A trip-and-fall accident occurs when a foot collides with or strikes an object, causing loss of balance and eventually a fall. While trips can result from a myriad of different conditions, including poor lighting and obstructed views, uneven floor surfaces are often to blame.
The Southwest Florida injury lawyers at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, know Florida property owners have a duty to provide a safe environment for those on site. If the floor is uneven and property owners have knowledge of the hazards, a duty exists to make repairs in order to prevent injury.
Some examples of uneven surfaces include:
- Cracked sidewalks
- Gaps in elevators
- Broken steps
- Chipped flooring tile
- Wrinkled carpets or mats
Falling as a result of encountering one of these dangerous conditions can result in severe injuries, including fractures, scars, head injuries, neck trauma, dental injuries and eye injuries. That’s why it’s so imperative to seek an attorney with experience in pursuing these claims, especially given that Florida’s premises liability laws are so uniquely challenging.Uneven Floors & Serious Fall Injuries
The reasons why floors become uneven are varied. It can result from a sudden impact or incident, or it might be caused by gradual degradation of the surface over time.
Each type of flooring – carpet, hardwood, stone, linoleum, bamboo and ceramic tile – requires its own specific kind of installation, maintenance and timely repairs.
While proper floor installation and repair can be expensive, property owners owe a duty to invitees to ensure the job is done correctly. The following are examples of how negligent floor installation, maintenance and repairs might result in injury:
- Subflooring that is not properly treated or leveled prior to installation of the surface flooring;
- Wood floors that become warped;
- Grout or spacers that were not properly used when installing tile;
- Carpeting that does not lie flat and becomes wrinkled;
- Tiles that have become broken or loose and have yet to be replaced or glued back into place;
- Area rugs that are loose without proper grip and slide when stepped on;
- Floors that are installed contrary to the instructions of the manufacturer.
Rules for designing safe flooring are established in the Florida Building Code, the American National Standards Institute and the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM), which outlines industry-accepted floor flatness standards in ASTM E1155-14. Although there are many organizations with standards for floor design, the standards, though somewhat complex, are fairly uniform. For example, the ASTM defines a “trip hazard” as a change in elevation in a walkway that isn’t a proper stairway or ramp, with a vertical face one-quarter inch or higher.
That means if a walkway has a discontinuity of greater than one-quarter inch, pedestrians are more likely to trip because the depth of the uneven surface is unexpected. That doesn’t mean you will automatically win your case if the uneven surface was greater than one-quarter inch, but it can certainly help to bolster the assertion of actual or constructive knowledge by the defendant.
The requirements can vary depending on the type of facility and the type of room. For example, flooring in Florida educational facilities must adhere to a certain set of standards, which may vary slightly from those of commercial buildings and residential structures.
In cases where installation of the flooring was improper, injured parties may seek to hold the installer responsible for injuries, as well as the property owner.
Meanwhile, property owners have a duty to routinely inspect flooring and make reasonable repairs when necessary.
In situations where property owners are aware of uneven flooring and can’t make immediate repairs, there exists a legal duty to either keep guests out of the affected area or to sufficiently warn them of the danger. A sufficient warning is one that is clear, specific and timely.
Failure to install, maintain, inspect, repair or warn of uneven flooring can result in serious injury, and injured parties should contact an experienced injury attorney.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of a slip-and-fall accident 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