When you think of how someone gets a concussion, you may think of athletes playing contact sports or individuals involved in motor vehicle accidents. Yet, many other types of accidents, or even intentional harm, can result in a concussion. One common cause of concussions is slip and fall accidents. According to the Florida Department of Health, Pinellas County experienced almost 32,000 emergency department visits for unintentional falls in 2017, with almost 4,500 resulting in hospitalization. While county-level data does not provide information about brain injuries, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that almost half of all brain injury-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and fatalities result from unintentional falls.
This guide will discuss the medical definition of concussions, how and why slip and fall accidents may lead to concussions, how to recognize and treat concussions, what steps you can take if you have suffered a concussion after a slip and fall accident, and some of the most common questions about slip and fall accidents that cause concussions.
What Causes Concussions?
A concussion is the mildest type of a traumatic brain injury (TBI), caused by a direct or indirect head trauma. Concussions cause a short loss of normal brain function and occur when a person’s head and brain move rapidly. A sudden blow or jolt causes the brain to move within the skull, initiating chemical changes and sometimes even stretching or damaging brain cells. Many assume that a concussion automatically means that someone loses consciousness, but this is not the case. In fact, more than 90 percent of concussions don’t result in a loss of consciousness.
What Are the Symptoms of a Concussion?
The symptoms of a concussion are sometimes difficult to discern from other possible conditions or illnesses. According to the CDC, symptoms of a concussion fall into four major categories:
Individuals who sustain a concussion after a slip and fall accident might have trouble concentrating, thinking clearly, or remembering new information. Injured individuals might also feel slowed down—as if their thoughts and actions are not in sync.
- Blurred vision
- Nausea and/or vomiting soon after the fall
- Sensitivity to noise and light
- Problems with balance
- Feeling lethargic and tired
Do I Need to Go to the Doctor for a Concussion?
Plenty of people who slip, fall, and hit their heads don’t head to their nearest emergency department, even if they suspect a concussion. Not all potential concussions require an immediate trip to the emergency room, but a doctor should check out all of them as soon as possible. Not seeking medical attention after a slip and fall that might have resulted in a concussion is a poor choice for two reasons.
First, some symptoms require immediate attention. In the event that someone has a worsening headache, weakness, numbness, vomiting or slurred speech soon after a fall, they should head to the doctor as soon as possible. Friends and family that are monitoring others should take someone to the emergency room after a fall if they cannot wake up, they are having convulsions or seizures, they cannot recognize familiar people or places, they become confused or agitated, or their pupils are different sizes. Dilated pupils are not a reliable sign of a concussion, but uneven dilation might be a sign of a structural brain injury that needs immediate medical attention. Immediate symptoms, like those previously listed, suggest not just a concussion, but a severe one. Injured individuals need appropriate scans and neurocognitive tests, so that a medical professional can guide them through recovery; this might include referring them to a neurologist or other specialist.
Second, if your slip and fall accident occurred because of another party’s negligence, you need to document your injuries for litigation down the road. For proper documentation, a medical professional must specifically diagnose you with a concussion and write this in your medical record. Some concussion injuries can take hours, days, or weeks to appear. You might also want to consider keeping a journal to record anything out of the ordinary as time progresses. You should seek medical attention as soon as possible once you notice any symptoms, so that your doctor may document these symptoms in your medical record.
Why Do Slip and Fall Accidents Cause Concussions?
Slip and fall accidents account for thousands of injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, but why? Slip and falls generally occur when an individual falls because he or she has encountered a slippery surface. Slippery conditions include ice, snow, liquid spills, oil, grease, food, powder, dust, and more. The science behind a slip and fall accident involves friction between a person’s shoes and the ground. Slippery conditions decrease that friction, causing one to slip while gravity helps pull them to the ground. In many cases, people’s legs go out from underneath them, shifting their center of gravity backward, causing them to fall and their head to make contact with the ground. This sudden head trauma often leads to brain injuries that range from mild concussions to far more serious outcomes, including death.
In the context of a slip and fall accident, it is most likely that an injured person’s head has struck the floor or another hard surface, resulting in a concussion; however, a person does not necessarily have to hit their head to sustain a concussion. Abrupt head movements can also cause concussions. For example, someone who slips and falls down a set of stairs might sustain a concussion without ever actually hitting his or her head.
