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Trip-and-Fall

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

Florida slip-and-fall injuries are those that occur when a pedestrian encounters a condition on the floor that is wet, slick, icy or sticky and the result is a fall onto a hard surface. These are not merely the result of a person being clumsy. Rather, they occur when a person slips on a transitory substance that should not have been there and that the plaintiff either didn’t see or in the course of ordinary care had no reason to expect.

Although lawsuits stemming from such injuries have been painted by corporate interests as “frivolous,” the Southwest Florida premises liability lawyers at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, know well that such incidents can have painful and long-lasting consequences. Beyond simple cuts and abrasions, slip-and-fall accident victims in Florida have been known to suffer:

  • Spiral fractures to the leg;
  • Mid and lower back sprains;
  • Hand fractures;
  • Wrist sprains;
  • Neck sprains;
  • Spinal cord damage;
  • Brain trauma.

Most of these injuries require emergency medical attention. Some necessitate risky surgery or even multiple surgeries, extensive physical therapy and long-term pain management. Medical bills soon begin to stack up, and the financial impact is compounded if the injury precludes the victim from immediately returning to work.

In this difficult economic climate, such an accident can quickly become an extreme burden on a family’s finances, in some situations leaving them unable to pay bills, including the mortgage, auto leases and credit card debts. That’s why when we take a slip-and-fall case, our experienced premises liability attorneys are firmly dedicated to fighting aggressively for our client’s maximum compensation.

Proving Liability for Florida Slip-and-Fall Injury

In Florida, it is not enough for an injured victim to simply show they were hurt on someone else’s property as a result of slipping and falling. It has become more difficult in recent years to effectively assert liability because of legislation (pushed heavily by corporate interests) that created a more stringent burden of proof for plaintiffs.

Prior to this, Florida plaintiffs could have pursued action against a property owner based on strict liability. That means injured people only had to show that an out-of-place substance on the floor caused an accident.

Now, under F.S. §768.0755, a person who slips and falls on a “transitory foreign substance” while at a business has to show the property owner or possessor had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition, and further failed to take appropriate action to remedy it.

“Actual knowledge” means the business was actually made aware of the specific problem. For example, a server at a restaurant drops a drink on the floor in the main dining room. The server tells her manager about the spill, but the manager fails to expeditiously act to make sure it’s cleaned up. If a patron slips, falls and is injured as a result, he or she can assert the manager had “actual knowledge.”

However, actual knowledge can be difficult to prove in slip-and-fall cases. That’s why the law allows for proof through “constructive knowledge.” This means even if the property owner wasn’t actually aware of the slippery floor, it may be asserted that he should have been aware. Establishing constructive knowledge in slip-and-fall cases requires plaintiffs prove one of the following:

  • The condition existed for such a length of time that in the course of exercising ordinary care, the business should have known about the condition;
  • The condition occurred with regularity, and was therefore foreseeable.

Taking the same example of the restaurant spill, let’s say the server didn’t inform the manager, or perhaps the server didn’t even recognize right away some liquid had sloshed off the tray and onto the floor. If the spill was only on the ground a minute or two before it was cleaned, the plaintiff might have a difficult time proving constructive knowledge. However, if the liquid was on the floor for more than an hour, a stronger case might be made for constructive knowledge, especially given that restaurant managers know that spills are prone to occur in a dining room where food and drinks are routinely served.

Of course, restaurants aren’t the only location of such occurrences. Others have commonly included:

  • Grocery stores;
  • Malls;
  • Parking lots;
  • Theme parks;
  • Shopping centers;
  • Big box retailers;
  • Condominium complexes and apartment buildings.
Thorough Investigation of Florida Slip-and-Fall Accidents

It’s worth noting that prior to the passage of F.S. §768.0755, businesses, which are generally in a better position to immediately investigate a report of a slip-and-fall, routinely took photographs, conducted interviews, and combed records—all seeking information that might reduce or relieve their liability.

