Falling down is more than a social faux-pas. Second only to car accidents, slip-and-fall accidents account for 15 percent of all accidental deaths in the U.S.
The Miami slip-and-fall accident attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. know a significant number of these cases occur because of some environmental factor. These would include: A spill not cleaned up quickly, a floor that’s been too heavily waxed or failure to lay down mats near an entrance on a rainy day. Each scenario is possible grounds to assert negligence of the property owner compelling compensation to the victim.
To help our clients in South Florida better understand some of the legal analysis that goes in to slip-and-fall cases, we offer this page of Frequently Asked Questions. We strive to provide you with answers to help enhance your knowledge of the legal options you have, and make informed decisions about your next step. Because each injury case is different, we urge those with additional questions to direct our inquiries to our skilled injury attorneys. We offer free consultations, and with nearly five decades of experience and a proven track record of successful settlements and verdicts, you can be confident in the legal advice we provide.What Constitutes a Slip-and-Fall Accident?
When our Miami attorneys talk about a “slip-and-fall,” we’re referring to situations wherein someone suffered an injury due to a fall on another person’s property that was caused by slippery matter, a defect or some other dangerous condition on the floor or walking path. The term “slip” is understood to encompass not just cases where someone slips, but also where someone trips. While most associated “slip-and-fall” with a wet substance on the floor, it can involve a broad range of perilous conditions that result in a person losing their balance, causing a fall and injury.What Commonly Causes Miami Slip-and-Fall Accidents?
There are as many different causes of slip-and-fall accidents as there are variations of business establishments. Still, we tend to see more slip-and-falls in certain types of businesses where spills are more likely: Restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, hotels and amusement parks. Specific to South Florida, we may not have the snow-and-ice slip-and-falls that are common up North, but we do see a fair number of cases involving rainwater, sand and pool water.Who Are the Most Common Victims in Slip-and-Falls?
Anyone who encounters a dangerous walking surface is a potential victim. However, older adults suffer injuries disproportionately. Falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We see numerous slip-fall cases arise in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Workers too are at high risk of slip-and-fall injuries, particularly on construction sites.What If I Slip-and-Fall at Work?
Although an employee’s exclusive remedy for compensation against an employer is workers’ compensation, there could be grounds for third-party liability claims against the property owner or other negligent parties. If you are not an employee (i.e., an independent contractor) than you are not entitled to the no-fault workers’ compensation insurance, which would cover medical bills and a portion of lost wages, but neither are you limited by it. A Miami injury lawyer can help further explain your options.Is it Difficult to Get Compensation for Slipping on Water or Something Else in a Business?
That is going to depend highly on the individual circumstances of your case. What we can say is that Florida law pertaining to slip-and-fall accidents in business establishments has evolved markedly in the last two decades. It used to be you only needed to show the business owner failed to use reasonable care in maintaining the property in reasonably safe condition and this failure caused injury. Now, though, Florida Statute 768.0755 requires claimants in cases involving “transitory foreign substances” in business establishments to prove the business establishment had actual or constructive knowledge. That means the business was informed/ aware of that specific hazard, or else it occurred with regularity so it was foreseeable or else it existed for such a length of time that it should have been discovered in the course of exercising reasonable care. A “transitory foreign substance” is anything on the floor that usually is not or is not supposed to be there. That change to the law was implemented in 2010. One can still recover damages in slip-and-fall cases, but the burden of proof is set higher.How Hard Is it to Prove a Slip-and-Fall Claims?
It’s a bit more challenging than you might think. A common misconception is that because a person slipped and fell and because they were injured, they are entitled to damages. This is not necessarily true. While many slip-and-falls are the result of negligence, it comes down to what we’re able to prove. Because we now must show actual or constructive knowledge when it comes to falls in business establishments (where many cases arise), we need to know: What was the slippery substance? What was the source of the substance? How long was it there? How often was the business inspecting the site? Was this inspection schedule adequate/ reasonable? All these questions need to be answered to prove the business had actual or constructive knowledge and failed to remedy the danger or warn about. That requires collecting all relevant evidence – Surveillance tapes, business records, witness accounts, employee depositions and more. In some cases, it will be up to the jury to decide whether a substance was on the floor for a length of time that the business should have learned of it. No attorney can promise you a specific outcome, but based on our nearly 50 years of injury law experience, we can give you a pretty accurate analysis of your odds.Does it Matter What I Was Doing at the Site?
Yes. Florida premise liability law stipulates the degree of care owed to individuals based on what kind of legal relationship they shared. Business invitees are owed the highest duty of care. Social guests would fall under the umbrella of “licensees” and would also be highly protected. Trespassers receive the least amount of protection, but they are entitled to some. It should be noted that an invitee could be re-designated as a “trespasser” if he or she crosses into a restricted area clearly not intended for public traffic.How Much Time Do I Have to Sue?
Technically, Florida Statute 95.11 sets a statute of limitations of four years for personal injury claims. Wrongful death lawsuits must be filed in two years. However, if your claim could be subject to certain requirements to give notice sooner, depending on the defendant. Given the fact that key evidence may only be available for a short time (i.e., surveillance video, eyewitness observations, physical evidence at the site) it’s important to contact an injury attorney as soon as possible if you think you might have a claim.
If you have additional questions, our Miami slip-and-fall accident attorneys are available to provide you with further insight and explain your legal options.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a slip-and-fall accident, please contact the Miami Injury Attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A., for a free consultation by calling 305-371-6000 or using our online contact form.