Florida Slip Fall Attorney
As an Orlando slip & fall attorney, many people call me about all sorts of premises liability (dangerous property) cases. Slip and fall cases are a subset of dangerous property lawsuits. But slip and fall cases are unique — and in many cases more difficult to prove. If you have been injured as a result of a slip & fall, you need to speak with an attorney (not a non-lawyer intake person) who can evaluate exactly what caused you to fall.
Florida Slip Fall Settlement Amounts
Many clients and potential clients want to know the settlement and/or verdict amounts for slip and fall cases. You really need to understand that there is a HUGE variation, from a few hundred to many thousands or even millions in exceptionally rare and VERY SEVERE slip and fall injury cases. The value of a slip and fall settlement depends on two primary issues: (1) exactly how the fall occurred; and (2) the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries and need for medical treatment. There are many other variables but I’d say those are the biggest factors. Also, you should know that there are some things you can do to help increase the value of your slip and fall settlement.
Doctors And Lawyers Are Paid From Slip And Fall Settlement Amounts
Another thing that many plaintiffs do not understand, and some personal injury lawyers may or may not tell them, is that their past and future medical treatment is part of their recovery. Additionally, if someone else paid for your medical treatment, either on credit, or via health insurance, that person or entity MUST be reimbursed from your proceeds. As the ultimate catch 22, you cannot recover much, if anything, without medical diagnosis AND treatment to prove your injuries. So, in part, your slip and fall lawyer will be working to help pay for your medical treatment. Your lawyer also gets paid a percentage of your recovery. From reading online reviews of people reviewing other firms, I know many consumers are not happy when they learn that the lawyers and doctors earn a hefty chunk of many slip and fall (or other injury or accident) cases. However, the lawyers and doctors aren’t actually to blame. That is just what Florida’s law provides, unless you can find a doctor or lawyer willing to work for free. The important thing to remember, after you understand how the law forces lawyers to divide payments, is that you are still entitled to an unknown amount for your own pain and suffering. That number can be increased if you hire a creative and thoughtful lawyer doing everything possible to make that happen. Also, we can often negotiate your medical bills down lower, so that more money goes into your pocket at the end of the case.
Serious Problems With Slip & Fall Settlements
You should also know that there can be some SERIOUS problems with the system. Two of the biggest, from my perspective, are: (1) your lawyer does not clearly explain that how the proceeds will be divided before you settle the case, thus depriving you of making an educated choice; (2) your lawyer or doctor pushes you to receive therapy or treatment that you do not need, only to increase the medical bills; or (3) your lawyer and doctor have financial ties. In fact, there has been significant criticism of large attorney referral services for just that reason. As for me, I can just tell you that I always explain the options to my clients, I have zero financial ties to any medical providers, and I always encourage my clients to seek second opinions on medical treatment if they are uncomfortable with the provider I suggest for any reason. Additionally, I have no choice but to suggest providers because many doctors will not treat accident victims. But, if your doctor will provide your treatment, I have no problem if you want to go to them. I just encourage my clients to avoid any doctors who have an “anti-plaintiff” reputation, as is true with some local doctors. But my clients are always absolutely free to choose their own doctors.
Slip And Fall Settlement Amounts
As I mentioned above, slip and fall settlement amounts can vary tremendously, depending on the degree of liability (fault) of whoever owns the property, the severity of my client’s injuries, and (sometimes) whether my client has health insurance. But here are a small sampling of settlement amounts from reported cases (not mine), just to give you an idea (note that settlements before July of 2010 involving slip and falls on spilled liquids might have a lower value today due to unfavorable changes in Florida’s slip and fall law):
- Lee v. Defendant Cruise Line. Settled before trial in August of 2011 for $75,000. The plaintiff injured his left quadricep muscle when he slipped and fell while exiting the cruise ship. The plaintiff argued that the gangplank was too steep, while the cruise line argued that the plaintiff failed to use due care (note: defendants make this argument in virtually all sleep and fall cases, and this possibility does reduce the value of these cases by the percentage fault of the plaintiff in not watching his step). This was a non-surgical case where the plaintiff was left with a “large muscle ball” in his leg. Note that permanent injury increases values of these cases, but non-surgical cases are generally less valuable than surgical, all other factors being equal.
