I Fell. Who Pays My Medical Bills?
This question is significant. In a head injury or other serious injury claim, the hospital bill might exceed $100,000. This figure does not include subsequent medical care, such as physical therapy. This figure also does not include noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Victims deserve compensation for all these damages.
Legally, the insurance company has a duty to pay these damages. That insurance policy could be a homeowners’ insurance policy or a commercial liability policy. However, insurance company lawyers have a right to contest these claims in court. These disputes typically involve one of the four defenses discussed below.
Insurance company lawyers look for any possible loophole to deny fair compensation. So, it’s important that victims have an equally aggressive Brandon personal injury attorney. Otherwise, the playing field is hopelessly uneven.
Assumption of the Risk
This legal doctrine often involves warning signs, like “Wet Floor” or “Construction Area.” Some people think if the owner deployed a warning sign, they cannot obtain compensation for fall injuries.
But that’s not true. These signs simply make the assumption of the risk defense easier to prove in court. Insurance company lawyers must still establish both prongs of this defense, which are:
- Voluntary assumption of
- A known risk.
Most people voluntarily walk down a hall or across a parking lot. However, the mere presence of a sign does not mean the victim assumed a known risk. The insurance company must prove that the victim saw the sign, could read the sign, and could understand what it meant. These items are difficult to prove, in many cases.
Open and Obvious Hazard
The inability to see a sign also applies to the open and obvious doctrine. This defense often comes up if the victim fell over a grocery store display in the aisle or a large crack in the sidewalk. Compensation is generally unavailable if the defense applies.
That’s a very large “if.” Many people have medical conditions, such as Age-related Macular Degeneration, which affect their vision. Furthermore, most open and obvious hazards are essentially invisible in the dark or in a dimly-lit room.
Lack of Causation
Cause is one of the basic elements of a negligence case. If the insurance company disproves this element, the victim/plaintiff is ineligible for compensation. Frequently, cause is an issue in fall cases, especially if there was no witness.
The res ipsa loquitur (the thing speaks for itself) doctrine often applies in fall causation disputes. Negligence is presumed if:
- The defendant had exclusive control over the area, and
- Negligence normally causes the injury.
This doctrine has limited applicability. So, attorneys usually need to present additional evidence on this point.
The aforementioned doctrines usually excuse liability altogether. The fourth major fall defense, comparative fault, only reduces compensation in Florida.
Contributory negligence comes in many forms. Distracted walking and reckless conduct, like sliding down a stairway rail, spring immediately to mind. Much like assumption of the risk, comparative fault is relative. For example, some people have gait disorders. When they lose their balance, they almost always fall.
Florida is a pure comparative fault state. Even if the victim was 99 percent responsible for the fall injury, the landowner is still responsible for a proportionate share of damages.
Contact Dedicated Attorneys
Fall injury victims are usually entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Brandon slip and fall attorney, contact Reed & Reed, Attorneys at Law. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).