Slip and Fall Lawyer in Miami Florida
A slip and fall is a situation where someone fell on another person’s property that resulted in some kind of injury and the fall was the result of a defective or dangerous condition. Miami slip and fall cases include trips, falls and slips, and can involve a range of hazards that were the cause of the accident.
Common Causes of Accidents in Miami
Miami slip and fall accidents create some of the most common injuries in the United States. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that 15% of all accidental deaths are from slip and fall accidents – right behind car accidents. Slip and fall accidents also account for 20% of all workplace injuries. In general, a landowner is legally responsible for preventing accidents from occurring on their property, and failing to do so could make them liable for the consequences. A personal injury lawyer might be necessary to help recover damages that occur from a slip and fall accident.
Slip and fall accidents can occur under a variety of conditions including when surface conditions are inadequate, such as:
- Waxed or mopped floors
- Uneven surfaces
- Loose floorboards
- Torn carpeting
- Oil or grease
- Other spilled liquids
- Inadequately salted ice
- A failure to post warning signs
Last year more than 21% percent of all Emergency room visits were due to a fall and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that year alone, over 2,000,000 injuries resulted from improperly maintained or defective flooring material.
Miami slip and fall accidents can also occur when environmental conditions are inadequate, such as:
- Glare from bright light on a shiny surface
- Debris or other trash obstructing a pathway
- Poor lighting conditions
- Open cabinets or desk drawers
- Exposed cords and wires
Climbing hazards can also be a cause for a slip and fall accident, including:
- An unsecured ladder
- A missing handrail
- A poorly constructed staircase
- Using an improper piece of furniture to reach something
Additionally, certain occupations are particularly prone to slip and fall injuries, such as:
- Construction workers
- Manual laborers
- Kitchen workers
- Factory workers
Miami workplace accidents are extremely common and can result from a failure to properly train an employee or a dangerous obstruction in the employee’s path. The Industrial Safety & Occupational Health Markets estimates that 85% of all worker’s compensation claims can be attributed to falling on a wet or slick floor. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates that 20 to 25% of workplace slip and fall accidents resulted in more than a month of missed work per injured party and medical costs of over $70 billion a year combined.
If you had a slip and fall accident on someone else’s property that resulted in an injury, a slip and fall injury lawyer can help evaluate the situation, and determine if compensation would be available.
What to do After an Accident in Miami
If you slipped or fell in Miami and were injured, a lawyer would suggest several steps one should take to help minimize the damage, and preserve as much information as possible for a possible lawsuit. Of course, immediately following an accident, a visit with a medical professional should be the first step – either going directly to the hospital or following up with a primary care physician. Meeting with a medical professional should be done as soon as possible. Severe damage might not always present itself right away, and starting the process with a proper medical checkup can ensure that no symptoms are overlooked.
It is important to comply with any follow up care a Miami medical professional recommends. This might include blood tests, x-rays, brain scans, physical therapy, or any other type of follow up care. Failure to follow the advice of a medical professional may affect the amount of compensation available later in the process.
Following an injury, you might be expected to cover the cost of your medical care and any other costs associated with the accident. Be sure to record all doctors’ visits and any costs associated with them. Also, be sure to keep any receipts of diagnosis and payments made on your behalf.
However, working with a Miami slip & fall lawyer like Schlacter Law can help you find medical treatment without it coming out of pocket. Essentially, the bills get paid when you win your case. This relationship with a doctor is called a Letter of Protection. This is a common relationship that allows clients to receive top quality medical care even if a client does not have health insurance. Schlacter law can help guide you through this process. So, the moral of the story, if you do not have health insurance, do not worry. Schlacter Law is here to help. Also, if you have medical bills, also do not worry, many of these bills can be later negotiated by your attorney once the case is settled. A Miami personal injury lawyer should be skilled and very familiar with the medical bill negotiation process.
Following the initial medical care, it might be essential to determine what caused the slip or fall in the first place. Was there a hazard present? Was the building not properly maintained? Pinpointing the cause of the fall immediately after it happens may be essential in determining if the owner was at fault for the accident.
