A “slip and fall” encompasses a variety of accidents, including trips, slips and missteps, that result from an unreasonably safe condition on another’s property.
Under Florida law, a landowner or business owner has a duty to keep its property in a reasonably safe condition for customers or guests. If an owner or manager knows, or should know, that some part of the property is not safe, that unsafe condition must be promptly addressed. If the issue is not fixed, and a person is injured as a result, the property owner or other responsible party may be liable for that person’s injuries.
In Florida, for an individual to recover for this type of injury, he must prove:
- The property owner or business owed a duty of care to the injured person (e.g. the injured party was an “invitee”);
- The property owner or business did not use reasonable care in maintaining its premises; and
- As a result of the failure to use such care, the person was injured.
Common Injuries from Slip and Falls
Just like any accident, injuries from a fall can range in severity. The most common injuries suffered in these types of accidents include:
- Sprains and fractures. During the fall itself, a person may twist a knee, ankle, or wrist, spraining those areas of the body as a result. In some cases, the impact from the fall, particularly in older adults, may cause bone fractures.
- Spinal cord injuries. The fall may cause a person to suffer injuries to his spinal cord, resulting in bulging or herniated discs. These types of injuries may leave a person in significant daily pain and limit his mobility. In severe cases, spinal cord injuries can also lead to permanent paralysis and other neurological conditions and sensory impairments, especially if left untreated.
- Shoulder injuries. A person’s immediate reaction to slipping is to prevent the fall from fully impacting her body. As a result, the person attempts to block the impact by holding out her hand or arm. This natural reaction, however, may result in the dislocation of a shoulder. These injuries commonly require surgery and rehabilitation.
- Brain injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries, which can range from just minor concussions to an emergency room visit or, in the worst case, death.
Determining the insurance coverage in slip-and-fall cases can sometimes be complicated. The type of coverage involved generally depends on where the fall occurs.
When a person is injured on private property, the injury would normally be covered by the property owner’s homeowners insurance policy. If the person occupying the property, however, is a renter, then the injury may also be covered under the occupant’s renters insurance.
When the injury occurs at a business, such as a grocery store or restaurant, the injury is typically covered under a commercial policy, which is similar to homeowners insurance but usually with much higher coverage. There are also issues of other potential defendants such as property managers and maintenance companies who could be partially responsible for the hazard.
Should the injury occur on government property, the injured party will have to follow an entirely different and more complicated process according to Florida law which involves claim notices be sent to multiple government entities/agencies. There is also a cap on the amount of damages a person can receive from the government when the government is a defendant in a case.
Common Defenses to Slip and Fall Claims
Florida is a “pure comparative fault” state, which allows the reduction of an injured party’s damages based on that party’s own percentage of fault. In slip-and-fall cases, a property owner or business may argue that the injured party was in some way responsible or contributed to his injuries. For example, if a customer of a grocery store slips and falls on a recently mopped floor despite “wet floor” signs placed around the area, her claim against the grocery store may likely not succeed. Other defenses may include that the injured party was not wearing appropriate footwear or that the hazardous condition was open and obvious.
As a slip and fall can cause serious injuries, often requiring long-term medical treatment, it is important to consult an experienced personal injury attorney to help you determine the amount of compensation you are entitled to.
Chelsie M. Lamie is a personal injury attorney in Safety Harbor, Florida. If you or a loved one have been injured in a slip and fall accident, call 727-501-3464 for a free consultation. You can also learn more about Attorney Lamie by visiting www.chelsielamie.com.