Can I Sue Someone If I Sustained a Concussion After Falling?
Florida law permits injured individuals to seek compensation against a property owner if they have sustained an injury from a fall, but the extent to which the owner might be liable hinges on the visitors’ status and their ability to prove that the owner breached a duty of care. Like many states, Florida separates visitors into three categories: invitees, licensees, and trespassers. Florida property owners owe each type of visitor a different duty of care, as discussed below.
Invitees. Under Florida law, invitees may be public invitees or business invitees. A public invitee is a person who is invited as a member of the public to be on land that is intended for public use. Public invitees include individuals who are visiting a city playground with their children or headed to a park for a free concert. Business invitees are more common in premises liability lawsuits, and they include people shopping in a store, dining at a restaurant, or visiting another place of business for a variety of reasons. Property owners give business invitees implied permission to be on their property for any direct or indirect business dealings, and owners are legally obligated to warn an invitee of any dangers or hazards, to maintain their property in a safe condition, and to guard against foreseeable third-party crimes.
Licensees. Licensees may be invited or uninvited. Invited licensees are most often social guests, such as friends, family members, and neighbors. Uninvited licensees haven’t been expressly invited to a property, but they have an implied license to be there. Delivery drivers and workers who check your gas meters are examples of uninvited licensees. Property owners have the same legal obligations to uninvited licensees as they do to invitees; however, uninvited licensees are treated the same as trespassers under Florida law.
Trespassers. Trespassers who enter another party’s property without a license or invitation enjoy fewer rights than those who are licensed or invited. While property owners are not permitted to cause intentional harm to or set traps for trespassers, they are not required to guard against third-party crime for trespassers. Children are the one important exception to this rule. Under Florida’s attractive nuisance law, property owners who don’t protect their property against children who might be attracted to something on the property may be held liable for any injuries that occur on the property. For example, if a young child decided to trespass because he or she saw a swimming pool, fell, and got a concussion, the property owner might be liable for not fencing off his pool.
What Compensation Can I Receive From a Slip and Fall Accident that Resulted in a Concussion?
If you or your child has been in a slip and fall accident that resulted in a concussion, you may be entitled to compensation for the losses that you incurred due to the injury. Common damages in slip and fall accident cases include:
Medical costs, including ambulance services, emergency services, hospitalization, CT scans, x-rays, doctor visits, and more
Lost wages for time that you had to miss from work due to your concussion or to care for your injured child
Future medical expenses and future lost wages in the event that you go to trial or the defense wants to settle prior to fully recovering from your concussion. Similarly, if you end up with post-concussive syndrome (PCS) or chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), long-term conditions caused by concussions, you might also be entitled to future medical expenses and lost wages.
Pain and suffering for the economic and non-economic losses incurred due to your slip and fall accident that resulted in a concussion
Choose an Experienced Premises Liability Lawyer in St. Petersburg
Concussions are typically not fatal, but they can still have serious symptoms that affect those who are injured for an extended period of time. If you’ve sustained an injury after a slip and fall due to another party’s negligence, you shouldn’t have to shoulder the financial burden that often accompanies these types of injuries. Concussions are sometimes difficult to diagnose, symptoms don’t always present themselves immediately, and homeowners and commercial insurance carriers do not want to pay claims. These complexities require the assistance of an experienced premises liability lawyer who has represented clients with brain injuries.
Some of the ways a skilled personal injury attorney might help advocate for you include investigating the details of your slip and fall, securing the testimonies of expert witnesses that will attest to the effects of your concussion, and negotiate with insurance companies who may initially attempt to offer you an unfair settlement. If you sustained a concussion in a slip and fall accident, you should focus on rest and recovery. This includes sleep and cognitive rest—turning your brain off from thinking. Focus on your recovery, while your attorney sorts out the legal details and pursues the best outcome for your case.
Call one of the experienced attorneys at the Dolman Law Group in St. Petersburg, Florida, at (727) 222-6922, or contact us online, to schedule a free consultation to discuss the details of your accident and injury. We handle most cases on contingency, which means we deduct our attorney fees from any settlement or verdict that we secure for you.
Dolman Law Group
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL, 33712