If it is at all possible, photograph the scene of the accident. A picture is worth 1,000 words, and being able to capture the exact conditions at the time of the accident in a photograph could be critical in showing a jury your version of how the accident happened. With the ubiquity of cellphones, we’re never at a loss for a camera. Be sure to photograph as much as possible. A picture of a seemingly random spot on the floor could prove to be a crucial piece of evidence.
Did anyone else witness the accident? If so, be sure to get their contact information, including their name, address, phone number, and email. They might be able to testify in court or at a deposition and their eyewitness testimony could be critical in explaining to a Miami jury why the accident was due to the owner.
If the slip and fall accident occurred at a business, be sure to fill out any accident reports and put the building owner on notice that the accident occurred. Filling out a report sooner rather than later could be critical if the timing is at issue during a claim.
If you recall any details about the accident, be sure to write down as much as you can remember so you have a record for future reference. Memories can fade, and what may seem obvious right after the incident may be forgotten within weeks or months. Also, be sure to keep track of and write down a record of your pain and any injuries and symptoms that develop after the incident.
Following any physical damage, you might receive medical bills for the cost of your medical care (hospital, EMS), and any other costs associated with the accident. Do not worry. If a Miami slip and fall accident costs you time, money, and mental anguish, a lawsuit can help seek compensation for these losses, and a Miami slip and fall lawyer can help determine how to proceed. Schlacter Law is here to help.
How much reimbursement can you get?
The amount of compensation available to a plaintiff will vary depending upon the circumstances of the damage and whether or not the costs are easy to calculate.
Compensation generally falls into one of two categories: Economic losses, and non-economic losses. Economic losses are the costs associated with the accident that are easy to calculate. These might include:
- Any Medical bills
- Requited ongoing medical treatment
- Property loss and damage
- Lost wages
Non-economic losses are those that are more difficult to calculate, and can often be the most expensive costs associated with a Miami slip and fall. These types of losses address the ongoing cost of a loss to one’s joy of living, including constant pain and loss of mobility, as well as:
- Loss of enjoyment – this is when a person’s ability to participate in the pleasures or activities they formerly engaged in are severely limited, thus altering their former lifestyle
- Loss of consortium – this is the term used to refer to the deprivation of family relationships due to injuries sustained in an accident
- Emotional distress – this is when a person’s conduct creates a highly unpleasant emotional reaction, such as humiliation, fury or anguish
- Pain and suffering – this includes the emotional and physical stresses caused by an injury and includes things such as aches, permanent and temporary limitations on activities, depression and a shortening of life
There are numerous ways to calculate non-economic losses. One common method is to take the sum of all known economic losses and multiply it with a multiplier that would vary based on the details of the case. However, this is not always an effective way to calculate non-economic losses, and insurance companies will often contest non-economic damages due to the subjectivity of the method.
Total compensation would add known economic losses with the multiplied non-economic losses. Since these values are hard to calculate, the first step in receiving compensation is talking with a slip and fall injury lawyer. Miami slip & and fall lawyers have the experience necessary to see the big picture and ensure that no detail is overlooked. Many factors can affect the value of a case including but not limited to:
- The insurance company
- The specific adjuster
- Prior accidents
- Age of Plaintiff
- Mechanics of the accident
- Insurance coverage
- The extent of medical treatment
Punitive Damages in Miami
Under certain circumstances, a Miami lawyer might argue that a plaintiff should receive additional compensation when the defendant’s behavior rose to a level that was so egregious that additional compensation is warranted. This additional compensation is called “punitive damages”, and is not rewarded to make the plaintiff whole, but is used as a way to punish the defendant for behavior that falls beyond mere negligence.
Under Florida Statutes §768.72(2) “a defendant may be held liable for punitive damages only if the trier of fact, based on clear and convincing evidence, finds that the defendant was personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence.”
