What To Do When You Fall and Become Injured on Someone Else’s Property?
One of the most common questions we receive from a friend or acquaintance is “what should I do if I slip or trip and become injured on someone else’s property like a store or restaurant?” There is a series of things that Jonathan Burns, Esq., Managing Partner at JB Law, P.A. recommends you do. This advice comes with the understanding that the moments after someone is injured are often chaotic and stressful.
- How do you feel? When you become injured on someone else’s premises, the most important thing to do is take care of your health. If your leg is throbbing, don’t try to walk around. If your back is aching, don’t try to pull yourself up right away. Don’t do anything in the immediate seconds after a fall to injure yourself even more!
- Get the store or restaurant manager. Requesting the manager to the area of your fall accomplishes two things – One, the manager can call 911 and ensure that the paramedics are escorted to you quicker upon their arrival. And two, by making the store manager aware of your injury, you are putting the store on notice about the potential case. The second part is often important in convincing insurance companies to pay fair money for injuries. If the store never knew about the fall, the insurance company will often claim that you could not have been that badly injured.
- Take pictures – Often the most important piece of evidence in a slip or trip and fall is a photograph taken by the injured party. It is a rare occasion where the store or restaurant owner will admit to doing something wrong so having key evidence like a photograph of what caused you to fall can have a huge impact on your case!
- Fill out an incident report – If the store allows you to fill out the incident report with your information and the facts of what happened, all the better. Either way, a paper trail of the fall and injury is always the way to go.
- Go to the hospital – If you are in pain, you should get checked out at the emergency room. Yes, it is often annoying to go to a hospital but typically injuries become worse, so it is always good to get checked out early. Insurance companies will often look to whether someone went to the hospital after a fall or accident to ascertain the severity of their injuries.
- Call JB Law – Managing Partner Jonathan S. Burns, Esq. has handled thousands of slip or trip and fall cases in his career including taking numerous cases to trial. Do not trust your injury case to a lawyer without that type of experience! Mr. Burns is especially well-equipped to handle every facet of your case and to help you with any medical treatment you might require. Mr. Burns can be reached day or night through our office phone system (561-717-9551) or Mr. Burns’ personal cell phone (305-803-1865).
Once you have retained Jonathan S. Burns, you will be professionally guided through the process. We want our clients to focus on getting better while we focus on the legal aspects of the case.
When someone falls on someone else’s property, the legal claim brought against the premises owner is “negligence.” To prove a negligence case in Florida, there are four elements that an injured party must satisfy: duty, breach of duty, causation and damages.
- Duty – All premise owners owe a duty to keep their property safe of hazards for all invitees. A “business invitee” is someone who is seeking to conduct business on the subject premises. A premises owner has a different level of duty to a business invitee than to a social guest or trespasser. Premises owners are required to keep their property free of any potential hazardous conditions that could cause their business invitees to become injured.
- Breach of Duty – A premises owner is in breach of their duty if there is something on the premises that is dangerous and can cause one of their business invitees to become injured. Without a breach of the duty, an injured party cannot proceed to the next two elements of a negligence claim, causation and damages.
- Causation – After the injured party establishes a duty and a breach of that duty, we must next prove the breach (hazardous condition on floor) caused the fall and the injuries suffered in the fall. To a non-personal injury attorney, this element of negligence can often seem like an easy thing to accomplish. To the contrary, insurance companies will often pick this portion of the case as their main fight. They will claim that the dangerous condition was not the cause of the fall and argue the injured party just was not watching where he or she was walking. Or more common, the insurance company will claim that the injured party’s medical treatment was actually due to a prior injury. That is why it is important to see a doctor right away and to retain JB Law, P.A. as soon as possible after the fall so we can protect your rights.
- Damages – Finally, the last element of a negligence claim is proving damages. There are two types of damages – Economic and Non-Economic. Economic damages are those monetary losses related to an accident. These damages are typically medical bills related to the injury suffered in the fall as well as any lost wages, loss of earning capacity, property damage, or other financial loss. Non-economic damages are subjective damages and typically include pain and suffering, disability or physical impairment, disfigurement, mental anguish, inconvenience or loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life experienced in the past, or to be experienced in the future.
FLORIDA’S SLIP AND FALL LAWS
Prior to recent changes in Florida law, an injured person only needed to prove that a premises owner failed to exercise due care in the maintaining of their property (i.e. a hazardous condition existed on the property and it caused the injured party to fall and become injured). Basically, if one was injured on the property and could prove they were injured by a dangerous condition, they had a very good chance of being successful in their lawsuit against the premise owner.
However, in recent years, the Florida Legislature has passed several laws to make it more difficult for injured people to bring successful claims against premises owners for negligence. Now, people injured in slip or trip and fall accidents must establish (a) that there was a hazardous condition on the floor that caused them to fall; and (b) that the premises owner either knew or should have known about the hazardous condition and failed to correct it. Basically, an injured party must be able to prove that the premise owner’s behavior was something beyond careless.
Winning a premises liability case (slip or trip and fall) in Florida can be difficult. It is imperative that an attorney bringing a premises liability case be familiar with all of the relevant statutes and legal opinions in this area of law. Any attorney “moonlighting” as a personal injury lawyer is unlikely to have the necessary expertise in premises liability to be an effective advocate for you.
Jonathan S. Burns has litigated and tried cases against some of the biggest stores and restaurants in the country such as Wal-Mart, Publix and Starbucks. These entities have unlimited resources to defend against legitimate claims brought by injured parties. YOU need the same type of expertise on your side! JB Law, P.A. can provide that expertise.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
A statute of limitations is a law (often different by state) that requires an injured person to file their lawsuit within a specific period of time. In Florida, there is a four (4) year statute of limitations for all negligence claims. As discussed earlier, any slip or trip and fall on another’s premises would be brought as a negligence claim. As such, a slip or trip and fall in Florida must be filed within four years of the date of the fall. Practically speaking, it is important to engage a qualified attorney as soon as possible after the fall and not rely on the deadlines outlined in a statute of limitation.