Slip and fall injuries in Orlando and Central Florida are very common and occur quite frequently. Nationally according to OSHA statistics (the US Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration), slip, trip and falls accounted for an estimated fifteen percent (15%) of all accidental deaths in the U.S. This makes tripping, slipping and falling by an individual the second leading cause of accidental fatalities in the country, trailing only car accidents which are by far the leading cause of accidental deaths. In 2015 alone it was estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that almost 22.000 individuals died from falling down, and such incidents far surpass the 7,700 annual estimated fatalities that were seen in the preceding decade. Of these 22,000 fatalities, over 15,000 were people aged 65 and over. The CDC also reported that almost 2 million senior citizens (65 years old and over) were seen by an emergency room doctor as a result of a trip, slip and fall during 2015.
Far more common, however, are non-fatal injuries when a person slips, trips and falls. Injuries to knees, hips, shoulders and the spine (neck and back) frequently occur when a person falls, especially on a hard surface. The injuries can range from a soft tissue bruise to a tearing of muscle, cartilage and ligaments of a joint, to bone fractures such as a fractured hip. All these injuries can be very painful, debilitating and obviously quite serious. Treatments can range from a short period of time (taking over the counter medications) to major surgeries that result in high medical bills.
Interesting Statistics Regarding Slip and Fall Accidents
- Over eight million (8,000,000) trips to hospital emergency rooms annually make falls the most common reason people visit an ER. In fact, medical records show that last year alone over 21% of all ER visits were due to a fall. Compare this to car accidents which annually account for an estimated 11% of all ER visits. It is of interest to note that five percent (5%) of all the documented emergency room visits resulting from a fall involved a bone fracture of some kind.
- The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) statistics reveal that unsafe floors and defective or improperly maintained flooring materials directly account for over 2,000,000 injuries from individuals slipping and falling every year.
- Slips and falls are the leading cause of workers’ comp claims in the U.S. each year. The Industrial Safety & Occupational Health Markets 5th edition reveals that 85% of all of the worker’s compensation claims filed can be directly attributed to the employee having slipped and fallen on a wet or “slick” floor. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics between 20 to 25% of slip and fall accidents resulted in more than a month (31 days) of missed work by the injured party. Medical costs and wage compensation are estimated at a national cost of approximately $70 billion a year according to the National Safety Council.
- Approximately forty percent (40%) of admissions to nursing homes are due to a fall and an estimated sixty percent (60%) of residents in a nursing home will incur a fall every year. Of those incidents that result in a fracture, greater than fifty percent (52%) are not able to ever live independently again or return to their homes. Additionally, fractures to nursing home patients are proven to be the second leading cause of brain injury and serious spinal cord injuries for elderly geriatric residents.
- Although falls happen in all types of manufacturing and service jobs, fatal falls are primarily seen in the construction, trucking, mining and the maintenance industries. As reported by the American Trucking Association, slips and falls are the leading cause of compensated injuries in the trucking industry.
The Rules and Laws for Slip and Fall Cases in Florida
Although they are common, and in many instances result in quite serious injuries and even fatalities, slip and fall cases can be difficult to pursue in many instances. This is because the laws governing these types of cases are written to favor the owner and operator of the premises where the fall took place. That makes it very important to understand the Florida laws concerning slip and fall injuries, as well as your legal rights when considering legal action if you are injured from a fall while at a store shopping, visiting at someone’s home, or while at work at your employer’s facility. The following information can be critical in obtaining fair compensation for any of your damages, losses and medical bills that you may have incurred from a fall due to another party’s negligence.
– Slip and falls cases in Florida are subject to a four (4) year statute of limitations. A statute of limitation is a deadline set by Florida law that requires you to file an actual law suit within a certain period of time. If the law suit is not filed within that period of time, the case may be forever barred. General negligence cases are subject to a 4 year statute of limitation, meaning that you must file your suit within 4 (four) years from the date that the negligence occurred. However, each case is different and the statute of limitations may differ depending on the facts of the case. You should always consult with an attorney to make sure that your case is not close to being barred by the statute of limitations. As specified in Florida Statutes section 95.11(3)(a), you must file your lawsuit within four years from the date the fall occurred. This also applies to any property damage that may have been caused by a slip and fall, such as expensive watches and jewelry or a computer that you may have had with you.
– If a slip and fall accident resulted in a fatality, then a different statute of limitation rule comes into play. Wrongful death claims, are generally governed by a two (2) year statute of limitation pursuant to Florida Statutes section 95.11(4)(d). In this instance the two year deadline actually starts on the date of the individual’s death, not the date of the fall (if the dates do not actually coincide). Again, you need to consult with an attorney immediately to make sure that the case is not barred by the statute of limitations.