Intentional misconduct is further defined as the defendant having “actual knowledge of the wrongfulness of the conduct and the high probability that injury or damage to the claimant would result and, despite that knowledge, intentionally pursued that course of conduct, resulting in injury or damage.”
This conduct would rise to the level of gross negligence, which is when a “defendant’s conduct was so reckless or wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct.”
Even when it is possible to establish the need for punitive damages, in Florida, there is a limit to the amount of punitive damages a defendant can receive in Miami. Under Florida law, punitive damages are limited to “three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded to each claimant” or “the sum of $500,000” – whichever is greater. Fla. Stat. §768.73.1
Additionally, in cases where a Miami jury find that the defendant’s conduct “was motivated solely by unreasonable financial gain and determines that the unreasonably dangerous nature of the conduct, together with the high likelihood of injury resulting from the conduct, was actually known by the managing agent, director, officer, or another person responsible for making policy decisions on behalf of the defendant, it may award an amount of punitive damages not to exceed the greater of four times the amount of compensatory damages awarded to each claimant.” Fla. Stat. §768.73.2
Lastly, where “the fact finder determines that at the time of injury the defendant had a specific intent to harm the claimant and determines that the defendant’s conduct did, in fact, harm the claimant, there shall be no cap on punitive damages.” Fla. Stat. §768.73.2(c)
Looking closely at punitive damages and it will become apparent that even though Florida law limits the amount of punitive damages available to a plaintiff, there are circumstances when a Miami court will not only award punitive damages but will go above and beyond the limits set forth in the statute. When and why a court will permit punitive damages will vary greatly depending on the facts of each case, and it is recommended that the plaintiff have a conversation with a Miami falling injury lawyer before determining the next step in a potential lawsuit.
Common Accident Injuries
Miami slip and fall injuries can vary widely, from minor to serious. Even minor injuries can create serious complications over time, and the economic costs could be difficult to calculate immediately after an accident occurred. An experienced Miami falling injury lawyer can help you determine the true costs of the damage now, and into the future.
Some injuries cost more to care for than others. Some common types of Miami slip and fall injuries include:
- Spinal cord and back injuries
- Head injuries
- Shoulder injuries
- Hip fractures
- Broken bones
- Fractures and sprains
- Soft tissue injuries
- Laceration and abrasions
A spinal cord injury is when the spinal cord is compressed or severed and is oftentimes life-threatening. These types of injuries are also some of the costliest injuries to treat over time. Damage caused higher up on the spinal cord will generally cause more extensive damage, including quadriplegia and complete paralysis. Spinal cord injuries located lower down the spinal cord can result in paraplegia (lower limb paralysis), or possibly milder symptoms. As the second-leading cause of spinal cord injuries, falls can contribute to lifetime pain and ongoing treatment.
Head injuries occur when the head hits the ground or an object during a fall. These injuries can cause concussions and other traumatic brain injuries, limiting cognitive skills, movement and speech abilities. Similar to spinal cord injuries, serious head injuries could require lifetime care.
Broken bones and fractures often occur when an individual attempts to brace themselves during a fall. Damage can occur in the hands, elbows, wrists, knees, arms, and shoulders. Broken bones might require a cast, or more serious treatment such as surgery for rods, pins, plates, and screws. Rehabilitative therapy could be necessary and pain may be ongoing.
Soft tissue injuries can include torn ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Often these injuries appear minor but can continue to cause pain over time if left untreated. Surgery and physical therapy may be required after initial treatment with medication and ice.
Lacerations and abrasions might appear minor after a fall, but could be more serious than they appear. Serious cuts could require stitches and preventative measures to stave off infections. If a cut develops into a bruise, it could be a sign that there are significant internal injuries, and should be treated by a medical professional. A Miami slip and fall lawyer is essential in determining when an injury is substantial.
Miami Accident Compensation Process
When talking to a slip and fall lawyer in Miami, the first step in receiving compensation for an injury is to be sure to document any costs associated with the accident. If personal property in Miami was damaged, proof of the value of any belongings may be required. Be sure to keep any receipts for items you may have purchased relating to the accident for your lawyer. If receipts are unavailable, an appraisal might be necessary to determine the actual value of the damaged property.