- A.W. v. SweetBay Co (Kash & Karry). Settled before trial in February of 2012 for $8500 (accident happened in 2007). Injuries & treatment not specified, but plaintiff claimed permanent injuries. This case involved a 10 year old slipping on a wet floor in a Kash & Karry grocery store. On an interesting note, the breakdown of the award was: $1,300.00 to plaintiffs for medical bills, $270.66 to plaintiffs for liens,
$3,400.00 for attorney fees, and $2,315.29 for attorney costs. Wet floor slip and fall cases are notoriously difficult to prove (effectively lowering the plaintiff’s settlement value), and my guess is that this minor also wasn’t severely injured (at all), given the low cost of her medical bills. It is unclear whether the $1300 paid to the plaintiff was for future or past medical treatment, so not clear exactly how much money the plaintiff recovered on a net basis.
- Garcia v. Defendant Condominium. Settled before trial in April of 2010 for $185,000. The plaintiff was visiting his mother at her condominium, walking up exterior stairs with mold growth, when he slip and fell. He sustained a shoulder labrum tear requiring arthroscopic surgery (shoulder surgery), as well as two lumbar disc bulges. As you can see, this surgical case settled for a higher value than the non-surgical case above. There also appeared to be good evidence of negligence (on the part of the complex) because of the mold growth on stairs, which is very important in any slip and fall settlement. But remember the lawyer would have obtained his payment (typically 40% of recovery) and the surgery and other medical treatment would have been reimbursed from this amount, although possibly at a negotiated lower rate than the amount actually billed for the surgery. The balance of the settlement would have gone to the plaintiff for his pain and suffering.
- Jane Doe v. XYZ Corp (confidential settlement). Accident happened on Aug. 6, 2008. Settled before trial in June of 2011 for $150,000. When walking to the bathroom in a restaurant, the plaintiff slipped and fell on an unknown liquid substance on the floor. The plaintiff’s lawyer argued that the restaurant went to great lengths to keep floors very glossy, and had no policies or procedures for monitoring their floor. There had also been at least 7 prior slip and fall accidents (which can increase the restaurant’s degree of fault). The 36 year old plaintiff was diagnosed with a patella fracture and required knee surgery to repair the fracture. (Note Florida passed a less plaintiff-friendly slip and fall statute in July of 2010, so this same case might have a much lower value today, depending on details about the liquid itself).
- Pierre-Louis v. Florida Supermarkets, Inc. Defense verdict. Zero recovery for plaintiff. Slip and fall on bottle cap in grocery store supermarket. Plaintiff sustained soft tissue injuries requiring chiropractic treatment. The defendant argued that they had no notice of the bottle cap, and the store policy included hourly floor inspections. The defendant also argued that the plaintiff was to blame for not watching where he was walking. I’m surprised this one went to trial given the lack of serious treatment, but defense verdicts are always a concern in slip and fall cases, because Florida’s slip and fall law does not automatically blame the establishment (and can place some blame on plaintiff for not watching where he is going). This is one of the biggest reasons that most slip and fall cases settle before trial.
- Kendle v. Seminole Town Center. The plaintiff was walking in the mall when she slipped and fell on water that had been leaking from a potted plant. The plaintiff was diagnosed with an internal derangement of the wrist, and ligament scar tissue preventing range of motion, which led her doctor to recommend surgery (which was not performed before trial). The defendant argued that they had a janitor inspecting the floors twice an hour and cleaned spills immediately, and that they did not know about the water on the floor before the fall. Defense verdict again–and again no money to the plaintiff (reminder: these were not my cases!!) But these again illustrate the very real concern in slip and fall cases that any jury will not find the defendant at fault, particularly if they had a reasonable cleaning schedule in place, which increases the importance of trying to settle “liquid substance” slip and fall cases before trial, unless there are very unique and frankly rare facts increasing the apparent fault of the defendant (and, for accidents happening after 2010, we must decline many liquid substance slip and fall cases because there must be some evidence of notice, or we can’t prove what is required under Florida’s slip and fall statute).
