Proving Slip and Fall Claims With Evidence
It’s safe to say that we have all slipped and fallen a few times in our lives. Whether it’s a child’s toy, a dog’s bone, or some spilled milk, many slips and falls result in nothing more than a bruise. However, when you slip and fall outside of your home, especially on concrete, in a construction zone, or when you are out to dinner, the nature of those injuries may be more severe.
As the plaintiff in an action for personal injuries after a slip and fall accident, you will have the burden of presenting the court with specific evidence that supports both a defendant’s liability for your fall and shows that you were not negligent. For example, what if you spilled the water you slipped on at the restaurant? A Florida personal injury attorney can help you sort through the evidence needed in a slip and fall matter, but much of this evidence must be gathered almost immediately after the accident, and you may not have time to consult an attorney regarding such.
Florida Personal Injury & Premises Liability Laws
Because slip and fall injuries, by their very nature, generally occur when something is on the floor of a premise, it is often the property owner who is held liable for your injuries. Whether you are entitled to compensation, however, depends on the reason you were present on the property. The State of Florida still subscribes to the traditional categories of “guests” on a commercial or business property. This is known as “premises liability.” Generally, there are four categories:
Business or Social Invitees – As the name suggests, an invitee is someone who is on the premises, i.e., at a restaurant, for the purpose of doing business at that establishment or because they were specifically invited to that establishment. If you are an invitee, you are owed the highest duty of care, and the owner and person who controls the premises must be sure to monitor for danger and make the premises safe for you.
Licensees in Florida Premises Liability Law
A licensee is someone who is permitted on the property but not for the sake of doing business. For example, if a guest of someone hosting a party brings you along and the host does not object. In this case, the premise owner must warn you of known dangers on the property, but she does not have a duty to monitor and make the property safe for you.
Trespassers in Florida Premises Liability Law
Trespassers are those who are not permitted on the property and, as such, no duty is owed to a trespasser if they slip and fall. For example, a burglar who breaks into your home and slips on water in the kitchen is not owed a duty of care.
Child Trespassers in Florida Premises Liability Law
Young child trespassers, however, are owed a certain duty of care if the property owner has what is known as an “attractive nuisance,” i.e., a pool, on the property, and the property owner knows or has reason to know that it may attract young children. In this case, the property owner has a duty to block off any dangerous areas that may attract a child.
Accordingly, you will have to present evidence to the court that would establish what kind of guest you were on the property. For example, if you went into a restaurant to use the bathroom and not to eat lunch, you may have been a licensee and not a business invitee. This will change the standard of care applicable to your slip and fall case.
Comparative Negligence in Florida
In order to receive the maximum compensation possible for your injuries in a slip and fall case, it will be important to present evidence to the court that shows you were not negligent. Florida maintains a policy of comparative negligence when it comes to injury claims which means that your possible settlement is decreased based on the amount of negligence you contributed towards the accident. Florida law states that “contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as economic and noneconomic damages for an injury attributable to the claimant’s contributory fault, but does not bar recovery.”
In other words, if your personal injury attorney successfully litigates your slip and fall accident, then whatever amount you are awarded for injuries, say $100,000, is reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if the jury found that you were 20% at fault for the slip and fall because you could have clearly seen the red liquid on the floor had you looked down, then you would only be able to recover $80,000, a 20% reduction in your original award.
Types of Evidence to Gather After a Fall
Florida law actually sets forth certain evidentiary standards that a plaintiff must meet in order to hold a business establishment liable for a slip and fall injury. According to the statutes, if a person is at a business establishment, the injured individual must show the following:
- That the establishment had actual or constructive notice of the substance on the floor;
- That the establishment should have taken action to remedy it; and
- That the dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that the establishment should have known about the condition as it monitored the premises; or
- The condition was foreseeable because it occurred regularly.
As such, if a child in the cart in front of you spills his drink on the floor and you immediately slip and fall on the substance, you likely cannot hold the property owner liable in negligence because there was not sufficient time for the supermarket to observe and clean up the mess. However, if water from thawing frozen foods is constantly dripping on the floor in the meat department, even if the drip was recent, this was a constant condition that should have been monitored.
Contact a Clearwater Slip and Fall Attorney Today
If you were injured as the result of a slip and fall accident, contact the Dolman Law Group immediately. Their trained premises liability attorneys can analyze your case and help you build the body of evidence you need for litigation. They are your premier personal injuries lawyers in the greater Tampa Bay area. Call them today at 727-451-6900 or contact them online for a free, no-risk consultation.