Parking Ramp Falls
Parking ramps are designed as an efficient way for businesses and cities to manage vehicle parking in crowded areas. However, if these structures aren’t properly designed or carefully maintained, serious and even fatal falls can occur.
At Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, we know problems routinely arise when these structures aren’t built correctly or maintained properly. Property owners in Cape Coral, Fort Myers and Naples who exercise reasonable care should be able to uncover most defects or hazards that would pose a risk to people parking within these structures.
Some of the parking ramp dangers known to cause falls include:
- Wet or oily spots on the surface;
- Ground material or walking surfaces not adequately slip-resistant;
- Uneven pavement or potholes;
- Stairways that are not adequately maintained;
- Poor lighting;
- Uneven elevators;
- Chipped or broken curbs;
- Wheel stops that are dislocated, cracked or damaged;
- Inadequate railing along the sides;
- Falling or crumbling concrete
Any one of these conditions can result in severe injuries to patrons. However, more than one issue is usually present (i.e. poor lighting plus uneven pavement), creating a situation where a fall was all but impossible to avoid.
Poor lighting is perhaps the biggest problem in parking garages, as it exacerbates all other issues. Usually, these facilities tend to receive little natural light, and it’s not uncommon for people to be in and out throughout the night as well. What’s more, people tend to be hurried as they make their way to the exit or back to their vehicle. If there isn’t a clear, well-lit path, falls are even more likely to occur.Falls From Parking Ramps
Numerous serious injuries and deaths have recently been attributed to falls from parking ramps. Among those:
- A 19-year-old college student in Massachusetts died after falling from a parking garage on campus;
- A 26-year-old man died after falling from a parking ramp in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
- A 24-year-old college student in Milwaukee suffered a traumatic brain injury and broken hip after falling from a parking ramp.
In these cases, property owners often argue a comparative fault defense, particularly if the victim was consuming alcohol at the time of the fall. But just because a person shares some degree of fault for what happened does not bar recovery in Florida, although damages may be proportionately reduced. If the parking garage railings or a slippery surface caused or was a major contributor to the fall, a lawsuit may recover damages on behalf of the victim.Proving Liability in Parking Ramp Falls
As in any other Florida premises liability lawsuit, the fact an injury occurs on someone else’s property is not going to be enough to establish a claim. One must prove the property owner breached some applicable duty of care and injury proximately resulted from that breach.
Parking garages generally charge a fee for patrons to park, which is usually going to establish the injured party as a business invitee, owed the highest duty of care. In these situations, businesses have the responsibility to keep their property reasonably safe and to correct known (or knowable) hazards. When dangers can’t be immediately addressed, property owners and garage managers need to issue fair warning.
One of the factors complicating premises liability claims is that operators of parking garages sometimes issue pay tickets that double as “liability waivers” for property damage and even injury. However, these waivers are not a catch-all defense. A property owner can’t be excused from responsibility for personal injury simply by printing a notice claiming such. Florida courts have generally found that these “waivers” have to cite clear, specific risks. If you trip, fall and are hurt due to an uneven floor on level 2, chances are there is no notice of that risk on your pay ticket.
But even when dangerous conditions exist in parking ramps and result in serious injury, plaintiffs still must show the owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the conditions in question. That means the property owner created the danger, knew about it or should have known about it and failed to take action to mitigate the risk or warn invitees.
An example of actual knowledge would be if the parking garage owner was informed by staffers of a large crack in the floor on the third level near the elevator. Constructive knowledge would be if that crack existed for months, and although no one ever informed the owner directly, it should have been discovered through routine inspection.
Owners of older structures, in particular, should know that walking surfaces may be prone to cracking and chipping, railings may need to be replaced and stairwells might need maintenance. Lighting fixtures should be regularly inspected, regardless of the age of the property.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of injury on business property in Southwest Florida, contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.