When a person trips and falls hard onto the ground, resulting in injury, they are often inclined to avoid embarrassment by quickly getting up and pretending the fall never occurred. In cases where a quick recovery is possible, the best thing to do is to report the incident to property owners, as someone else might not fare so well. But in a fair number of cases, a person who has fallen may not be able to get up quickly because they’ve been too seriously injured.
At Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, our personal injury attorneys recognize many trip-and-fall accidents are the direct result of companies that are careless and fail to maintain safe walking surfaces. Even if a pedestrian was distracted at the time of the fall, property owners have a duty in some instances to recognize guests may not always be fully focused on the immediate steps in front of them.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are two kinds of falls—those that occur on a same-level walking surface and those that occur at higher elevations. The agency reports 65 percent of all falls occur at the same level, and a significant portion of those happen to people at wholesale or retail trade businesses. It’s estimated more than 1 million Americans suffer a same-level slip, trip or fall injury annually. Approximately one-third of those will suffer moderate to severe injuries, ranging from bruises to hip fractures and possibly even serious head trauma.
Research by the University of Florida revealed as little as 3/8-inch rise in a walkway can cause a person to “stub” her toe and result in a trip-and-fall. The same kind of thing can occur on a flight of stairs. It only requires a slight difference in height from one step to the next to cause a trip-and-fall.Differences Between Slip-and-Fall and Trip-and-Fall
Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, the technical differences between a trip-and-fall accident and a slip-and-fall accident are significant in Florida premises liability law. The primary difference has to do with the cause of the fall.
This distinction is relevant to your premises liability attorney because cause is important to weighing the degree of duty the property owner had in preventing the hazard.
Slip-and-fall accidents are those that occur when a pedestrian falls as a direct result of making contact with some transitory or movable object on the floor. This could include liquid, glass, paper, plastic, sand or anything that is moveable.
These types of falls often result in head, neck, back and hip injuries, as well as herniation of the vertebrae.
Meanwhile, a trip-and-fall accident happens when a pedestrian suffers a fall after coming in contact with a ground-level object or uneven walking surface that causes him or her to miss a step. Some examples of common objects or conditions that precipitate trip-and-falls include:
- Loose mats or rugs;
- Boxes or containers that either impede foot traffic or block one’s vision;
- Protruding nails and boards on the floor;
- Loose floor tiles;
- Clutter, cords or hoses left carelessly on the floor;
- Poor lighting that makes it hard to see the steps ahead.
Because of the unique downward trajectory resulting from trip-and-fall, this kind of incident more often results in trauma to the head or face, fractures in the hands and arms, and damage to elbows and knees.
From an injury lawyer standpoint, slip-and-fall accidents in Florida may be tougher to prove than trip-and-fall cases, due to the 2010 passage of F.S. §768.0755. This law requires slip-and-fall victims to prove the property owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the danger. However, the standard of proof for business invitees remains the same as for all other premises liability cases, which is the owner/operator must use reasonable care in maintaining a safe environment for patrons.
In both cases, however, if the property owner is unable to immediately address the problem, he owes a duty to warn patrons of the potential danger so the opportunity exists to make an intelligent decision on whether to enter.
The plaintiff always bears the burden of proving the defendant’s negligence.
If you or a loved one has suffered injury on commercial property in Southwest Florida, contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.
Call 800-646-1210 for a Free Consultation