For any injuries that required medical care be sure to keep all receipts and proof of payment for any medical bills that were paid out-of-pocket so you can discuss them with your lawyer. If a doctor recommends care with a medical specialist, be sure to keep any documents given to you by your doctor. If medical care is ongoing, these costs could also be part of any future compensation. It is essential that you hold on to any documentation you receive as proof of the actual costs.
A Miami lawyer at a slip and fall law firm can help determine the next steps in seeking compensation. In many instances, a Miami slip and fall accident injury lawyer may be able to negotiate with the owner or the owner’s insurance carrier for a settlement. Settling with an insurance carrier is not recommended without the assistance of a Miami slip & fall lawyer. It is in the insurance carrier’s best interest to pay out as little as possible, leaving a plaintiff vulnerable to incomplete compensation. Additionally, some costs associated with an injury might take time to present themselves. Settling too early in the process and without the assistance of a lawyer could result in compensation that inadequately covers a long-term disability.
How to file a claim in Miami?
There are two common ways to seek compensation in a slip and fall case in Miami Florida:
- Demand Process
- Formal lawsuit
A demand process is one of the most common ways to reach a settlement in a Miami slip and fall case. Lawyers for both sides come to an official agreement after extensive negotiations between the lawyers for both parties. Once an agreement is finalized, and a final written agreement is signed, the plaintiff agrees not to seek further legal action against the at-fault party or their insurance company.
If a demand fails, a Miami lawyer can file a formal lawsuit in a court in Florida. The process begins when the lawyer files a complaint, which outlines how the victim was injured, how the at-fault party was to blame, and the damages the plaintiff seeks.
Like most states, Florida places a limit on the amount of time a defendant can file a formal civil lawsuit against someone who was at fault for an injury. This is called the statute of limitations. Florida’s statute of limitations requires that a negligence lawsuit must be filed within four years from the date the accident occurred. If a defendant, or their Miami slip and fall accident attorney, fails to file a claim in court within this four-year period, the court could refuse to hear the case at all.
In some instances, the injury might not be discovered until months, or even years after the accident occurred. Under these circumstances, the filing window could be extended if the court finds a reasonable reason to do so. Additionally, while this four-year window applies to personal injury cases, keep in mind that Florida’s medical malpractice laws have a more specific statute of limitations.
What is Negligence and how is it Proven?
Miami property owners owe a duty of care to keep their property safe for visitors. This duty exists for homeowners, store owners, business owners, government entities and schools. Failing to provide a safe condition on their property can expose an owner to a lawsuit for negligence.
Once a lawsuit is filed, the process for receiving compensation for an injury in a slip and fall accident begins after a plaintiff proves that a defendant was negligent in some way. Negligence is the failure of a party to use the reasonable care that a reasonably careful person would use under similar circumstances.
There are four elements that define negligence which a plaintiff must prove that the defendant ignored in order to succeed in a lawsuit. These elements include:
- The defendant owes the plaintiff a duty of care
- The defendant breached this duty of care
- The plaintiff incurred an injury as a result of this breach
- The defendant’s breach caused the injury to the plaintiff
There are several factors to consider when determining if an owner acted in a reasonable manner. How long was the hazard present, and did the owner have enough time to resolve the issue? Was it reasonable to anticipate that the hazard would have been created – for example, a rainstorm creating a hazard in a parking lot? Did the owner fix the hazard right away, and was there a protocol for fixing these types of hazards? Could the incident have been easily prevented?
Additionally, there is a more direct approach to proving negligence, called negligence per se, which makes it easier to prove negligence in court. This approach occurs when a defendant violated a law designed to protect the public from this kind of harm.
A Florida slip and fall lawyer can help determine if there is sufficient evidence to file a claim against a defendant for an injury that occurred on their property. A competent Miami slip n fall lawyer will be aware of the applicable statute of limitations and filing deadlines to ensure that a claim is filed in a timely manner.
