Experiencing a fall can be a truly serious matter. Often, people may not even realize how injured they are until after they are looked at by a doctor, and they’re shocked to discover that their simple “slip” caused permanent damage or will take years to recover from.
How are they going to pay for it? How will they work? How will they live?
If you fell on someone else’s property because they were negligent, you would hope that they would do the right thing and take responsibility. That they would pay for your recovery. But all too often this isn’t the case. Your only recourse is to file a lawsuit to ensure you get the compensation you need to move on with your life.
But what does that mean? How do you do it? Where do you start?
That’s what this post is about. We’ve complied everything you can expect from your slip and fall lawsuit so you’ll be prepared throughout the process.
When Can I File a Slip and Fall Lawsuit?
There is a certain window of time in which someone can sue after an accident or misconduct occurred called the statute of limitations. In Florida, the statute of limitations of slip and fall cases is four years. This time period may have exceptions, however, if you discovered an injury years after your slip and fall.
Where Do I Begin?
You or your attorney will have to send an initial demand letter to the insurance company of the party that caused your injuries. The letter will describe the incident and how much you demand in compensation. You may want to include the following in your initial demand letter:
- Record of hospital bills
- Record of any bills associated with the accident
- Eyewitness accounts
- Written statements from any employees at the location of your accident
What Will a Slip and Fall Lawsuit Pay For?
The damages you may sue for in a slip and fall lawsuit don’t end with a hospital bill. Depending on your injury, you may have to call out of work, use a different form of transportation to get around, or attend follow-up appointments with your doctor. These should be considered when writing your initial demand letter. Damages due to stress or personal losses can also be included in the price you quote the other party when you begin your lawsuit.
Be aware that there is a cap on damages in Florida. You can only ask for three times the compensatory damages, or $500,000. For example, if a slip and fall injury racked up $10,000 in compensatory damages, you cannot sue for more than $30,000.
What Happens Next?
If the insurance company determines that your amount is reasonable, they will accept your offer and you will have to sign a release of liability form. This is a rare response. Most likely, the insurance company will give you a counter-offer. You may then send another offer.
Will I Have to Go to Trial?
Most likely, no. Most slip and fall cases are settled out of court, with each party making counter-offers and negotiating until they come to a reasonable settlement. Settling out of court has significant advantages for both parties – it is timelier, more cost-effective, and it keeps the incident out of the public eye.
How Can I Win a Slip and Fall Lawsuit?
Slip and fall lawsuits fall under the category of premise liability lawsuits. You will have to prove that the premises you were on at the time of your fall were maintained in negligent manner and that this caused your accident.
How Will the Defendant Fight Against Me?
The other party will want to prove that you are at fault for the slip and fall. Florida rules on slip and fall cases based on the rules of comparative negligence. That means, if you are found to be at fault for your part of your accident, you will have to pay part of the damages. The following actions, prior to the accident, may help the defense to prove you were partially at fault:
- You were using mobile technology at the time of the fall
- You were running
- You had consumed alcohol before the accident happened
How Has Recent Legislation Affected Slip and Fall Lawsuits?
Before 2010, all the plaintiff needed to prove in a slip and fall lawsuit was that an object or substance that caused the fall was out of place. However, a statute was added to Florida law that now requires that plaintiffs prove the place of business involved knew about the out-of-place substance or object and neglected to clean it up or fix the problem.
For example, let’s say you slip on a banana peel on the ground at a produce store. Before 2010, all you needed to prove in court was that the banana peel in question should not have been on the ground. Probably as simple as proving that the rest of the bananas were displayed on a shelf. Under the new legislation, the plaintiff has to prove that the other party either knew about or should have known about the banana peel and fixed the problem.
While this may make things a bit more difficult, it’s still quite possible to receive the compensation you deserve as long as you work with an experienced professional.
About the Author:
Since 1994, seasoned litigation and trial lawyer Anthony B. White has helped thousands of accident victims seek damages due to injuries sustained as a result of another party’s negligence. Included in America’s Registry of Outstanding Professionals and selected to the 2012, 2014-2016 editions of Florida Super Lawyers, Mr. White specializes in car accidents, insurance disputes, wrongful death, product liability, and medical malpractice cases. He is a longstanding member of the Florida Justice Association and the American Association for Justice and currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Broward County Justice Association.