It might seem harmless at first—slipping and falling—but slip and fall accidents are very serious and costly. Whether it’s a wet floor or a broken handrail, thousands of Floridians are hurt every year because they slip on a substance or trip over an object that should not have been there in the first place.
Florida law allows slip and fall victims to sue property owners and businesses for negligence and recover damages for their injuries. Unfortunately, we find that many slip and fall victims unwittingly take steps in the immediate aftermath of their accident that are detrimental to their slip and fall claim.
In what follows, we will lay out why slip and fall accidents can be tricky. Then, we’ll show you the seven things you can do to not kill your slip and call claim.
Florida Premises Liability Laws
Property owners, property managers, and businesses in Florida are legally required to keep their property safe for visitors, customers, and guests. When they fail to do so and you are injured as a result, a court can hold them liable for any injuries caused by their negligence.
Florida’s premises liability law (F.S. §768.0755) specifically allows people who have been injured from slipping, tripping, or falling at a place of business or residence to sue for damages. However, Florida law also places the burden on the injured party to prove the negligence of the property owner or business.
The statute requires that a person who slips and falls on a “transitory foreign substance” must prove that the business had:
- Actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition, and
- Should have done something to fix it.
Circumstantial evidence can be used to prove constructive knowledge, and to do that, you or your slip and fall lawyer can show that:
- The dangerous condition existed for long enough that the business would have known of the condition had it been exercising ordinary care, or
- The dangerous condition occurred regularly and was foreseeable.
The fact is that it is unlikely that businesses will fail to fix a hazardous situation about which they have actual knowledge. This means that most slip and fall cases rely on proving constructive knowledge—i.e. the business or owner should have known about the dangerous condition.
7 Steps to Not Kill Your Slip and Fall Case
As the terminology in the statute suggests, most slip and fall cases are caused by “transitory” substances, meaning the condition can often be cleaned up, repaired, or replaced quite easily if an accident occurs. In fact, without insinuating any malice on the part of the businesses or property owners, you would expect them to take immediate steps to remedy the issue after someone had slipped and fallen on the premises so that no one else is injured.
Unfortunately, the success of your slip and fall case rests on proving the existence of the dangerous condition and that it caused your accident, which is nearly impossible if said condition is fixed by the owner.
So, if you’ve slipped and fallen at a business, office building, grocery store, or bulk supply store, here are the seven steps you can take to help your slip and fall lawyer build the strongest possible case on your behalf:
If you have been seriously injured in your slip and fall (and often even if you aren’t), call emergency services immediately. This will ensure both that you receive prompt medical treatment for your injuries and that the injury scene is properly documented by the police.
Document the Scene
Take pictures of the area where you fell (floor, stairs, curb, etc.). Be sure you include any substances or items that caused you to slip—remember, they will be cleaned up, removed, or repaired once you leave.
Document Your Outfit
Take pictures of your clothes and shoes, including the soles of your shoes. Put these items aside and do not wash them. The insurance company will try to claim a lack of tread, loose shoelaces, too-long pants, etc. contributed to your fall in order to offset their client’s comparative liability.
Document Your Receipt
Take a picture of your receipt or invoice to prove that you were at the business in question and that you were patronizing the business (i.e. were there for legitimate purposes).
Inform the Owner
Let the business or property owner know about the accident. Ask them to write up an accident report and request a copy. Do not give a statement for the accident report unless a copy of the report will be given to you.
Gather Witness Names
If possible, get the names and contact information of anyone who saw your accident. These eyewitness accounts could be valuable later to proving your version of events.
Seek Medical Attention
If you weren’t seriously injured and didn’t call 911 for you’re your injuries, you should always seek medical care after a slip and fall accident. Slip and falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries according to the CDC, which may not manifest immediately.
Finally, the last step (I know, I said there were only 7) is to seek out the help of a trusted and qualified legal representative to handle your slip and fall case. You have been injured and should be focusing on recovery.
We Can Help You On Your Path to Recovery
As you can see, the statutes and processes for bringing a successful slip and fall lawsuit can be complex. If you have slipped and fallen in a business or on someone else’s property, you definitely need to seek out the advice and counsel of a qualified Florida slip and fall lawyer.
The personal injury lawyers here at Personal Injury & Accident Law Center would love to speak to you about your case and explain your legal options so you can make the decision that’s best for you and your recovery. Call us today at (561)372-3800 to schedule a free case evaluation or fill out the form below.