The Risks of Slip and Fall Accidents in Florida: What Property Owners Need to Know
An individual can sustain serious and life-altering injuries when they slip or fall on another person’s property. These injuries can range from broken bones to head trauma to spinal cord damage. Depending on the circumstances, a property owner may be liable for damages sustained by someone who has fallen on the premises. Understanding when a property owner may be liable can assist with the victim’s selection of a personal injury lawyer. This article is written to provide information on the topic of what to know about property owner liability in Florida.
Florida Property Owners Have a Duty To Take Steps Which Can Prevent a Slip and Fall
Florida is like other states in the country in that it imposes a duty on property owners to take reasonable steps to ensure that the premises are safe for those who enter their area. The key to this standard is that the owner’s obligation is to simply take “reasonable” steps to keep the property safe; Florida law understands that accidents do happen and it is not possible for a premises owner to ensure that no one ever falls on the property. Whether the precautions taken by a property owner were reasonable will always depend on the facts and the context of the situation. If a property owner is found to have breached their duty, and a fall victim was injured as a result, then the property owner may be liable for their medical bills, their pain and suffering, past and future lost wages, and even punitive damages in rare and extreme situations.
Determinations of what steps a property owner must take will depend on the nature of the property. The standard which a retail store will be held to, for example, will be different than that of a private home owner. A retail establishment will typically be required to inspect its aisles on a regular basis for tripping hazards or spills. The establishment will also be required to take immediate action to rectify a dangerous situation as soon as it is discovered by an inspection or reported by a patron. A private home owner, by contrast, will typically not be required to inspect their entire property at regularly timed intervals. Furthermore, they typically will not be required to take immediate action to prevent a problem. While a homeowner must take reasonable steps to keep their property safe, it must be remembered that what is “reasonable” will depend on the situation.
A Florida Property Owner’s Records Can Establish Whether They Took Reasonable Steps to Keep a Property Safe
Whether or not a property owner was negligent in the safekeeping of their area will be established by relevant records and documentation. Documentation which can show that precautions were, or were not, taken can include maintenance records, repair receipts, a business entity’s policy manuals, etc. Property owners should maintain such documentation to show that they were in fact maintaining the premises. Such documentation will typically be requested during the discovery process. A failure to produce such documentation can be inferred as proof that the property owner was negligent in the safekeeping of the premises.
Consider the following example. A shopper enters a Florida retail store and subsequently slips in a puddle of water in one of the aisles. The shopper suffers serious spine damage and may well be partially paralyzed. During discovery, the victim requests the company’s policy manuals and all documentation showing that safety policies were filed. The manual states that the aisles are to be inspected once an hour for any hazards and that immediate steps should be taken to rectify any problems. The manual also states that a log is to be kept showing that this hourly maintenance is being performed. The store owner, however, is unable to produce the maintenance logs. This may well lead a jury to believe that the floor was not being inspected as required by store policy. The owner could very well face liability which they may have avoided if they had kept proper records.
Florida’s Comparative Fault Laws Will Apply to Slip and Fall Cases
If an individual is injured due to slipping and falling on another’s premises then the property owner will often allege that the individual was at fault. While property owners must take steps to keep their premises safe, individuals also have an obligation to watch out for their own safety. If a victim’s own negligence contributes to the fall then any compensation will be reduced by an amount equal to their share of fault for the accident. If a victim is found to have been at least fifty-one percent responsible for the fall then they will recover nothing.
An example of the foregoing would be a store patron who slips in a puddle of water and suffers injuries. Security footage shows that the puddle had been there for some time and that the store took no action to correct it. The footage also shows, however, that the patron was texting on their cell phone while walking and was not paying attention to where they were going. Now suppose that the jury finds that the victim suffered $100,000 in damages, but was also twenty percent responsible for the accident. The victim would recover $80,000 ($100,000 – twenty percent). While this example demonstrates how comparative fault operates, it must be remembered that the outcome of any case will depend on the facts of the situation.
Contact a Florida Premises Liability Attorney if You Have Been Injured on Another’s Property
If you were injured during a fall on someone else’s property then it is important that you contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Counsel will take immediate steps to ensure that important evidence is preserved. Also, you will only have a limited amount of time in which you may file a lawsuit. Our firm understands the need for urgency and we will give your case the attention it deserves. Call us at 800-780-8607 to speak with a Florida premises liability attorney or contact us online today.