If you or a loved one has been injured in a slip and fall accident in Plantation or elsewhere in the Broward County area, you need to speak with an experienced Slip and Fall Lawyer at Englander Peebles as soon as possible to make sure that your legal rights are protected.
Our Plantation personal injury attorneys have experienced trial attorneys who will fight tirelessly on your behalf after a slip and fall. Slip and fall claims are included under the umbrella of personal injury claims. Slip and fall claims may be filed against a property owner when a hazardous condition on the property causes the victim to slip, fall, and suffer an injury.
Plantation is home to a number of businesses, any of which may be the site of a slip and fall claim. Popular spots include Westfield Broward, The Fountains, Plantation Towne Mall, 660 Plaza, Target, Wal-Mart, and more.
Slip and fall claims may occur on either public property or on private property.
If you slipped and fell and injured yourself on private property, you may be entitled to damages. Homeowners must remove any conditions that are unreasonably dangerous. If the condition cannot be removed, homeowners have a duty to warn visitors of the hazard. For example, if an exterior set of steps contains rotten boards, the homeowner should inform visitors about the rotten boards to avoid injury.
In many cases, a homeowner’s insurance policy will cover slip and fall claims. These policies typically cover medical bills and other related expenses. It should be noted that certain individuals, such as mail carriers, pest control employees, and meter readers, have implied permission to enter a property. If the injured victim has implied permission to enter the property, the property owner cannot argue that the victim was trespassing at the time of the incident.
Florida law requires that a victim of a slip and fall prove certain elements. According to Florida law, if an individual slips and falls on a “transitory foreign substance” in a business, the victim must show that the business knew or should have known of the hazard and should have taken the proper steps to remove it or warn others about it.
What is a “transitory foreign substance”? This definition includes any items, solids and liquids that are present in an area where they should not be.
For example, consider a grocery store in which milk was spilled. To prevail in a claim against the store, the injured victim must prove that the store knew or should have known (for example, if a large puddle was present in an aisle for a long period of time) about the spill. The injured victim must also show that the store did not take the proper measures to clean up the spill or at least warn others of the spill-for example, by putting out a wet floor sign.
What are Frequently Cited Causes of Fall Claims?
There are thousands of fall claims filed every year in Florida. These fall claims range in severity, depending on the individual facts of the case. Common types of falls include:
- Step and fall: These falls occur when someone encounters an issue with a walkway, such as a hole;
- Stump and fall: The victim hits a dangerous condition with his or her foot-for example, perhaps the victim trips over a loose tile in a floor;
- Trip and fall: The victim’s foot hits a foreign object in the walking path; and
- Slip and fall: In these falls, the traction of the walking surface is impacted-such as by a spilled liquid.
Slips and falls are the most common types of falls. Injuries may range from minor sprains and strains to more serious conditions, such as broken bones and head injuries. Foreign objects are to blame for many falls as well. For example, merchandise that has fallen from a shelf into a store aisle may cause a shopper to trip.
How long do I have to file a slip and fall claim?
In a legal claim, there are deadlines that limit how long a claimant has to file the lawsuit. This deadline is known as the Statute of Limitations. Florida law provides the time limits that may differ depending on the type of claim, for a slip and fall case, this is four years.
If a claimant misses these deadlines, the claimant may be forever barred from filing a claim and recovering damages from the person who caused the injuries. Therefore, it is wise to seek advice from an experienced Plantation slip and fall lawyer as soon as possible after a fall to ensure no deadlines are missed. Your Plantation slip and fall lawyer will evaluate the facts of your case and will advise you as to how long you have to file a lawsuit.
What types of damages may I be entitled to in a slip and fall claim?
Victims of slip and falls may pursue damages that are directly related to injuries caused by the slip and fall. These may include:
- Medical bills, including prescription bills, hospital bills, physical therapy bills, emergency room bills, surgery and anesthesiology bills, and other related expenses;
- Past lost wages due to the time the victim had to take off of work to recover;
- Future lost wages if the victim became unable to work after the slip and fall;
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress and mental anguish;
- The cost of future medical care; and
- The cost of making alterations to a home, such as wheelchair ramps.
