At one point or another, all of us have experienced the sting of embarrassment from a trip or fall in public. Most will brush themselves off and try and forget it ever happened. However, for trips or falls that result in serious injury, most are completely unaware of their legal rights. Business owners have an obligation to keep their property safe and mitigate accidents. If a property owner is negligent in this regard an injured party may be able to pursue a premises liability case.

Slip-and-Fall Claims in Florida

Premise’s liability, or slip-and-fall, claims are a much more complex type of personal injury claim in Florida than in other states. Personal injury claims confuse many Florida residents as it may not be immediately clear who is responsible for the safety of the premises where a business is located. For example, if an individual slips on a coffee spill in a hardware store, one may wonder exactly what liability a business owner or operator has in connection with preventing such accidents. This is especially complicated if the person fell as a result of something which accumulated on the floor over time, that the business or employees would have been in a position to know about, and fix, yet could claim to have not known of the existence of a particular hazard.

Uniquely, Florida law requires individuals who have been injured in a slip-and-fall incident to introduce evidence in support of their claims which would prove that the business or its staff were in the best position to know or prevent an incident, even if the business owner or operator challenges the allegation that they were aware. Since most, businesses or employees would never admit to knowing that something was spilled on the floor, that they ignored, injured parties showing proof that whatever they slipped and fell on had been on the floor long enough that the store’s employees should have known it was there and should have done something about it.

In Florida, where an accident occurred may steer how a slip and fall case will be handled. If a plaintiff falls in a commercial property to hold the owner responsible, the plaintiff must prove that the owner caused the hazard, knew about the hazard, and did nothing about it, or should have known about the hazard, and took action to fix it. In a residential case, if an individual falls on a private home or property, the homeowner or landlord may be accountable if they have failed to keep their property safe or failed to repair a condition within reason. If a slip-and-fall accident happens on government or state property, specific rules apply. Specifically, if a fall happens on a government or state-owned property in Florida, government agencies may be protected under sovereign immunity. Florida Statute 768.28 defines the state’s waiver of liability.

The Serious Nature of a Slip or Fall

Businesses have an obligation to lessen the risks of accidents on their premises. In fact, accidents like slips and falls are governed by premises liability laws. Premises liability laws hold a property owner responsible for damage or injury that a person may encounter on a given property. In the United States, property owners who fail to keep their property safe for visitors could encounter a premises liability case. Common situations that could cause a liability lawsuit are:

  • Slip and Fall
  • Cracks or holes
  • Inadequate Security
  • Swimming Pool Injury
  • Poor Building Maintenance
  • Children Playing on Property
  • Retail or Restaurant Liability

Outcomes of Liability Cases

The outcome of a liability case has several possibilities. Before assuming the outcome of a liability case, one should first consider the person or entity that is legally responsible for the damages that an individual or party has suffered. Some possible defendants include:

  • The person who caused the accident
  • An employer
  • Contractor
  • Business
  • Governmental entity
  • Property Owner
 The way a case is pursued will depend on the person or entity identified as the cause of the accident.  In some situations, the person or party to blame for an incident is not clear or could be more than one. For example, a property owner may have contributed to the accident, along with the negligent actions of another party.

Proving Negligence

If a personal injury case goes to court in the sunshine state, the state’s “pure comparative negligence rule” may come into play to determine the share of responsibility for an accident. The court will also determine how much compensation one can receive from the property owner. Under “pure comparative negligence,” damages awarded to a plaintiff will be reduced according to the percentage of their fault for the underlying circumstance.

The term “negligence” often comes up in settlement negotiations and at other key stages of slip and fall cases. That’s because,   If a property owner or employee failed to act reasonably in events leading up to or during an accident, they may have acted negligently.  To determine whether a defendant acted reasonably or not, here are some factors to consider:

  • How long has the hazard existed? Has it been long enough for the property owner to fix or eliminate the hazard? For example, a leaky roof that has been leaking for a year will be viewed differently than a sudden or spontaneous leak from a burst pipe.
  • Did the property owner or employee have a building health and safety policy and if so were employees actively monitoring safety and acting on hazards? Could the hazardous condition have been made less dangerous through preventive measures or maintenance?
  • Was there a reasonable justification for the cause of the potential hazard? For example, a sudden rainfall? If so, did this justification still exist at the time of the slip or fall?

Generally speaking, to prove negligence you must have evidence, demonstrating how someone acted carelessly to cause the injury to another party. The best evidence is an eyewitness to an incident. If enough evidence is gathered, the careless business or individual will be legally liable for any resulting harm. If you have been injured by a trip or fall it is important to not leave the scene until you have carefully documented your experience.

What if I Was at Fault?

The answer to this question is also dependent on the state where the lawsuit is filed. State law may differ on how contributory negligence, comparative negligence, or modified comparative negligence is handled legally. In most cases, the portion of the accident that you were responsible for will be subtracted from your total settlement. For example, if your damages are $100,000 and you were 50 percent responsible for your injury, your award would be reduced to $50,000. A personal injury lawyer in your state can help you determine how your actions may affect your claim.

What Should I Do if I want to file a Personal Injury claim in Miami?

If you were injured in an accident due to negligence at a public place, business, or by another person, start by contacting our Miami personal injury law firm. It is also wise to carefully document the events, saving any pictures, medical bills, or any records related to the accident. Contacting a personal injury lawyer like Leonard Valdes early in the process will ensure you know your legal rights, maximize your potential compensation, and plan a path forward. If this sounds like you, contact our firm for a free consultation.