Articles Posted in Slip/Trip and Fall

Most people know about the role distracted driving plays in causing car accidents, but many people don’t realize that texting or surfing the internet on your smartphone while walking is equally dangerous. A recent study revealed that accidents and injuries to pedestrians using so-called smart phones has doubled in the last seven years. We, as personal injury lawyers who help accident victims in Fort Lauderdale, a community in which many of our fellow residents enjoy taking long walks, were alarmed by the rapid increase in distracted walking accidents.

The study, which appeared in the most recent edition of Accident Analysis and Prevention, was the result of an analysis of accident data reported from hundreds of hospital emergency rooms across the country. Some of the most frequently noted pedestrian smartphone related accidents involved fall down accidents from elevated sidewalks and pedestrians being distracted enough to walk onto roadways.

Not surprisingly, the most frequently injured class of smart phone using pedestrians is made up of people under thirty year of age. That age groups increasing and constant use of social media services, and their instant, need it now, mentality is certainly a contributing reason for their prevalence of injuries and accidents. To try an arrest these distracted walking accidents, many colleges have begun educating students to the dangers of using smart phones while walking. The basic rule, just like those taught about using a smartphone while driving, is before reaching for your phone-stop walking and move out of the way.

As we South Floridians know too well, with increased summer rains come many slip and fall accidents. Often these falls result in serious injuries, including fractures, sprains, abrasions, torn ligaments and even death. In fact, statistics prove that premises liability accidents such as slip and falls are a leading cause of these personal injuries.

The act of slipping generally happens when your shoe’s heel slides on a walking surface causing you to lose your balance. Slips usually occur as your heel hits the floor, and your weight is on that foot. Most often, slips happen because there is insufficient traction between your shoe and the floor. The most frequent cause of slips result from hazardous weather, foreign substances such as water or oil on the floor, poorly maintained or inappropriate flooring and improper footwear.

It is not unusual particularly in Miami, to find buildings which use indoor tile on outdoor surfaces. Given our humid weather and frequent rains, the use of such indoor flooring materials frequently result in unsafe friction, meaning unreasonably slippery walking areas. Despite the availability of slip prevention additives which are easily applied to such walking surfaces, businesses often fail to apply these friction adders and cause their customers to slip and fall. As businesses have an obligation to provide safe means for customers to enter and exit their property, the use of such inappropriate flooring is negligent, and may result in liability.

A major property and business insurance company recently concluded a study which demonstrates that businesses need to do more to prevent slip and fall and trip and fall accidents on their properties. As personal injury lawyers representing injured victims of such fall down accidents in Fort Lauderdale and throughout Florida, we are glad to see that even the insurance industry is trying to make businesses take precautions stop such accidents.

The report found that most often such falls are caused because businesses do not install necessary slip resistant walkways, do not have proper maintenance policies and do not install handrails. Consequently, the insurance company recommends that their clients install ANSI approved slip resistant flooring, purchases the appropriate cleaning supplies which are recommended by the flooring’s manufacturer, and take the time to train their cleaning staff on how to properly maintain the compliant flooring.

While many of these findings and recommendations seems like common sense, over the past 20 years we’ve represented hundreds of victims of fall down accidents which may very well have been prevented if the business operator took the necessary and affordable steps to protect their paying customers. We can only hope that more businesses take the precautions and time to make their properties safe and prevent these unnecessary falls.

Recently we had the pleasure of representing an innocent pedestrian who suffered serious personal injuries after tripping and falling due to a builder’s violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Our client, who suffered multiple injuries including a rotator cuff tear, was walking along a sidewalk in Miami, when she came upon an area under construction. The builder had erected a temporary sidewalk, made of wood, presumably for pedestrians to bypass the construction site.

Unfortunately, the builder failed to properly maintain the wooden sidewalk, allowing the wood to root. Due to the rotten wood, the pedestrian crashed through the sidewalk, tripping and falling to the ground. Investigation revealed that the builder violated ADA standards by using wood to construct its temporary sidewalk. Additionally, our investigation proved that the builder failed to properly maintain its improper sidewalk. Had the builder followed the industry requirements, this preventable fall would not have occurred.

Too often we confront uncaring builders and construction companies who continually do what is cheap and fast, rather than what is mandated and necessary. We continually pursue cases like this one to hopefully remind the construction industry of their duty to the general public.

Much to the disappointment of personal injury attorneys throughout the State of Florida, and to the clear detriment of those injured when they slip and fall because of a business’ negligence in failing to maintain their premises in a safe condition, the Florida Legislature recently turned the clock back to 2001, by enacting the law known as HB689.

The new law requires that the injured victim of a slip and fall prove that the business had actual or constructive knowledge of the condition which caused them to slip, and that the business should have taken some action to prevent the fall. This law places the burden upon the injured victim, rather than the business owner, who under Florida Law since 2001, had the burden on proving they maintained their floors in a safe condition.

While is generally impossible to prove that a business had actual knowledge of a dangerous condition, the law allows the victim to use circumstantial evidence to prove that the dangerous condition existed long enough so that the business should have known of it.

According to a recent study, more than a third of all people over the age of sixty five fall each year. Unfortunately, more than one fall in 10 results in a serious injury, like a fractured hip. As Florida Lawyers, we too often seen the devistating affects such injuries from such trip and falls at stores, parking lot and shopping centers, have on our older clients.

Thankfully researchers are beginning to further study, through wireless sensors in carpets, clothing and rooms, older individual’s activity. The continuous measurements allowed by simple devices, afford greater insight on the causes of fall, and how to prevent them.

Fall prevention also promises to be part of an emerging – and potentially large – worldwide industry of helping older people live independently in their homes longer. The hope is that activity patterns from the data can help identify ways to prevent falls.

Many of our client’s are surprise to learn that anyone injured by the negligent actions of any employee of the State of Florida, any of its political subdivisions, including those employees of a County or City, is limited, regardless of how seriously they are injured, to a maximum recovery of $100,000.00. This limitation or cap, which applies to car accidents, slip and falls, and even medical malpractice occurring at a County run hospital, is known as sovereign immunity.

The Florida Legislature passed this law, known as Florida Statute section 768.28, to shield governments from paying for all of the damages caused by their employee’s negligence, while allegedly giving accident victims a source of recovery. Unfortunately, for Florida accident victims, especially those who are catastrophically injured, the $100,000.00 cap is woefully inadequate.

Only in the rarest of circumstances does the Florida Legislature entertain, much less pass, a “Claims Bill,” which may provide an accident victim with a greater recovery, only if the Legislature and the Governor enact a specific law to help a specifically injured person. Even when the governmental entity, which caused the catastrophic injury, wants to pay the accident victim more than the $100,000.00 cap, the victim must go through the difficult process of pursing a Claims Bill.

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