What happens if you slip and fall on a sticky or wet floor at a mall, a grocery store, or at a restaurant, and you’re injured?
To receive compensation for your injuries, you’ll have to show that the owner of the property was negligent.
Will you be able to do that? What does it take to prove a property owner’s negligence?
Here in Florida, state law requires a property owner to maintain a property in a manner that reduces or eliminates risks to the property’s visitors.
When a property is not maintained with safety in mind, a property owner in Florida can be held accountable for any injury another person sustains on the property.
Property owners, however, are not responsible for slip and fall accidents that they could not reasonably prevent.
If you slip, fall, and become injured on another person’s private property or a business property, the property owner could be held responsible for your injuries if that person knew about the dangerous condition or should have known about the dangerous condition that caused you to be injured.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO WIN A PREMISES LIABILITY LAWSUIT?
Below, you’ll find a general discussion regarding what it takes to win a slip and fall lawsuit, but because every case is unique, if you are injured in a slip and fall incident in Florida, you should discuss your own legal options and rights at once with an experienced Tampa premises liability attorney.
Get medical attention immediately if you are injured in a slip and fall incident. You’ll need that medical paperwork if you file a premises liability lawsuit to seek compensation for your medical expenses and lost wages.
Tampa premises liability attorney Jeffrey Hensley also offers this advice:
“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of taking photos of the scene at the time of the incident. If you are with someone, ask them to do it for you. To prevail in a fall down case, you must be able to prove the person in control of the property knew or should have known of the hazard that caused you to fall.”
Succeeding with a premises liability action requires the injured victim, called the “plaintiff,” and the plaintiff’s lawyer to prove these three “elements” of a premises liability claim:
– The property owner (called the “defendant”) owed the plaintiff a “duty of care.”
– The duty of care was breached by the defendant’s negligence.
– The breach of the duty of care was a direct reason for the plaintiff’s personal injury.
IS THE DUTY OF CARE DIFFERENT IN DIFFERENT SITUATIONS?
Property owners owe a different duty of care in dissimilar circumstances.
Homeowners, for instance, owe their visitors only a basic duty of care, are required only to keep the property reasonably safe, to warn visitors of known dangers, and to avoid creating a dangerous situation for visitors.
In other circumstances, a more exacting duty of care may be owed to visitors by a property owner.
Business owners must take the necessary steps to protect customers, clients, contractors, and employees.
You might tell friends and neighbors to be careful using the cracked sidewalk in front of your home, but if a cracked sidewalk is located on your business property, you have to act on it at once.
IS THERE A DUTY OF CARE TO TRESPASSERS?
Trespassers are another matter.
Generally speaking, trespassers are not owed a duty of care, with this exception: If an owner of a property purposely creates a condition meant to harm trespassers, the owner in that circumstance might be held liable for trespassers’ injuries.
A property owner is better off relying on alarm systems, locks, and security companies; if a business is protected by a guard dog, at least one sign that warns about the dog must be posted clearly and visibly.
Thus, a property owner’s duty of care to visitors is determined, to a great extent, by the purpose of the visit.
If you are injured slipping and falling on another person’s property, you must be prepared to say precisely what kind of relationship you have with the owner of the property and for what reason you were there when you were injured.
Determining the precise duty of care owed by a property owner is only the first step in a premises liability lawsuit.
The purported breach of the duty of care must be considered next, and that can sometimes be difficult to determine.
In Florida, you’ll very much need help from a skilled slip and fall lawyer.
THE DUTY OF CARE: WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF A BREACH?
Property owners breach the duty of care if they don’t take reasonable steps to protect visitors from slipping, falling, and becoming injured on a property.
The following are examples of what might be a property owner’s breach of the duty of care:
– failing to mop up swiftly a spilled liquid on a supermarket’s floor
– failing to secure a pool area to keep small children from entering
– failing to alert visitors regarding an aggressive dog
– failing to keep public areas reasonably free from debris and hazards
You’ll see that the word “reasonably” pops up a lot when premises liability is discussed.
Because the law itself attempts to be reasonable, property owners are not responsible for every injury that conceivably might be suffered on their properties.
If someone is injured by colliding into a barbecue pit or falling into a pool because that person was walking while staring at a smartphone, it’s that individual’s own personal negligence and fault.
It can take some work to prove that the owner of a property owed – and breached – a duty of care, and even that proof is not sufficient for the final success of a premises liability action.
A plaintiff additionally must be able to demonstrate that the breach of the duty of care – that is, the property owner’s negligence – was a direct cause of the plaintiff’s personal injury or injuries.
WHEN ARE PROPERTY OWNERS DEEMED LIABLE FOR PERSONAL INJURIES?
In most premises liability cases, if the property owner, by acting, had been able to prevent a slip-and-fall injury, and if the owner did not act – even after learning about the dangerous condition and having the time to fix it – the owner will be deemed liable and will be ordered by a court to compensate the defendant.
A plaintiff and his or her premises liability attorney, of course, must also prove that the plaintiff genuinely was injured.
If you slip or trip and fall on a wet floor in a restaurant, the restaurant owner may have had a duty of care and may have breached it, but if you walk away, there are no damages and thus no case.
But if you’re injured slipping in a restaurant or on any other private property in Florida, get medical attention immediately and then put your case in the hands of a qualified Tampa premises liability attorney.
Nothing is a higher priority than your health and your future.
If you have been injured by someone else’s negligence in Florida, you are entitled by law to compensation.