The classification of a slip and fall victim is essential in determining the duty owed to that victim by a building owner. Florida portions liability based on the status of the accident victim at the time of the incident. There are three classes of visitor, and each class is owed a different duty:
- An invitee
An invitee is the most common classification found in a slip and fall injury case. Invitees are owed the greatest duty of care to ensure that the invitee is not injured while on a property. There are two types of invitees: public and business invitees.
A public invitee is someone invited onto public or private property that is designed for public use. An example would be someone in a public park who fell on a hazard or any place that is open to the public.
A business invitee is someone injured by a slip and fall accident at a business and that property’s purpose is connected to the act of business. This might include falling while visiting a store or a hotel.
Florida treats invitees with the greatest care. When an owner invites someone onto their property their duty includes correcting any issues with the property, warning invitees of any hazards on the property and maintaining an overall safe condition. This could also include taking reasonable steps to prevent crimes from happening to the invitee.
- A licensee
A licensee is someone who was not expressly invited on the property, nor has any business with the owner. There are two types of licensees: licensee by invitation and an uninvited licensee.
A licensee by invitation is someone who might have joined an invitee to the property, such as the plus-one invited to a party on the property. The owner would owe the same duty of care to a licensee by invitation that would be owed to an invitee.
An uninvited licensee could be a group of kids playing in the woods on private property. These types of licensees do not have the same protections as an invitee. The duty an owner owes to an uninvited licensee is not to willfully harm them.
- A trespasser
A trespasser is someone on the property without a license or invitation and is only on the property to benefit themselves. A trespasser might include someone loitering on the property or a thief on the property with the intention of stealing something. A Miami property only owes the same duty of care they would owe to an uninvited licensee.
What if the Property Owner had Previous Knowledge of a Hazard?
In order to be successful in a slip and fall lawsuit, an injured party must be able to prove that the defendant knew that there was a hazard on their property but failed to warn or address it. Under Florida Statutes §768.0755, “if a person slips and falls on a transitory foreign substance in a business establishment, the injured person must prove that the business establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it.”
Actual knowledge is simply when the property owner was already aware of the particular hazard that caused the injury. Prior notice is known when:
- A prior customer reported the hazard to an employee
- A prior repair was made to the hazard
- An employee reported the hazard to the property owner
- A city or government official cited the property owner for the hazard
Proving actual knowledge is more difficult to prove than it seems. For example, employees could be pressured into covering for an employer and deny that anyone had previously reported the hazard. Or a property owner might fail to disclose that the hazard had been previously repaired.
Constructive knowledge, on the other hand, does not require that the property owner already knew of the hazard. Under Florida Statutes §768.0755(a), constructive knowledge may be proven by “circumstantial evidence showing that the dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that the business establishment should have known of the condition.”
Additionally, constructive knowledge can be shown when “the condition occurred with regularity and was therefore foreseeable.” Unfortunately, this does not make constructive notice any easier to prove. There still needs to exist evidence that the hazard was ongoing. A slip and fall injury lawyer can help determine if there is sufficient evidence to prove that a property owner had knowledge of a hazard.
How long do cases take (What the application deadlines are)?
Personal injury lawsuits for slip and fall cases can take several months to several years to complete. In some cases, a slip and fall attorney can settle a case with a property owner or insurance carrier in a few months. However, if a settlement cannot be reached and a lawsuit must be filed in court, it could take several years for the case to be resolved.
The first step in moving forward with a lawsuit is filing a complaint. Submitting a complaint contains all the information necessary for your claim. It could take several weeks for a lawyer to gather all of the necessary information, and write a complaint that is accurate.
After filing a complaint, the other side has to reply within twenty days with a formal answer filed with the court. This reply would include their arguments for why the case has no merit. It could take a month or more for the other side to complete.
The next steps include pretrial discovery and preparation for the case. Discovery could include asking questions of each party under oath, called a deposition. Information gathered at a deposition, as well as any other evidence presented by both sides would then be used by a slip and fall lawyer to put together a case. This could take several months.
