What Are the Key Elements of a Successful Slip and Fall Claim in Florida?
You might not realize the threats all around you when going about your day, but the risk of accidents exists in many common scenarios. While you are working, shopping, dining, or enjoying favorite activities, there are hazards that you probably do not recognize. If you live in a multi-unit dwelling, condominium, or gated community, you could even be affected by accidents in or near your home. Unfortunately, slip and falls are among the most common incidents in these spaces and other places where you expect to feel safe.
It may come as a comfort to know that you have options if you were hurt in a slip and fall accident, which is covered by Florida’s premises liability laws. By proving the required set of facts, you can recover compensation for your physical, emotional, and financial losses. These facts are essential to your claim, as they form the key elements of a successful slip and fall claim in Florida.
When seeking monetary damages, the details about essential elements in premises liability cases are complicated. It is wise to trust a Florida slip and fall lawyer to guide you through all stages of the process. Some background will also help you appreciate what to expect with your claim.
Statistics on Slip and Falls in the US
You might be surprised to learn about the frequency of slip and fall accidents, which are right up there with auto crashes. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 45,000 people are killed in fall accidents every year. Plus:
- In 8 out of 10 age groups reported, slips and falls are the #1 reason people head to emergency rooms for treatment of unintentional injuries. Falls rank second in the other 2 age groups, which include individuals aged 10 to 14, and those aged 15 to 24.
- Every year, almost 3 million individuals aged 65 years and older are treated in the ER for falls. These incidents are common in health care, including hospitals and nursing homes that are understaffed.
- Falls happen frequently in many industries, particularly construction. In fact, falls are the top cause of fatalities in construction according to statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Elements for Slip and Fall Claims
These cases are under the umbrella of premises liability, which is a type of case in which the legal theory of liability is negligence. This term means more than mere carelessness, as it is the basis for the essential elements of a slip-and-fall case. You must prove:
- The property or business owner had a duty to maintain the premises in safe condition and free from reasonably foreseeable accidents.
- The property owner breached this duty of care by allowing a dangerous condition to exist on the premises.
- There is a direct link between the breach and the accident that led to your slip and fall injuries, such that you would not have been hurt but for the breach.
- You must show that you suffered losses because of the slip and fall incident.
Premises liability concepts cover more than just slips and falls. Any type of accident that results from property owner negligence could be the basis for a premises liability claim.
Common Slip and Falls Accidents
One important element for a successful slip and fall claim is #2 above, in which you need to prove that the owner of the home, property, or business breached the duty of care. There are many ways that the at-fault party could fail to ensure the safety of the premises and cause a slip and fall. Examples include:
- Failing to make repairs to broken railings;
- Not putting up warning signs around dangerous hazards until they can be fixed;
- Neglecting to clean up spills and condensation from refrigeration equipment;
- Not installing proper lighting;
- Failure to fix loose or broken tile, stairs, carpeting, rugs, and floors; and,
- Many others.
Plus, there are additional examples of negligence by property owners that do not result in slips and falls. Defective cords and wiring could cause electrocution or burn injuries, and dog bite cases are also types of premises liability cases. In Florida, many claims for premises liability are related to negligence in operating pools, gates, ladders, slides, and other water attractions.
Monetary Damages in Florida Premises Liability Cases
When you successfully prove the elements of a slip-and-fall case, you may be entitled to recover different types of compensation. In most claims, there are two types of monetary damages that are available:
- Economic Damages: This category aims to reimburse you for tangible, definite losses. Economic damages cover amounts that can be measured by dollar value, usually through documents, invoices, or receipts. The biggest portion after a slip and fall will likely be your medical expenses, so you may qualify for the costs of emergency treatment, surgery, hospitalization, and other services. You might also obtain amounts for lost wages if you were unable to work.
- Noneconomic Damages: Some of the effects of a slip and fall accident are subjective and personal, so they are not measured in dollars. These are the losses that affect your quality of life while recovering from your injuries and into the future. Noneconomic damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, scarring and disfigurement, and losses that affect your relationships with your family.
Limitations in Slip and Fall Claims
Though you may prevail in a premises liability case and expect to recover full damages, there are some restrictions on your rights. For one, Florida has a statute of limitations that requires you to bring your case to court within 2 years. The time is measured from the date of the slip and fall accident. If you do not file a lawsuit within this time, you will lose your right to sue. Note that the statute of limitations in Florida was recently reduced from 4 years to 2 years. There are some exceptions to the time restriction, allowing you to toll and extend the statute of limitations. An important one is that the deadline is different for minor children, often the victims of slip and falls.
In addition, your slip and fall case could be affected by your negligence. Under Florida’s comparative fault statute, your compensation will be reduced by the percentage of fault attributable to you. For example, an award of $100,000 goes to $80,000 if you were 20 percent to blame for the accident. If your negligence is measured at more than 50 percent fault, you will recover nothing as damages. Florida law in this area was also recently changed. The old law allowed a victim to obtain damages even if up to 99 percent were at fault.
Steps to Recover Compensation
Though much of the focus is on the property owner’s negligence, it is usually an insurance company that you will deal with in recovering compensation. Most property owners, businesses, and homeowners carry liability insurance to protect against loss from accidents such as slip and falls. With this in mind, you can review the different steps to seeking monetary damages:
- File Insurance Claim: You will need to officially submit paperwork to the insurance company, outlining your case and listing your damages. Filing a claim is more than just filling out forms since you must have evidence and medical records to prove all elements of a slip and fall.
- Settlement Discussions: In many cases, the insurer will make an offer to settle your claim and avoid going to trial. If the amount is fair, a settlement of YouTube slip and fall is beneficial. However, insurance companies will protect their bottom line, so you might receive a lowball counteroffer.
- Mediation: With some proceedings, you may participate in mediation to resolve disputes. Mediation is an extension of settlement discussions, but there is more structure to the proceeding. It is overseen by a trained mediator who will engage the parties in productive conversations toward settlement.
- Trial: If you are not successful in settlement negotiations or mediation, the next step is going to court. You will need to convince the jury that you meet the key elements of a slip and fall. You may need to prove that you were not at fault to avoid a reduction of your compensation through the comparative fault law.
How a Florida Premises Liability Lawyer Supports Your Claim
Though these are the main stages of a slip-and-fall case, there are numerous tasks involved with each phase. Plus, you will need a solid strategy for proving the elements and disproving any defenses raised by the at-fault party. By retaining a Florida slip and fall attorney, you gain an edge against the insurance company. Your lawyer will:
- Conduct an investigation and gather evidence regarding the accident;
- Review your medical records;
- Prepare all forms for filing your claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company;
- Engage in settlement discussions with the insurer to resolve your case out of court;
- Represent you at mediation to reach an agreement; and,
- Advocate on your behalf during a trial by making arguments, presenting evidence, and questioning witnesses.
Contact Our Florida Slip and Fall Attorneys to Learn More
As the victim of an accident, it is helpful to know the basics about the key elements of a successful slip and fall claim in Florida. However, you can rely on our team at Rosen Injury Law, P.A. to handle all essential legal tasks and develop a solid strategy for enforcing your rights. For personalized details on your case, please contact us to set up a consultation with a Florida premises liability lawyer. We can advise you on the process after reviewing your circumstances.