– For a slip and fall case to be valid in Florida, the issue of Premises Liability comes into play. Basically the following two conditions need to be met:
1. The owner of the property (both commercial or private) where the fall happened must be negligent in providing reasonable care for the condition or maintenance of the property.
2. The owner of the property’s negligence caused your accident (and therefore should be responsible for your injuries and any damages that were caused by a fall).
Under Florida law the owner of a premises owes anyone who is not trespassing on the property the following duties:
- To maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition.
- To warn persons on the property of hidden dangers which are known to the owner or should be known to the owner but are not known to the person.
This is more difficult, however, that it sounds. A premise’s owner must give timely notice of hidden or concealed perils which are known or should be known. However, even if a condition qualifies as dangerous, the injured person must show that the owner had actual knowledge of the danger or constructive (implied) knowledge or should have known of the existence of the dangerous condition(s). The law further states that the owner of the premises is not an insurer of the safety of the people on its property. This basically means that just because someone falls on the property and is hurt, the owner is not necessarily responsible. The owner of the premises must be proven negligent before they can be held responsible for an injury. Under Florida law, an injured person has the burden of proving that the owner was negligent. The owner does not have to prove that they were not negligent.
The term “notice” is the most frequently contested aspect of a slip and fall case. What notice (i.e knowledge) did the owner have of the alleged dangerous condition? Let’s use an example: Joe goes to the supermarket to buy some milk. As he is walking through the store, he slips and falls on some substance on the floor and is injured. In this example the substance is a liquid dish soap. The questions that need to be asked are:
1. How did the dish soap get on the floor?
If the owner or someone working for the owner caused the soap to spill on the floor, that is direct negligence by the owner. If that can be proved, then that part of the case is satisfied. If the owner or his employees did not cause the dish soap to spill on the floor, or there is no direct proof that they caused the dish soap to spill on the floor, then you must prove that the owner had constructive (or implied) knowledge of the dish soap being on the floor.
2. How long had it been on the floor?
Implied knowledge is difficult to prove. First the substance must have been on the floor for a long enough period of time that the owner should have known about it. If the soap was on the floor for such a long enough period of time, then it becomes a question of should the owner have known it was there. If there is no direct knowledge or proof that the owner caused the dish soap to spill on the floor, or it is shown that another customer caused the dish soap to spill onto the floor, then it needs to be shown that the owner had sufficient time to be aware that the spilled dish soap was there. Again, this can be very difficult to prove in certain instances.
3. Should Joe have seen the soap and avoided it?
Questions can arise such as the following:
– Does Joe wear glasses? Did he have them on at the time? When was his last optical exam?
– What was Joe doing when he slipped on the dish soap? Texting? Chatting on his cellphone?
What You Should Do If You Are the Victim of a Slip and Fall
It is important to note that while slip and fall claims are filed and settled every year in Florida (very few actually ever make it to a trial), these cases can be extremely difficult to win. This is because the onus of proof lies on the injured party to actually prove negligence and that the property owner was responsible for, or contributed to, the cause of the fall. As a “rule of thumb” keep in mind that you must be able to prove that one of the following is true:
– The property owner (or one of their employees) must have caused the dangerous condition to exist. This includes wet areas on a floor such as from a spill, torn carpeting and damaged floor coverings, or some sort of dangerous item or obstruction to be in your path.
– The property owner (or one of their employees) knew of the danger, yet failed to take any appropriate actions to remove the danger or warn visitors about it.
– The property owner (or one of their employees) should have known of the danger based on the fact that a “reasonable” person taking care of a property would have discovered it and subsequently had it repaired or removed.
As we previously discussed in a recent post on car accidents:
Document, Document, Document – Pictures, Pictures, Pictures!
Remember that every situation is in some way perhaps unique. Yet the bottom line in any type of accident situation is to Document, Document, Document! Although everyone hopes that they will never be involved in a fall, the same rules apply. Take pictures and videos of the scene (and any dangerous conditions) immediately. I can’t emphasize this enough. Pictures, Pictures, Pictures. Today, most everyone has some kind of camera in their phones. They are more than adequate to take pictures and videos of the scene and you will never get another chance to capture what the conditions at the scene of the fall looked like.
Florida Slip and Fall Attorney
If you sustain a personal injury caused by a fall due to the negligence of a property owner or an employee, consider hiring an attorney. You may be entitled to have your medical bills, lost wages and any damages you incurred paid by the owner of the property where you fell. At the Law Office of Mark A. Risi, our Orlando personal injury attorneys will go to work for you to obtain the compensation you deserve. Our experienced slip and fall injury lawyers have handled numerous such cases throughout Florida that involved injuries from falls on residential and commercial properties. We would be honored to help you with your case. For a free case evaluation, or if you have any questions about Slip and Fall Accidents, please feel free to call us today at (407) 423-1313 or contact us online and we will answer any questions that you may have.