WJHG is following a story that caught the attention of our Panama City premises liability lawyer. 21-year-old Jacob Winkler was enjoying Spring Break after arriving in Panama City Beach from his home in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. The trip took a tragic turn early Saturday morning when Winkler fell from a 7th floor balcony at the Gulf Crest Condominiums.
Winkler, who was a student at the University of Wisconsin's Milwaukee campus, was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy is planned to determine more details. No foul play is suspected, but presumably the inquiry will consider whether alcohol played a role in the fall. The victim's friends have expressed shock and grief as the news of the tragedy spread.
This is actually the second time this year, and the third in the past four months, that a fall in Panama City Beach claimed a life. Details on the earlier falls can be found in reports from The News Herald. On Monday January 2, 2012, 21- year-old Justin Alexander Seamus fell from the 10th floor of a parking garage located at 9902 S. Thomas Drive in the Laketown Wharf condominium. The Callaway native was pronounced dead at the scene.
Another fatal fall occurred on December 3, 2011 and claimed the life of 22- year-old Aaron Scott Thompson from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Thompson fell from the 7th floor balcony at the Holiday Inn on Front Beach Road. Circumstances surrounding the two more recent falls have not been reported, but investigators concluded that Thompson's fall followed altercations with family members and a security guard.
While we do not have the details to make a full legal analysis of the three recent accidents, balcony falls can give rise to a Panama City premises liability claim if the balcony area has not been built or maintained in a safe fashion. The defendant in a premises liability claim can be the property owner, the party that manages the location (like the party who owns a business at a rented location), or the tenant (i.e. the person living in an apartment managed by one company and owned by another). The legal inquiry into fault focuses on which person or entity bore responsibility for maintaining the safety of the area.
If you are involved in a property-related injury, you should take steps to protect a potential legal claim. Of course, medical care should be your first concern, but you should also take care to document the incident. Get the contact information for any witnesses and document the scene, ideally with photographs or video. Report the incident to the property owner of manager, and keep records of all correspondence related to the accident. Contact an experienced Panama City injury lawyer in a timely fashion so your counsel can also examine the scene before it is substantially altered and help you to determine who bears legal fault for the incident. Do not sign any agreements prior to obtaining legal representation.
The Pittman Firm has experience in slip-and-fall and other premises liability cases. Our phones are answered 24/7 and most injury cases are handled on a contingency basis, which means that you only pay legal fees if we help you to receive compensation for your injuries.