Before the trial begins and after all the information has been gathered, both parties may consider a settlement. Settlement negotiations are made between the lawyers in an informal setting, or a formal mediation meeting may take place to come to a settlement agreement. This could take a few months.
If a settlement is unlikely, the case would move forward through the court system. The next step would be pretrial motions, where the court is asked to rule on preliminary issues that arise before the case proceeds in court. If a resolution or settlement is reached before a trial you would collect your money. If a case is not resolved or a settlement is not reached, the case moves on to a trial. This could also take a few months.
A trial is scheduled by the court and typically is scheduled months in advance. Advance notice of when the trial will occur allows both sides to secure witnesses and prepare arguments and evidence for the trail. Once the trial begins, witnesses, evidence and arguments are presented and a jury or the judge takes time to make a decision. This process can take several months.
If a jury rules in the plaintiff’s favor, the other side may pay the judgment, or make an appeal to a higher court. If either side appeals, the case would continue if the appeal has merit. Collecting a judgment may take only a few weeks, but if the case continues on appeal, it could add several months or years to the case.
Once on appeal, a higher court determines if the lower court made any errors in its judgment. An appeals court may overturn the lower court’s ruling. If it is found that no errors were made, the lower court ruling will stand. This means that if the judgment was originally made for the plaintiff, the plaintiff will be able to collect their judgment. If the judgment was originally made for the defendant, then no judgment would be made. The appeals process could also take several months.
Common Insurance Issues
When dealing with a slip and fall accident that occurred on someone’s property, the owner’s insurance company may be responsible to pay for any injuries or damages that occurred. Insurance companies are always looking out for their own best interests and will attempt to settle for as little money as possible. Therefore, it is important to get the assistance of a slip and fall lawyer before moving forward with an insurance company.
If the property where the injury occurred belongs to a homeowner, it is important to determine if the homeowner has homeowner’s insurance, who the carrier is, and what are the limits of the homeowner’s policy. Every policy is different, but generally, slip and fall accidents are covered. There may be exceptions however if the homeowner intentionally caused the slip and fall through their own behavior.
Medical coverage (no-fault medical coverage) will typically cover an injured party’s medical bills regardless of the homeowner’s liability. However, medical coverage insurance generally has lower coverage than liability coverage, with a typical limit of $5,000 to $10,000.
Liability coverage is typically more comprehensive, with liability protection generally around $25,000 to $100,000 and sometimes even more. However, if damages from a slip and fall accident exceed the limits of the liability coverage, the homeowner will be responsible for the difference. It is possible for a homeowner to purchase additional liability insurance for an added cost.
Similar to homeowners, most businesses carry some form of commercial insurance. This insurance typically has much higher coverage than a homeowner’s policy and will cover most accidents that occur on the business’ property or due to the business’ or business’ employee’s negligence. Business insurance policies may also have no-fault medical coverage policies that would payout for an injured party regardless of who was at fault. Despite this coverage, insurance companies are notorious for refusing to honor this coverage. Under these circumstances. a slip and fall lawyer would need to fight on behalf of the injured party to be successful under a claim.
Issues can also arise with insurance companies when an injury occurred on a property by a third party, such as a vendor, a contractor or a sub-contractor. Under these circumstances, the property owner and their insurance company may dispute liability and deny coverage, claiming that the third party’s insurance is responsible for the claim. This must be sorted out, and can oftentimes lead to a contentious fight with several different insurance companies. Again, an experienced slip and fall injury attorney would be needed to help ensure that a claim is properly paid to the injured party.
Fatal Slip and Fall Accidents
When someone else’s negligence results in a death, a surviving loved one may be able to file a claim through a lawyer in the state of Florida through a wrongful death lawsuit. When these deaths are the result of a slip and fall, the owner may be liable for the losses.
