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Negligent Security Seminar | March 2015

Florida personal injury lawyers

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BEFORE HIRING A MIAMI SLIP AND FALL ACCIDENT ATTORNEY KNOW THIS starstarstarstarstar

When we slip and fall, it’s natural to feel embarrassed. We instinctively think we are clumsy, or we don’t want to be the focus of that kind of attention. Surely we are only bruised (mostly our ego)!

The reality can be very different. What happens when that slip causes a fall that results in serious injuries? Sometimes those injuries are not obvious at the time of the fall. Sometimes they are serious enough that medical attention is required. And, sadly, sometimes those falls cause catastrophic injury or death.

What do I need to know if I have fallen?

The first thing is that you should be evaluated by a competent medical professional. If you have hit your head, see a neurologist. This is especially true if you have lost consciousness for even a moment, or have any symptoms of a closed head injury or traumatic brain injury (sometimes called a concussion). 

If you have soreness in your neck or back, see an orthopedic surgeon or neurologist.  Many times injuries do not show up right away. The body has amazing protective mechanisms and chemicals that allow us to deal with pain, injuries and illness for short periods of time.  But eventually injuries require attention.

If you have fallen because of a substance on then ground, or tripped over something, you should engage the services of a qualified trial lawyer who specializes in slip and fall injuries.

You should also take photos at the scene where the fall occurred, since conditions can change (and the people who may be responsible for the fall may get rid of the incriminating evidence).

In Florida, if you slip and fall on a transitory substance (something that should not be on the ground that caused you to slip), it is the burden of the injured person to prove that the substance was there and that it existed for a long enough period of time for the owner or operator of the property to know about it. 

It’s called “constructive notice” where the substance was on the ground for a sufficient time that the people in charge of the premises should have learned of its presence.  They are considered to have knowledge of the dangerous condition after a certain amount of time.

How much time is necessary? There is no hard and fast rule about how long a hazardous condition exists before it becomes constructive notice. There are certain things that might lead a court or jury to conclude that it was there a sufficient amount of time. 

For example, there are cases in grocery stores where the evidence was that the banana that the customer slipped on had grocery cart tracks in it at the time and was already turning brown, indicating that the banana had been on the ground for some time.

The need for proving constructive notice is unnecessary if the property owner was the cause of the substance.  An example is if there is a leak from a pipe that is draining water onto a walkway that the owner knew or should have known was leaking. 

Or if the owner’s employees spilled something while they were restocking shelves. These are just a few examples of where the victim does not need to prove constructive notice.

Someone who controls a property (owner or occupier) has a duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition and to warn people of concealed hazards. 

That means if a property owner knows of a danger but doe not warn or repair the danger, they may be liable for any injuries caused by it.  A good example is a hole in the floor that might not be easily seen, or something sticking out that someone might trip on. 

Keep in mind that there are standards for most situations and building codes that generally apply to properties. 

If the property violates a code or standard that may be evidence of negligence.  But you will only know that if you find a qualified trial lawyer who can evaluate your case.

Slip and fall attorney

A lawyer who has experience handling and trying slip and fall and trip and fall cases (often known as “premises liability”) will also assess the comparative negligence of the case.

What is “comparative negligence”?  That’s where a jury decides how much fault the person injured contributed to the fall. In many cases juries will allocate a certain percentage of fault on the person who tripped, based upon evidence that the condition may have been obvious if they had been paying attention.

Or the substance might have been seen before someone slipped.  Or any number of other variations. The bottom line is that in Florida the person injured may have contributed to the fall and might therefore be “comparatively negligent.” The court then “compares” the negligence of the injured person to the negligence of the person or business (one or more) at fault in the case. It must all add up to 100%.

“What can I recover if it is found that I was hurt in a slip and fall or trip and fall?” This is a question we are asked often. Under the law, if you prove that there was negligence, you may be entitled to your past and future medical expenses and lost income, as well as your pain and suffering, any disability, disfigurement, mental anguish and loss of the capacity to enjoy life in the past and the future. 

If your injury is permanent, the jury can hear what your anticipated life expectancy may be based on the statistics on length of life in the United States.  

Premises liability cases are often complicated.  What seems so simple and clear will most of the time end up being very complex and technical. There are scientific and engineering issues (terms like “coefficient of friction” are very important).

Other issues that come up in many slip and fall cases include human factors, ergonomics, building codes, life safety codes, warnings, and conspicuity. 

Then there are medical experts who may be required, depending on the type and severity of the injuries. When there is a head injury or concussion, we must always evaluate to see whether there is a traumatic brain injury – even a mild one – because of the long-term effects of such injuries.

Things to know before hiring a Miami slip and fall attorney

Before hiring a Miami slip and fall accident attorney, you will want to know these basic things:

  • whether the attorney has handled cases like yours in the past. Have they actually tried slip and falls cases? Were they successful?
  • Do they refer their cases out to other law firms (many do that) or are they handling the case themselves?
  • Is the attorney board certified as a civil trial specialist? Most personal injury lawyers are not board certified. Many never even try cases.

You also want to know about the law firm’s reputation in the legal and professional community. When a case is begun, the insurance company involved (and most of the time there is an insurance company on the other side) will assess the case with particular emphasis on who the lawyer is that is bringing the case. 

They want to know if this is someone with the skill, firepower and reputation to try the case, where they are at risk of a large verdict.

In Florida there is a four year statute of limitations (deadline) for bringing a lawsuit for slip and fall cases unless there is a death, in which case it is two years.