It is difficult to put a value on a claim until it has been thoroughly examined and all of the relevant evidence has been gathered. The extent of the owner’s liability must also be established with objective evidence.
Additionally, it is difficult for a claimant to fully understand the extent of his or her injuries immediately after a slip and fall occurs. Many injuries take several days, at a minimum, to manifest. Further, an injured victim cannot possibly anticipate all of the treatment that will be required for an injury.
In certain cases, subsequent surgeries or extensive physical therapy are required. The injured victim also cannot predict how the injury will impact the victim’s personal and professional life. For example, the victim may not realize that the injury may result in weeks missed from work.
What are some common injuries that are caused by slips and falls?
Slip and fall claims may cause minor injuries, like sprains and bruises, or more serious injuries, such as fractures and head injuries. Some of these injuries may take months to heal and may result in permanent impairment. The most common types of slip and fall injuries include:
- Sprained or broken ankles and wrists: When someone slips and falls, our instinct is to try to reach out and brace for the fall. Unfortunately, this results in wrist injuries in many cases. Pressure on the ankles from the impact of the fall also causes injuries in many claims;
- Stretched tendons and/or pulled muscles: When we realize we are about to fall, muscles in our body tense up to prepare for the fall. However, this tension can cause an overstretching in the muscles or an overextension of tendons;
- Back or spinal cord injuries: These injuries are among the more serious injuries that may happen in a slip and fall accident. If the victim falls on his or her back, the spine will absorb most of the impact of the fall. The vertebrae may be fractured or discs in the spine may become herniated. In especially serious cases, the victim may be permanently injured; and
- Head injuries: If an injured victim falls on their chest or on their back, the small bones in the neck can jerk the skull back and forth. Whiplash is a common injury in this situation, and more serious injuries may include skull fractures or traumatic brain injuries.
What types of evidence are considered in a slip and fall claim?
Slip and fall claims require the careful examination and analysis of various types of evidence. Both parties submit evidence to support their own claims and to refute the claims of the opposing party. Evidence may include:
- Internal reports (such as from a store or other place of business);
- Medical records;
- Medical bills;
- Eyewitness reports;
- Video footage;
- Personal statements and/or affidavits;
- Employment records; and
- Expert reports.
In a single slip and fall claim, hundreds of pages of evidence may be considered.
The timing of the fall and the notice of the hazard are two of the most important elements in a slip and fall claim. With timing, the parties will try to pinpoint how long the hazard was present before the victim slipped and fell. For example, in a movie theater, had a soda machine leaked just a few minutes prior to the slip and fall, or had employees failed to clean up a puddle of soda for more than an hour by the time the victim fell?
As for notice, the victim must present evidence that the property owner knew, or should have known, about the dangerous condition. In the movie theater example, if the soda machine was in a busy area that was regularly visited or observed by employees, it is reasonable to argue that the employees should have noticed the spill and cleaned it up.
Will I have to go to trial for a slip and fall claim?
It is not likely that your slip and fall claim will go to trial. The vast majority-more than 90 percent of civil claims settles before they ever go to trial. Additionally, Florida encourages the parties to use forms of alternative dispute resolution to settle claims, as opposed to battling them out in the courtroom. For example, mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution that has been very successful in personal injury claims, including slip and fall claims.
During mediation, the parties meet with a mediator. The mediator’s role is to facilitate a settlement between the parties. Mediation takes place out of the courtroom-typically, it is held in an attorney’s office or at a mediation center. The parties meet separately with the mediator to work on trying to settle the case. The parties may propose any type of settlement agreement that they like, and the opposing parties are free to either accept it or reject it. The mediator may not be called to testify in court about the case, so the parties are free to openly, yet confidentially, discuss their positions with the mediator.
If the parties settle at least some of the issues during mediation, the settlement will be memorialized in writing and finalize the case. If the parties cannot settle the claims, they may schedule another mediation session, attempt negotiations on their own, or request a trial date. Although most slip and fall cases will never go to trial, you need to have experienced trial attorneys by your side. If a trial is necessary, the attorneys at Englander Peebles will prepare you for your day in court.
What arguments may the property owner make during a slip and fall claim?