However, now that the proof burden more heavily weighs on plaintiffs, there is less of an incentive to thoroughly document incidents of this type. This means it is imperative that persons injured in slip-and-fall accidents seek immediate medical attention and contact a Fort Myers premises liability lawyer with extensive experience in this area of law.

In addition to collecting medical records and accident reports, we gather evidence from a myriad of other sources. We determine whether any relevant video recording of the accident might exist. We secure government weather reports (if relevant) and locate prior slip-and-fall reports filed at the same site or against the same company. We may also hire safety standards experts to review the facts and determine whether any applicable building codes or regulations were violated. We also ensure all paperwork and procedures are followed precisely and promptly, to avoid a bar of claim by the statute of limitations.

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

About Falls in the U.S.
  • More than 8 million people in the U.S. suffer injuries in unintentional falls each year.
  • In the 1– 44 age group, unintentional injury is the leading cause of death nationwide.
  • In the U.S., unintentional falls take the lives of more than 22,000 people per year.
  • About one in four Americans injured in falls each year is over 65 years of age.
  • Emergency rooms treat more than 2 million older Americans for fall-related injuries yearly.
  • Of those fall victims, at least 582,000 require hospitalization for treatment of their fall-related injuries.
  • Estimates put the cost of falls in the U.S. at more than $19 billion per year.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

South Florida has had a reputation as one of the nation’s leading areas for slip-and-fall lawsuits. In fact, an article on the naplesnews.com website confirmed that 40 claims had been lodged against that city over a six-year period. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that unintentional falls are the leading cause of injuries in the U.S. for every age group except 15 – 24-year-olds. In that group, falls rank second. In 2009, more than 8.7 million Americans suffered injuries in unintentional falls.

Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, have experienced injury attorneys on staff at our offices in Fort Myers, Naples, Cape Coral, Port Charlotte, and Sebring. For 40 years, our firm has provided high quality legal services to the citizens of communities across Southwest Florida and we are pleased to be their firm of choice when injuries demand an attorney with indisputable knowledge and proven legal skills. Our experience in premises liability cases makes our firm a leading choice for able representation of slip-and-fall claims.

Slip-and-fall injuries can be severe. In cases where victims strike their heads, death can result. Our firm understands how to examine the circumstances of slip-and-fall injuries, and we know how to build a strong case designed to pursue compensation for the harm that you’ve suffered.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research tells us that falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries. In recent years nearly half of fatal falls produced traumatic brain injuries. These are serious injuries that can leave victims with brain damage and other severely life-altering outcomes.

At Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, our Fort Myers and Naples personal injury attorneys know that as many as 30% of individuals who fall can expect potentially severe injuries. According to the CDC, these include such wounds as lacerations, head trauma, and hip fractures. Among older individuals who fall fractures are likely to affect hands, arms, legs, forearms, pelvis and spinal bones. The damage may be so severe that it affects victims’ ability to live unassisted. In some instances, the CDC says, fall injuries “increase the risk of early death.”

When you’ve suffered injuries in a fall, you’ll want the peace of mind that comes from knowing the attorneys you’ve chosen are known for their record of success and their negotiation and litigation skills. Naples, Cape Coral and Fort Myers personal injury and wrongful death lawyers at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, have proven themselves to be vigorous defenders of clients’ rights, both in and out of the courtroom. We aren’t afraid to challenge property owners who fail to maintain safe conditions on their premises or their insurance companies who want to avoid liability for your injuries or for the loss of life attributed to a fall.

If you’ve fallen and sustained injuries or lost a loved one because of a slip-and-fall accident, call our firm and ask for a free evaluation of your case. Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner is the family firm that Southwest Floridians trust when they need excellence in legal representation. If we don’t recover monetary damages for you, then you pay us no fees.

800-646-1210 – Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner – Focused on Justice

Florida Injury Lawyer Blog - Slip and Fall Accidents
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