Wrongful death cases are covered under Florida Statutes §768.18, which allows a case to be filed for the benefit of a parent, spouse or child of the decedent. Recent Florida law is murky in its interpretation of wrongful death suits – specifically if a family member is bound by the same legal limitations to file suit that was placed on the decedent. Different case law falls on both sides of the issue, and as it stands, it would depend on the facts of each case. Therefore, talking with a slip and fall lawyer is essential in determining if a wrongful death lawsuit is possible after a fatal slip and fall.
What if I was partially at Fault?
A property owner may argue that the plaintiff contributed to the accident in some way, and is partially to blame. If successful, this argument could reduce the amount of a settlement or the amount a court would have awarded if the case was successful.
Some examples of arguments an owner may make include:
- The plaintiff entered a part of the property forbidden to visitors, or where visitors aren’t expected to be
- The plaintiff was wearing inappropriate footwear that was unsafe under the conditions on the property
- The plaintiff failed to pay attention to their surroundings (for example, was distracted while talking on the phone)
- Reasonable steps were made to protect the plaintiff from the danger and the plaintiff failed to heed the warnings (for example, signs warned of the danger)
- The dangerous condition was obvious
Florida follows a pure comparative negligence rule, also called comparative fault, when it comes to slip and fall personal injury cases. Under this rule, any award received by a plaintiff who was partially to blame will be reduced by the percentage of their fault that was attributed to the accident.
For example, if a plaintiff was awarded $100,000 for an injury on someone’s property, but it was found that the plaintiff was 15% responsible for the injury, the award would be reduced by 15%. Instead of receiving the full $100,000, the award would reflect this reduction, and the plaintiff would only receive $85,000.
Comparative negligence is also a factor if a case fails to make it to trial. At settlement negotiations, the owner’s insurance company may look at comparative negligence when presenting a settlement agreement. Therefore, it is important that a strong liability case is brought at the beginning, and the expertise of a personal injury slip and fall lawyer be used from the onset.
What if I was injured on Government Property?
If an injury occurred following a slip and fall on government property, compensation may be available through a lawsuit. However, Florida Statutes §768.28 provides sovereign immunity and may shield government agencies from liability under certain circumstances.
Sovereign immunity shields the state and its subdivisions from tort liability unless the liability is specifically waived by statute. Additionally, sovereign immunity prevents a plaintiff from recovering punitive damages. Fortunately, the statute does lay out specific rules for filing a claim against a state agency in Florida, but these rules differ from suing a private citizen or business. A failure to follow the correct rules could result in a case being dismissed.
There are several rules laid out within the statute. The first rule changes the four-year statute of limitations to three years when filing a civil lawsuit against a Florida state agency. A second rule caps a government agencies’ liability to $200,000 per incident. Additionally, before filing a lawsuit against the state agency, a claimant must send notice to the Florida Department of Financial Services within three years of the incident. Furthermore, while Florida lawyers generally receive between 33.33% and 40% under a contingency fee agreement, claims against a state agency limit a lawyer’s contingency fee to 25%.
Can I negotiate with the insurance company myself?
While it is possible to negotiate with an insurance company on your own, a slip and fall lawyer is always recommended. Negotiating with an insurance company can be difficult, and the company adjusters are trained professionals. An adjuster may try to take advantage of a plaintiff who doesn’t know the system well and make a low ball-offer.
If negotiations are pursued without a lawyer, there are several steps in the process, including:
- Filing a claim
- The insurance company sends an initial letter
- A demand letter is sent to the insurance company
- The insurance company responds to the demand letter
As soon as you file a claim with an insurance company the negotiation process begins. The process can start by mail, by phone or online and should be done as soon after the accident as possible. Some insurance companies limit the time a claim can be filed. It is imperative to find out how long after an accident occurred that a claim can be made. It is essential to file a claim within that window of time.
After a claim is filed, the insurance company will send an acknowledgment letter. This will inform you that they received the claim, the claim is being investigated and the company will get in contact to discuss any further action. This letter does not act as an admission of any liability for the incident but is merely a preliminary introduction to the insurance carrier.