In many cases, property owners will argue that the victim was at least partially liable for his or her injuries. The property owner will try to shift blame for the fall to the victim. For example, was the victim distracted when the slip and fall occurred? Was the victim texting and walking? Was the victim wearing flip-flops? Did the victim disregard any wet floor signs or caution tape around the hazard?
The property owner may also argue that some injuries the victim claims are related to the slip and fall were preexisting, meaning they pre-dated the accident. For example, the property owner may point to a history of back pain in the victim’s medical records to avoid liability for the claimed back injuries. However, if a victim’s previous injuries were exacerbated by the fall, the victim may still be able to claim those damages in a slip and fall claim.
What should I do immediately after I slip and fall?
If you slip and fall while you are out and about, you may not think that the claim will require legal action. However, the truth is that many falls occur because property owners are negligent and fail to remove hazardous conditions from the property. They may also fail to even realize a hazard is present on the property. Of course, you do not have this information at the time of your slip and fall accident. Therefore, you should take several steps to protect your legal rights.
First, unless you are physically unable to do so because of your injuries, you should complete some type of incident report immediately following your fall. You should note the date, the time of the slip and fall, and the events that led up to the fall. You should request that the owner of the property complete this incident report. The report should also include the names and contact information for any witnesses who saw the fall.
Make sure that you get a copy of the report, as well as the names of any property owners or agents who were present. If you can, take pictures of the area where you fell, including the condition that caused your fall. If the property owner refuses to create an incident report, you should take notes on your phone, or email yourself so that you have all of this information while it is fresh in your memory.
If you are injured, it is extremely important that you seek medical treatment right away after a slip and fall. Tell your medical providers the details of the fall and any symptoms you are experiencing. Often, once the adrenaline from the event wears off, the pain from the injury may set in. Make sure that you continue to seek medical treatment as needed and that you follow any plans your providers lay out for you, such as completing a physical therapy regimen.
How can I help my Slip and Fall Lawyer with my slip and fall claim?
The attorney-client relationship is much like a partnership. The attorney needs the details of the slip and fall incident from the client, and the client needs the attorney’s legal training and experience to obtain compensation for their injuries. Without assistance from the client, the attorney cannot adequately represent the client throughout the case. There are many steps you, as a client, may take to help your attorney and ultimately strengthen your case, such as:
- Maintaining open communication with your attorney;
- Advising your attorney of any prior injuries or accidents;
- Advising your attorney of any subsequent injuries or accidents;
- Always being truthful with your attorney;
- Responding in a timely manner to letters, phone calls, and emails;
- Providing any and all pieces of evidence, such as medical records, to your attorney as soon as you have them in your possession; and
- Showing up early for meetings, court hearings, and other proceedings that may be scheduled in your case.
Should I talk to insurance adjusters that call me?
After a slip and fall, an insurance company or risk management office may contact you to discuss the incident. However, you must be wary of such calls.
The individuals calling you work for the owner and are trying to gather information to help the owner’s position – not yours. Chances are, this is the first time that you were ever injured due to another’s negligence. However, the employees of insurance companies are experienced in defending against injuries claims. It is best to speak with an experienced Plantation slip and fall attorney before taking such a call.
Insurance adjusters and other individuals who call you on behalf of the property owner may record your statements and later use them against you to weaken your claim. For example, say that you accidentally failed to mention a symptom you experienced after the slip and fall-it simply slipped your mind because you were nervous while you were speaking on the phone. The simple failure to mention this symptom may be used to argue that you were not injured as seriously as you claim.
Call a Plantation Slip and Fall Lawyer at Englander Peebles.
The attorneys of Englander Peebles are proud to serve Plantation, Florida and the surrounding area. At Englander Peebles, our slip and fall attorneys are experienced and work tirelessly on behalf of our clients to obtain justice for their injuries. We understand that this is a stressful, overwhelming time in your life and strive to provide compassionate, yet aggressive, legal representation.
During your free consultation, we will discuss the details of your slip and fall accident and answer any and all questions that you may have. You should call our firm as soon as possible after your slip and fall accident so that we may begin working immediately on your case. To schedule your free consultation with our attorneys, call (561) 510-7780.