Sometimes we simply trip over our own feet, but sometimes a trip and fall accident is caused by something beyond our control. Whether it’s a scratch, a broken wrist, or something more serious, you may be entitled to compensation for your slip and fall accident in Florida depending on the facts of your case. Not everything is black and white, however, and the purpose of your presence at the location where you slipped, how you slipped, and what you slipped on all play an important role in determining whether you can recover compensation for your injuries and medical bills under Florida law. If you’ve been injured in a Florida slip and fall accident, it is important to contact a Florida personal injury attorney as soon as possible to determine whether you are entitled to compensation.
Categories of Visitors and Liability
If you were injured in slip and fall accident, the traditional cause of action is negligence as the result of premises liability. When litigating premises liability claims, the purpose of your presence on the property is essential, as you cannot sue someone for an injury if you were on her property without her express or implied permission. There are four types of categories you can fall into if you are present on someone else’s property:
Business or Social Invitees – An invitee is someone who is on the premises, i.e., shopping at the supermarket, for the purpose of “doing business” at that establishment. If you are an invitee, you are owed the highest duty of care, and the property owner must be sure to monitor the property for danger and make the premises safe for you.
- Licensee – A licensee is someone who is permitted on the property but not for the sake of doing business. For example, if you walk into a restaurant to use the restroom. In this case, the property owner must warn you of known dangers on the property, but he does not have a duty to monitor and make the property safe for you. This category tends to apply in public areas such as streets and walkways.
- Trespassers – Trespassers are those who are not permitted on the property and, as such, no duty is owed to a trespasser if she is injured. For example, if you use a restaurant restroom when it is clearly marked “for customers only”, you likely cannot sue for negligence because no duty was owed to you if there was water on the floor. The intent of the trespass does not have to be criminal. Further, you don’t even have to know that you are trespassing in order to be considered a trespasser.
- Child Trespassers – Young children, however, are owed a certain duty of care if the property has what is known as an “attractive nuisance,” i.e., a pool, and the property owner has reason to know that it may attract young children. This is an important distinction in Florida, especially at amusement parks with decorations or attractions that may draw children to them. In this case, the property owner has a duty to block off any dangerous areas that may attract a child who is too young to comprehend the potential danger.
Your purpose on the premises is one of the main factors that the judge or jury will consider when determining whether you are entitled to compensation after a Florida slip and fall accident.
Recovering Compensation After a Slip and Fall
If it seems clear that a duty was owed to you on the property where you slipped, it is especially important to gather evidence related to the incident. Florida law sets out certain evidentiary standards an injured fall victim must meet in order to hold a business establishment liable for a slip and fall. If the injury occurred at a business establishment, the injured individual must show:
- That the establishment had actual or constructive notice of the substance or defect that caused your fall;
- That the establishment should have taken action to remedy it; and
- That the dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that the establishment should have known about the condition; or
- The condition was foreseeable because it occurred regularly.
One of the most common pitfalls in slip and fall litigation is the victim’s failure to identify the substance or defect that caused the fall. If you can’t identify the basic nature of the substance, i.e., a clear liquid, then it will be difficult to prove that the establishment had notice of the substance. Keep any clothes or shoes you were wearing when you fell and don’t wash them if you are unsure about the nature of the substance.
Comparative Fault & Preexisting Conditions
This principle is often invoked if you were distracted at the time you slipped, i.e., on your cell phone, and you could have avoided the substance had you seen it. On the other hand, however, a property owner cannot disclaim liability for your injuries simply because they were more severe than expected from a light fall. This is called the “eggshell plaintiff” or “eggshell skull” rule, which is a doctrine that states a defendant is liable for all injuries suffered by a plaintiff as the result of the defendant’s negligent conduct, including those injuries that are uncommon, unforeseeable, or exacerbated due to a plaintiff’s prior medical conditions. A defendant cannot absolve himself from liability simply because the injury was preexisting. For example, if an elderly woman with very weak bones slips and falls on some spilled coffee at a café and breaks her hip in two places, her recovery is not diminished simply because she had weak bones. This is not considered “comparative fault” on your part.
Contact a Clearwater and Tampa Bay Fall-Related Accident Lawyer Today
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, Florida 33765