Florida slip-and-fall injuries are those that occur when a pedestrian encounters a condition on the floor that is wet, slick, icy or sticky and the result is a fall onto a hard surface. These are not merely the result of a person being clumsy. Rather, they occur when a person slips on a transitory substance that should not have been there and that the plaintiff either didn’t see or in the course of ordinary care had no reason to expect.
Although lawsuits stemming from such injuries have been painted by corporate interests as “frivolous,” the Southwest Florida premises liability lawyers at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, know well that such incidents can have painful and long-lasting consequences. Beyond simple cuts and abrasions, slip-and-fall accident victims in Florida have been known to suffer:
- Spiral fractures to the leg;
- Mid and lower back sprains;
- Hand fractures;
- Wrist sprains;
- Neck sprains;
- Spinal cord damage;
- Brain trauma.
Most of these injuries require emergency medical attention. Some necessitate risky surgery or even multiple surgeries, extensive physical therapy and long-term pain management. Medical bills soon begin to stack up, and the financial impact is compounded if the injury precludes the victim from immediately returning to work.
In this difficult economic climate, such an accident can quickly become an extreme burden on a family’s finances, in some situations leaving them unable to pay bills, including the mortgage, auto leases and credit card debts. That’s why when we take a slip-and-fall case, our experienced premises liability attorneys are firmly dedicated to fighting aggressively for our client’s maximum compensation.Proving Liability for Florida Slip-and-Fall Injury
In Florida, it is not enough for an injured victim to simply show they were hurt on someone else’s property as a result of slipping and falling. It has become more difficult in recent years to effectively assert liability because of legislation (pushed heavily by corporate interests) that created a more stringent burden of proof for plaintiffs.
Prior to this, Florida plaintiffs could have pursued action against a property owner based on strict liability. That means injured people only had to show that an out-of-place substance on the floor caused an accident.
Now, under F.S. §768.0755, a person who slips and falls on a “transitory foreign substance” while at a business has to show the property owner or possessor had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition, and further failed to take appropriate action to remedy it.
“Actual knowledge” means the business was actually made aware of the specific problem. For example, a server at a restaurant drops a drink on the floor in the main dining room. The server tells her manager about the spill, but the manager fails to expeditiously act to make sure it’s cleaned up. If a patron slips, falls and is injured as a result, he or she can assert the manager had “actual knowledge.”
However, actual knowledge can be difficult to prove in slip-and-fall cases. That’s why the law allows for proof through “constructive knowledge.” This means even if the property owner wasn’t actually aware of the slippery floor, it may be asserted that he should have been aware. Establishing constructive knowledge in slip-and-fall cases requires plaintiffs prove one of the following:
- The condition existed for such a length of time that in the course of exercising ordinary care, the business should have known about the condition;
- The condition occurred with regularity, and was therefore foreseeable.
Taking the same example of the restaurant spill, let’s say the server didn’t inform the manager, or perhaps the server didn’t even recognize right away some liquid had sloshed off the tray and onto the floor. If the spill was only on the ground a minute or two before it was cleaned, the plaintiff might have a difficult time proving constructive knowledge. However, if the liquid was on the floor for more than an hour, a stronger case might be made for constructive knowledge, especially given that restaurant managers know that spills are prone to occur in a dining room where food and drinks are routinely served.
Of course, restaurants aren’t the only location of such occurrences. Others have commonly included:
- Grocery stores;
- Parking lots;
- Theme parks;
- Shopping centers;
- Big box retailers;
- Condominium complexes and apartment buildings.
It’s worth noting that prior to the passage of F.S. §768.0755, businesses, which are generally in a better position to immediately investigate a report of a slip-and-fall, routinely took photographs, conducted interviews, and combed records—all seeking information that might reduce or relieve their liability.
However, now that the proof burden more heavily weighs on plaintiffs, there is less of an incentive to thoroughly document incidents of this type. This means it is imperative that persons injured in slip-and-fall accidents seek immediate medical attention and contact a Fort Myers premises liability lawyer with extensive experience in this area of law.
In addition to collecting medical records and accident reports, we gather evidence from a myriad of other sources. We determine whether any relevant video recording of the accident might exist. We secure government weather reports (if relevant) and locate prior slip-and-fall reports filed at the same site or against the same company. We may also hire safety standards experts to review the facts and determine whether any applicable building codes or regulations were violated. We also ensure all paperwork and procedures are followed precisely and promptly, to avoid a bar of claim by the statute of limitations.
If you or a loved one has suffered injury on commercial 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.
Call 800-646-1210 for a Free Consultation