A slip and fall accident is one of the most common forms of personal injury claims, and it is not an incident that should be taken lightly. Slip and fall victims may endure significant — sometimes even life-altering — injuries. Their medical costs can be astronomical. Knowing the components of a slip and fall case in Florida can help these victims understand how they can pursue compensation from liable parties, helping them pay for their bills and hopefully put their life back on track.
Falling injuries are responsible for 10 million emergency room visits per year. Older adults are one of the most affected groups by falls. One in four U.S. adults 65 and older reports having at least one fall each year, and over 29,000 older adults died from such falls in 2016. Slip and fall accidents can also hurt employees as much as they can hurt customers. OSHA notes that slip and falls account for 15% of all accidental workplace deaths.
Determining fault in a slip and fall comes down to a number of legal questions. A slip and fall attorney in West Palm Beach can help you find answers to these questions as they apply specifically to your case, helping you bring forth a strong claim against liable parties.
Your personal injury attorney will look at a number of factors in your liability case, including the three most important questions to ask during a slip and fall claim below.
The first question to ask with slip and fall liability is: who was the owner of the property, and did that owner have a direct duty to maintain the premises? This question is important because some ownership situations are complex, possibly even negating the ability to sue for a falling accident altogether.
As an extreme example, if you were the owner of a property and you had a slip and fall accident on it, then you may not be eligible for any sort of liability claim against any other parties except in unusual circumstances.
There are also questions of who had a duty of care to maintain the property and prevent hazardous conditions that could lead to an accident.
Commercial properties, for example, have business tenants that are responsible for maintaining some aspects of the property, such as keeping the floors clean, while the building owner may be responsible for issues like a dripping air conditioning unit. In these situations, some parties may be shielded from liability while others bear the brunt of responsibility because they had a more direct duty to keep the injured party safe.
Determining ownership and responsibility is, thereby, the first step in pursuing a claim against potentially liable parties.
Property owners have several implicit duties to protect anyone that comes upon their property, especially if that visitor is an “invitee.” Under Florida premises liability laws, any person explicitly invited to a property or encouraged to visit is considered an invitee. Since businesses open to the public want customers to come make a purchase, nearly all shoppers and visitors are considered an “invitee.”
Those responsible for managing the property’s condition have a number of duties:
As you may have noticed, the concept of “reasonable” actions or expectations comes up a lot during liability. This concept of reasonability is central to establishing whether someone acted contrary to their duty or whether the hazard that caused a slip and fall was unavoidable according to regular means.
Florida Statutes explicitly state that a business must either know about a dangerous condition or have avoided exercising “ordinary care” to the point where the dangerous condition was unreasonably allowed to exist.
As an example, a retail store owner could reasonably expect that someone could get injured if employees do not place wet floor signs while they are mopping. However, they may not reasonably expect that someone will sneak their dog into the store, and that dog may leave a mess, and that someone could slip on that mess. In this hypothetical example, one scenario could have been reasonably prevented while another scenario represents potentially extraordinary circumstances that no one could have reasonably predicted.
In order for someone to be liable for an accident on their property, therefore, they must have ignored reason to the point where a dangerous condition was all but inevitable.
Florida’s comparative fault laws state that damages for an accident can be reduced by the percentage of fault that the victim contributed to their own circumstances, as determined by a court of law.
For example, if someone had a major slip and fall costing $100,000 in medical bills but that person was determined to be 25% responsible for their accident because they weren’t paying attention, then the maximum damages award they can recover is $75,000.
The question of contributory negligence comes up a great deal during slip and fall cases because defense attorneys will wield it as a means to reduce or entirely negate a victim’s claim.
Common questions to ask of victims to determine whether they were partially at fault include:
Accident victims must be prepared to answer these questions as a result of their injury claim. Otherwise, parties that may have been fully liable could reduce their liability or negate it outright by convincing the court that you were 51% or more responsible for your own injuries.
Florida businesses and property owners understand that a single slip and fall accident can cost them quite a bit of money, so they will often fight tooth and nail to deny responsibility for a major accident that occurred on their property.
Injury victims can protect their rights and handle common premises liability defenses by working with a slip and fall attorney in West Palm Beach. With a lawyer at their side, they can make a strong case that asserts the property owner’s or tenant’s liability while countering defenses that claim they were responsible for some or all of their own accident.
You can speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer during a free, no obligation case evaluation when you contact us today. By working with a legal professional who has experience with such cases, you can increase your chances at successfully recovering the damages you need to pay your bills and resume your life.