Humans walk and run on two legs with relative ease, but that limited bipedal stability makes us prone to falls, especially if our feet contact a slippery substance. Fortunately, most slips and falls result in limited injury, typically characterized by scrapes and bruises. However, hitting the ground due to a slip and fall can result in significant injuries such as broken bones, concussions, and even traumatic brain injury.
In fact, slip and falls undoubtedly represent a fair proportion of Florida’s half-million-plus fall-related emergency room visits in 2020, with almost 75,000 resultant hospitalizations. According to the Florida Department of Health, in Tallahassee’s Leon County, fall-related injuries that year led to more than 6,000 emergency room visits and 474 hospitalizations. More than 12,000 Floridians suffered a traumatic brain injury in these falls, with 122 reported in Leon County.
Severe injuries and potentially hospitalization due to a slip and fall are bad enough if the fault lies with your own lack of attention. But what if someone else’s negligence causes the slip and fall? What if dangerous conditions that led to the fall were essentially created or allowed to develop by someone else’s lack of attention or casual disregard for public safety? Why should you be on the hook for medical expenses, lost wages, and other tangible and intangible costs from your injuries?
Simply put, you should not be, and Florida laws allow the public to seek compensation from businesses, homeowners or other entities that fail to ensure that persons can move about their premises safely. Slip and fall claims against businesses are specifically addressed by Florida’s personal injury negligence laws. Slip and fall claims for damages against homeowners and other entities are brought under a premises liability claim based on common law and its standard principles of negligence.
The first thing to understand about Florida slip and fall litigation is that insurance companies typically play a leading role in defending against slip and fall claims and denying or limiting compensation. Thus, even though you might be filing a personal injury claim against a business owner, homeowner, property manager, rental company, or other entity, an insurance company will ultimately be on the hook for damages. And insurance companies strive to limit liability.
The second thing to know is that property owners/managers have differing levels of responsibility—“duty of care”—for ensuring visitor safety depending upon the type of property. Under liability law, businesses have the highest duty of care level, mainly because the visitor is on the property for purposes that can benefit the owner. The duty of care is lower for properties hosting social visitors and even lower—though not wholly absent—for trespassers. Because businesses have the highest duty of care level, most slip and fall litigation is filed against them in Florida.
Another critical factor in understanding Florida slip and fall cases is that the law considers comparative negligence. This concept recognizes that both the property owner and victim may share responsibility for the cause of a slip and fall accident. For example, if a slip and fall victim did not notice that a bottle of olive oil had spilled on the floor because they were too focused on their cell phone. While the property owner may have been negligent, the victim bears some responsibility due to the lack of attention. In such cases, the shared responsibility for the accident reduces potential compensation for damages proportionate to the fault.
Before 2013, a successful slip and fall claim could be based solely on a property owner’s negligence in ensuring that the property was safe and that the negligence led to the accident. Changes to Florida law added a new dimension to slip and fall liability claims in that the victim must also prove that the property owner was aware that there were dangerous conditions.
This awareness is characterized as either actual or constructive. Actual awareness essentially refers to real-time knowledge that there was a distinct safety concern. Like if a grocery store manager knew that there was an olive oil spill on aisle nine but failed to send a clean-up crew or post warning signs immediately. Constructive awareness is characterized by proving that a property owner should have known that certain conditions created a likelihood of creating unsafe areas to walk. For example, the presence of machinery that frequently leaked slippery fluids onto the adjacent flooring.
While the 2013 statutory changes specifically apply to business properties, Florida common law—based on court precedence—has also adopted property-owner awareness as a component of proof needed for liability claims.
Suppose you are involved in a slip and fall accident in the Tallahassee area through no apparent fault of your own. In that case, you should consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as you feel well enough after you have tended to your medical needs. No matter your thoughts after the accident, do not sign any paperwork presented to you by property owners or their representatives and do not discuss the incident with them.
Based on a combination of statute and common law, slip and fall litigation tends to be highly complex. A skilled personal injury lawyer—such as the ones at Akbar Law Firm—can carefully assess the details of your case to determine the extent of property owner liability and what damages you should be entitled. Your personal injury lawyer will strategize the best legal means for securing fair compensation based on this.
In general, your lawyer will begin by submitting a personal injury claim with the court and then follow with a notice to the property owner (insurance company). This notice includes information detailing:
Insurance company adjusters and/or their lawyers will usually respond to this notice by either denying the claim or making a counter-offer settlement amount. This, in turn, often leads to settlement negotiations between the lawyers. If these negotiations fail to lead to a reasonable settlement, your lawyer will usually file a lawsuit, especially if they have a strong case with solid evidence. Settlement negotiations typically continue after a lawsuit has been filed, and most slip and fall cases are resolved before trial.
Akbar Law Firm, PA is dedicated to helping Tallahassee and North Florida-area clients receive the fair compensation they are legally entitled to for slip and fall injuries. When our assessment of your slip and fall accident indicates property owner negligence, we conduct a thorough investigation to build the strongest case possible to support your compensation claims. We are intimately familiar with insurance company tactics used to deny or limit liability and are adept at proving liability. We have a solid track record of securing fair and just settlements during negotiations, and our insurance lawyer counterparts know that we will not hesitate to go to trial when necessary. When you partner with Akbar Law Firm to pursue slip and fall compensation, you will receive compassionate attention to your case and a dedicated focus on securing the compensation you deserve. We will keep you fully informed about every development in your case so that you can work on your physical and emotional recovery without worrying about financial stress.