. We know what to expect from insurance companies and how to negotiate for the best possible settlement for you. And, if we’re not satisfied with the offer, we’ll fight for you in court. To learn more about how we can help, call 904-251-1111 right now, or fill out our contact form.