How to Prove Slip and Fall Liability

30Nov
Caution sign at store. Slip and fall liability

To prove slip and fall liability, you will have to demonstrate the elements of negligence. This requires proving that you were owed a duty of care, and this duty was breached, resulting in a dangerous condition that the property owner knew of that was the cause of your injuries.

Caution sign at store. Slip and fall liability

Slip and fall liability claims are a type of personal injury claim that fall under premises liability law. These cases involve injuries that happened due to dangerous conditions on the property, which should have been fixed or removed. Liability for a slip and fall case is based on the legal theory of negligence. Updates to the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Florida have reduced the time in which you have to file a claim to two years.

Slip and Fall Statistics in Florida

Falls are responsible for over 8 million visits to emergency rooms in the United States, making them the leading cause of such visits, accounting for 21.3% of all visits. Slip and falls alone account for over 1 million visits, representing 12% of all falls.

Fractures are the most severe injury that result from falls, with 5% of all people who fall experiencing them. In addition, falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Each year, 36 million elderly Americans fall, with 3 million of them visiting emergency rooms for fall-related injuries.

In Florida recently, there were 75,570 hospitalizations for unintentional falls reported in one year, with 4,178 fatal falls reported.

Types of Slip and Fall Accidents

Slip-and-fall injuries are often classified under one umbrella term, but there are actually different types of slip-and-fall accidents. It’s important to differentiate between them, because every personal injury case is unique.

  • Slip-and-fall accidents occur when someone slips on a slippery liquid, wet surface, or object. For example, a person may slip on a puddle of soda that hasn’t been cleaned up in a convenience store, or on beads left on the floor in a craft store.
  • Trip-and-fall accidents happen when a person trips over an object in their path or over an uneven surface. This type of accident is typically caused when something is left in the way, such as a case of orange juice in a grocery store. Uneven surfaces, like raised cracks in a sidewalk or abnormally high door jambs, may also cause a trip-and-fall accident.
  • Step-and-fall accidents are the rarest type of fall injury, but they are different from the others. This type of accident occurs when a person falls due to a hole or a low spot in the path. For example, a pothole on the walkway in front of a business or a missing step on a staircase in an apartment building could cause a step-and-fall accident.

Comparative Fault in Florida

In Florida, the modified comparative fault rule is used to determine damages. This rule assigns a percentage of blame to both parties involved in an incident. If you are 50% or less responsible for causing your own injuries, you can receive compensation for your losses, but the amount of compensation you can get may be reduced. The total compensation you receive will depend on the percentage of fault attributed to you, as decided by the jury. However, if you are found to be more than 50% responsible for your own injuries, you will be barred from recovering compensation.

For instance, if you slip on a wet floor and suffer $10,000 in damages, but you are found to be 30% responsible for not using a handrailing that was available, you will receive $7,000 instead of the full $10,000. A slip and fall lawyer will be able to advise you on how much a slip and fall is worth, and what compensation you can expect.

Elements to Prove Slip and Fall Liability

You must prove the elements of negligence in a slip and fall lawsuit to recover damages.

Duty of Care

As a visitor to a property, you must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care to you. First, the defendant must be the owner, occupier, or controller of the property. Once this has been established, you need to show that the defendant had a responsibility to ensure that the property was safe by taking reasonable measures. Generally, property owners are obligated to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition for others.

Breach of Duty Resulting in a Dangerous Condition

You must also prove that there was a breach of duty of care. If there are dangerous conditions on the property that can lead to visitors getting injured, the property owner may have failed to uphold the duty of care.

A dangerous condition is one that creates a significant risk of injury when the property is used with necessary precautions in a reasonably foreseeable manner. What constitutes ‘safe’ depends on the intended use of the property. For instance, a ski hill will have different safety requirements than a bank parking lot.

Examples of dangerous conditions that can result in slip and fall accidents include spilled food or drink on the floor, poor lighting, or uneven floors.

Knowledge of the Dangerous Condition by the Property Owner or Occupier

To prove that a property owner is responsible for a dangerous condition, two things need to be established. First, it needs to be shown that the property owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition. Second, it needs to be demonstrated that the property owner failed to rectify the condition within a reasonable amount of time.

It is the responsibility of property owners to regularly inspect the premises for potential hazards, fix any issues, and place warning signs to alert people of any known defects. They must also implement safety protocols to ensure the safety of people on the property.

For example, if a store owner has a slippery floor because someone spilled a drink, he or she may be unaware of the hazard if the staff does not regularly inspect the store. The owner should have conducted regular inspections and known about it. He or she may have known about the hazard but failed to address it or warn customers. These would both be considered negligence.

Causation

To have a successful premises liability claim, it’s not sufficient to demonstrate that there was a hazardous condition. You have to establish that the dangerous condition caused your injury. For example, if you trip over a loose floorboard, you must prove that the floorboard caused your fall and injury.

While some cases are straightforward, such as tripping over a torn carpet that is clearly visible, others may be more complicated. This complexity arises particularly when several factors come into play. It may be necessary to consult a premises liability lawyer who can tie your injuries to the dangerous condition.

Collect Evidence to Support Slip and Fall Liability Claims

Documenting evidence establishes what happened and who is at fault. The better the evidence, the clearer the picture of the incident.

Photographs or Videos of the Accident Scene

It is important to take pictures or videos if possible to document the circumstances. Make sure to capture the surrounding area where the fall occurred, as well as any spills, objects, or items that may have contributed to the fall. If you are unable to do so due to your injuries, ask someone you know to take them as soon as possible. This can help create a record of the dangerous condition that led to your fall.

Eyewitness Testimonies

Be sure to obtain the name and contact information of anyone who witnessed your slip and fall in case you need to provide additional details later. Having a witness can be crucial to supporting your account of the incident.

Incident Reports From the Property Owner or Manager

In most large stores and businesses, an incident report is required. If such a report is filled out, it is essential to obtain a copy of it. You have the right to access the information they have gathered about your incident. This report will contain details about your accident, which can be used as evidence.

Maintenance Records

Property maintenance records can serve as vital evidence in slip and fall cases, particularly when it comes to proving negligence. These records contain information about the upkeep of a property, including the frequency of certain tasks. For instance, if a person slips on a loose tile, maintenance records can reveal when that area was last inspected or repaired. Similarly, if an accident occurs due to inadequate lighting, these records might indicate when the bulbs were last replaced. Essentially, maintenance records provide a clear overview of the level of care given to a property. If these records show neglect or irregular maintenance, it can establish negligence on the part of the property owner or manager, thus bolstering a slip and fall claim.

Photo of Jim Magazine
James (Jim) Magazine is a Florida Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer who has spent his career helping injured victims. Jim is licensed to practice law in the State of Florida since 1990 and is also admitted to practice at the Appellate level and admitted to the United States Supreme Court.