- Gauthier v. Pine Ridge South III Condominium Association. Plaintiff verdict for $168,742 in May of 1998. Plaintiff slipped and fell while walking on what she claimed was a slippery painted & stained pool deck at her apartment condominium. There had been one prior fall on the same pool deck. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant should have painted the area with non-skid paint, particularly since they had notice of the dangerous condition based on the prior fall. The plaintiff was a 64 year old woman who suffered a full thickness rotator cuff tear which required reconstructive surgery of her right shoulder. The jury found the defendant 100% responsible for her fall. Note that there was good evidence of a prior fall, which gave the jury a reason to conclude that the complex had notice of the dangerous condition.
- Leila Fox v. Winn-Dixie Stores. Settlement for unknown amount, but defense filed something called a “proposal of settlement” in court before the case settled for $7500. My guess would be the final settlement would not have been much higher, since the proposal for settlement gives us a clear picture of the defendant’s assessment of the case value. In June of 2011 (after the passage of Florida’s less plaintiff favorable slip and fall statute), the Plaintiff slipped and fell on a brown liquid substance in the soda & drink aisle of a Brandenton Winn-Dixie store. The nature of her injuries was unclear from the reporter. If I had to guess, I’d say she had soft tissue injuries, and the case settled for something near 10K.
- Andrea Thompson v. Diocese of Palm Beach Inc. $2,500,000 Plaintiff Verdict. In 2009, the 39 year old plaintiff fell and crushed her knee while walking on an exterior sidewalk at a Boca Raton church. The plaintiff underwent four knee surgeries and her doctor testified that she will need at least two total knee replacements in the future. The plaintiff sued the church, the general contractor who built the church, and the subcontractor who built hte sidewalk. The subcontractor settled before trial for an unknown amount. The other defendants offered to settle for as much as 500K. The defendants ultimately conceded liability and went to trial only on damages. Note the high verdict, in my opinion, was the result of the “perfect storm,” in the plaintiff’s favor in her legal case, including: (1) favorable jurisdiction for plaintiffs in south Florida, (2) 4 surgeries and at least two more needed in the future (remember the cost of those surgeries will be deducted from the award); and (3) an admission of fault on the part of the defendants, which suggests the sidewalk was really poorly constructed, and therefore not defensible.
Prior Reported Cases Must Guide Slip & Fall Attorney Case Intake Evaluation
The slip and fall case settlement amounts are just examples taken from an attorney legal research database where slip and fall settlements are regularly reported. I tried to share some of my thoughts on the issues that would likely impact the value of a slip and fall case. As you can see, very high verdicts or settlements are exceptionally rare (I found none after reviewing over 100 reported settlements), and defense verdicts are not uncommon. For this reason, slip and fall attorneys must carefully scrutinize the facts of those cases that we agree to accept on a contingent basis, otherwise we would do an awful lot of work for free. Certain facts can make a slip and fall case better or worse, so you should call me if you are wondering about the value of yours. I accept text or calls 24/7 for slip and fall cases anywhere in Florida or Georgia. I can only accept slip and fall cases outside the Central Florida area if the injuries are very serious.
On my companion website, I recently drafted a much more comprehensive summary of Florida slip and fall settlement amounts, which you can read here. Although there are many challenges with slip and fall cases, hiring an attorney who will dig into the details can make a big difference in the outcome.
Want To See My Slip & Fall Settlement Research?
You might be interested in this screen shot of a small part of my research for this blog post and a similar case that I am currently preparing for mediation (which is a settlement conference where we try resolve pending litigation). Notice that there are 9 pages of results, with 20 cases displayed per page, and each linked page has a good bit of writing. This is the kind of research you had better hope YOUR slip and fall attorney is performing (and this is just one of MANY issues that must be carefully researched and considered). If they are handling hundreds of cases, I don’t see how this type of careful legal research would even be remotely possible: