Fort Lauderdale Trip and Fall Lawyer Explains Negligence Claims in Florida
Some of the most common injuries in the country occur as a result of fall accidents. In fact, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 800,000 people per year are hospitalized because of a fall injury. If you have been injured in a fall in South Florida — even if your personal injury did not require hospitalization— a Fort Lauderdale trip and fall lawyer can help you seek out compensation for the resulting physical and financial fallout.
How Trip and Fall Accidents Happen
Trip and fall accidents, along with slip and fall accidents, can occur almost anywhere: a store, a restaurant, at work, or in another commercial or even a residential space. There are many reasons that people trip and fall. For example:
- They might trip because the flooring is uneven.
- They could trip on cracks in sidewalks.
- If people leave debris in walkways, victims could trip on the debris, causing them to fall.
- Some people trip and fall because aisles are overcrowded.
- When a walkway has a change in elevation without proper signage or warning, an unknowing victim can trip and fall.
Common Trip and Fall Accidents
While there are numerous scenarios that result in trip and falls due to property hazards, some of the more common are the following:
- Poorly-lit areas
- Slippery surfaces, especially due to spills or water leaks
- Uneven walking surfaces
- Step-downs that are not properly marked
- Unmarked obstacles
- Stairs lacking handrails
- Changes in flooring surfaces
What Steps Should You Take After a Trip and Fall Accident?
When seeking financial compensation for injuries sustained in a Florida trip-and-fall accident, proving negligence is only half of the battle. You also need to be able to prove the extent of your financial and non-financial losses. With this in mind, there are some important steps that you need to take right away, including:
- Seeking Medical Treatment – In order to recover financial compensation, you need to see a doctor promptly. You can see any doctor you choose (unless you have workers’ compensation claim), but you should prioritize obtaining treatment as soon as possible.
- Preserving Critical Evidence – Be sure to keep any evidence you have in your possession. This includes your damaged clothing and personal items, photos you took with your phone, and any other information you may have collected at the scene of the accident. Also, keep copies of your medical and employment records, and try to keep a daily log of your injuries’ impacts on your life.
- Consulting with a Fort Lauderdale Trip and Fall Attorney – In order to recover just compensation, you will need an attorney. Hiring an attorney promptly will maximize your chances of recovering full compensation, and we encourage you to contact us 24/7 for a free consultation about your legal rights.
Florida’s Legal Standards for Finding Property Owner Negligence
Florida’s trip and fall law is located in Florida Statute Section 768.0755 as part of premises liability cases. In order to win damages, the injured victim must prove that the property owner was negligent, and that this negligence was the reason for the trip fall. A knowledgeable Fort Lauderdale trip and fall attorney understands how to make a winning case for recovery.
In order to prove that a property owner was at fault, your Fort Lauderdale trip and fall lawyer will need to establish the following:
- That the property owner had a legal obligation or a “duty” to keep their property free from hazards
- That the property owner failed to meet their legal obligation or “breached” their duty by allowing a hazardous condition to exist on their property
- That the fall was caused by the hazardous condition
In addition, your attorney must show that you are entitled to be compensated for the following:
- Any medical expenses resulting from your injuries, including past, continuing and future estimated expenses
- Any wages you lose as a result of being out of work, as well as any income lost because you were left with a reduced earning capacity.
- Any out of pocket costs you incur for physical therapy, occupational therapy or other rehabilitation
- Amounts to compensate you for your pain and suffering
If your Fort Lauderdale trip and fall attorney is representing you in connection the death of a loved one in a wrongful death action, you may be able to recover for the loss of financial support and companionship.
If your accident occurred at work, your Fort Lauderdale trip and fall lawyer can also help you pursue a workers’ compensation claim.
Common Property Owner Defenses Your Fort Lauderdale Trip and Fall Lawyer Will Fight
Many people are surprised to find out that Florida actually requires the injured person to prove that a dangerous condition existed that the business ACTUALLY KNEW ABOUT or SHOULD HAVE KNOWN ABOUT. This is a very difficult standard to meet.
There are some common legal defenses used by property owners in these types of cases. They include the following:
- The fall occurred in a portion of the property that the owner did not have a duty to maintain. This includes areas where visitors are prohibited or not expected.
- The fall occurred due to the person’s own carelessness, perhaps due to distraction or failing to watch where they were walking.
- The dangerous condition should have been obvious to the person who fell.
Complicating all these factors is Florida’s laws on comparative liability. Under comparative liability, the injured person can be found partially at fault, yet still recover damages. For example, a person who falls on a slippery surface could be found 10 percent at fault, while the property owner could be found 90 percent at fault. In this case, the injured person’s recovery would be reduced by 10 percent. Don’t assume you know if you were at fault or not, though. Before you consider a settlement, discuss your case with a Fort Lauderdale trip and fall lawyer. Settlement may be your best option, but an attorney will make sure you receive a fair amount.
Trip and Fall Accidents Involving Transitory Foreign Substances
While there are many different types of hazards that can lead to trip-and-fall accidents, a significant number of cases involve “transitory foreign substances.” A transitory foreign substance is anything that is in a place where it does not belong and that presents a serious injury risk as a result of its presence. Cases involving transitory foreign substances are subject to a special provision of Florida law, and recovering just compensation requires the representation of a highly-experienced Fort Lauderdale trip and fall lawyer.
What are Examples of Transitory Foreign Substances?
A transitory foreign substance can be a liquid (many slip-and-fall cases involve transitory substances as well) or a solid substance, item or object. In trip-and-fall cases, examples may include:
- Cleaning or landscaping supplies
- Construction materials
- Office supplies
- Medical supplies
- Other fallen or misplaced items that present trip hazards for visitors and guests
What is the Law on Transitory Foreign Substances in Florida?
Trip-and-fall cases involving transitory foreign substances are governed by Section 768.0755 of the Florida Statutes. This law states that an injured person must be able to prove that, “the business establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it.” In other words, a business owner is not at fault simply due to the presence of a transitory foreign substance. Rather, the individual seeking just compensation must be able to prove that either:
- The business owner was actually aware of the transitory foreign substance’s presence; or,
- The circumstances were such that the business owner should have known about the transitory foreign substance.
In order to prove either knowledge or “constructive knowledge,” it is necessary to gather information from the business itself. Typically, this requires formal legal “discovery,” and this is a step that will need to be undertaken by your Fort Lauderdale trip and fall lawyer. Other steps that will typically be required in order to recover just compensation include: (i) conducting an investigation to identify potential witnesses and other sources of evidence, (ii) calculating the financial and non-financial impacts of your injuries, and (iii) negotiating with the business owner’s insurance company. Additionally, while most trip-and-fall claims settle, in some cases it will be necessary to go to trial.
What if the Business Owner Cleans Up the Transitory Foreign Substance After Your Trip and Fall?
When a business owner learns that someone has tripped and fallen due to a transitory foreign substance on its premises, the business owner will usually clean up the substance right away. If this happens in your case, how can you prove that the transitory foreign substance existed and that it caused you to trip and fall?
There are a number of potential ways to prove your right to compensation in any type of trip-and-fall case. If you took photos or videos with your phone, your lawyer may be able to use these to prove liability. Surveillance footage, eye witness testimony and various other types of evidence may be available as well. The best way to protect your rights is to hire a lawyer to begin working on your case immediately; and, if you were injured in a trip and fall accident in Fort Lauderdale, we encourage you to contact us right away for a free initial consultation.
Questions to Ask Your Fort Lauderdale Trip and Fall Lawyer
As with any lawsuit, you must contact a reputable lawyer to help you determine if you have a winnable case. The following five questions will make things easier on both you and your potential attorney by getting directly to the meat of the matter.
1. Was I injured badly enough to sue?
If a slip and fall results in a minor injury, say an ankle sprain that causes you to miss a day of work and does not require medical treatment, odds are it will not pay to contact a South Florida slip and fall lawyer. No, there isn’t a magic number, since most of these cases are based on personal income, pain and suffering, and medical expenses. However, if your injury did not require you to see a doctor, a lawyer may not take you seriously. There simply isn’t much money in a case where the plaintiff sustained only a minor injury.
Furthermore, most South Florida trip and fall lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means they don’t get paid unless you get paid. So, doing work for free only makes sense if the chances of receiving damages or a settlement are good.
2. Can you prove negligence?
This question might take a bit longer to answer, since the attorney must carefully examine your case before he can proffer his professional opinion. If he answers in the affirmative, there’s a pretty good chance you have a solid lawsuit, since most of all these cases hinge on this single question. More often than not, the lawyer must demonstrate that the defendant was aware of the issue that caused the slip and fall, whether it was a worn or uneven surface or a spill, and did nothing to address it in a timely manner.
3. What is your success rate with cases like mine?
Whenever you interview an attorney, always remember that you are the client, you’re hiring him. Therefore, you have the right to ask blunt, pointed questions about their past cases. inquire about their recent cases and the outcomes, including settlements and damages awards.
4. How long will my lawsuit take to settle?
Your attorney won’t be able to give you a firm date and time, of course. But he should be able to give you a ballpark estimate after he examines the facts of your cases, especially if he has filed similar lawsuit in the past. Because these cases almost always involve negotiations between lawyers and the defendants’ insurance companies, they can last anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years.
5. Are there any possible, even expected complications?
Slip and fall cases range from the mundane to the strange, which means there’s often a lot of room for unexpected issues to crop up. As the plaintiff, it is always best to know from the start whether or not your trip and fall lawyer believes that your lawsuit is fraught with potential pitfalls.
Speak With a Fort Lauderdale Trip and Fall Lawyer at the Maus Law Firm