A plaintiff’s response is a demand letter. This is where the plaintiff has the opportunity to lay out their case, including any calculations for damages that came from the accident. This would include lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and any quality of life issues that arose from the accident. To support any claims, a demand letter may include:
- Copies of x-rays
- Copies of medical bills and records
- Treatment records
- Any bills related to the injury
A demand letter should not be sent until the full extent of any injuries is known. Since some injuries may take time to develop, it is essential not to rush a demand letter. Failure to include all damages from the injury in a demand letter may limit the amount of a settlement the insurance company will offer.
The company will respond to a demand letter by making a counteroffer, paying the amount asked for in the demand letter, or completely denying liability. The response letter may attempt to diminish the initial claim. A negotiation may proceed based on what the insurance company is willing to pay and what a plaintiff thinks is fair compensation. If the insurance company offers an amount that adequately compensates for the injury, a plaintiff can accept the offer and settle the case. If the offer is considered unfair, compensation may need to be sought through litigation.
How much does a personal injury lawyer cost
Generally, personal injury lawyers receive compensation at the completion of a case for a percentage of the amount recovered. This allows a plaintiff to seek a lawyer without any upfront legal costs. The percentage a lawyer receives varies, and is called a contingency fee percentage.
Some state statutes limit the contingency fee percentage, but most are between 33.33% and 40%. A common fee is 1/3rd of the settlement. If a case is settled before filing a lawsuit, then a lawyer is unlikely to receive more than 33.33% of the settled amount. However, if a case was unable to settle and a lawsuit must be filed, the lawyer may be able to receive a higher percentage, typically 40%. The lawyer would still be compensated for this amount if the case settles after the lawsuit was filed.
In some instances, a lawyer will not proceed with a case unless legal expenses are paid as they are due. In some cases, though, a lawyer will cover all legal expenses and deduct these costs from the settlement in addition to their contingency fee percentage. Many legal expenses can be costly and add up quickly. Some examples of legal expenses may include:
- Filing fees
- Expert witness fees
- Medical records
- Police reports
- Trial exhibits
Once a settlement is agreed upon, the settlement check will be sent to your lawyer. The lawyer will deduct their contingency fee percentage, as well as any legal expenses. The lawyer will then contact you, discuss how much is being deducted and why, and pay out the remainder to their client.
How We Handle Cases
- Your attorney will aggressively investigate your case. Schlacter Law will compile all necessary evidence needed to maximize the value of your case. Which includes but is not limited to photographs, police reports, security camera footage, witness statements, medical bills and medical records.
- You will remain in constant contact with Schlacter Law about the progression of your case.
- Your attorney will present your case to the insurance company and will attempt to resolve your case before the case goes to court for maximum compensation.
- Your attorney will make every effort possible to resolve the case as quickly as possible for the most amount of money you may be entitled to. You will be actively involved in the negotiation process with your attorney. Schlacter Law understands that this is your one opportunity to get justice for your loss.
- If settlement negotiations are unsuccessful, Schlacter Law will be fully prepared to bring your case to court to fight for the justice you deserve.
- At no cost to you, Schlacter Law will hire any experts and professionals needed to maximize your recovery and present your case in the strongest form possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
I was partially to blame for my injuries. Can I still get compensation?
Even when a victim was partially to blame for their injuries they might be able to get compensation. Comparative negligence would reduce any compensation by the percentage the jury finds the victim contributed to their injuries. This allows a victim to receive compensation even if they were partly to blame.
How much will a lawyer cost me?
Personal injury lawyers are typically paid through a contingency fee arrangement where the lawyer’s fee is paid as a percentage of any money they get on your behalf. This will allow you to initiate a claim without having to pay a lawyer now. The fee is usually between 33.33% and 40% of whatever they can recover.
How much compensation should I expect?
Without talking with an attorney there is no way to determine how much compensation you can expect. Compensation takes into consideration different types of damages and the potential long-term costs of medical care. Since each case is different you should consult Schlacter Law today to get a better idea of how much compensation you might be able to recover.