As a fairly clumsy person myself, I don’t need any help slipping and falling. I don’t need the assistance of a business that fails to mop up a puddle or a supermarket who forgets to clean aisle three. That is one of the reasons why I love doing what I do. As a personal injury lawyer, my job is to hold landowners accountable for their actions or inactions. I get to help people who have been injured, not through their own clumsiness, but because of someone else’s wrongdoing.
The term “slip and fall” is used to describe events where someone slips, trips, or otherwise missteps – and falls. The terminology can be a little misleading. Anybody can slip, anybody can trip, and anybody can take a misstep. The key in a personal injury case against a landowner is that the fall was the fault of someone else.
Premises Liability Law in Florida requires a landowner or business keep their property in a reasonably safe condition. If the landowner has knowledge or should have knowledge that there is a danger present, they must fix that danger as soon as possible. If a business fails to perform routine maintenance or inspections, and fails to correct a dangerous condition, such as a pothole, they may be held liable if that pothole causes an injury to a patron.
Specifically for transitory substances, such as puddles or spills, Florida Statute 768.0755 states:
If a person slips and falls on a transitory foreign substance in a business establishment, the injured person must prove that the business establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it. Constructive knowledge may be proven by circumstantial evidence showing that:
(a) The dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that, in the exercise of ordinary care, the business establishment should have known of the condition; or
(b) The condition occurred with regularity and was therefore foreseeable.
Constructive knowledge basically means that the landowner or business owner should have known about the dangerous condition, regardless of whether or not they actually knew. This can be proven by a number of things. Florida has recently allowed Plaintiff’s to use evidence of prior accidents to prove constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition.
Under Florida’s comparative fault rule, any award a Plaintiff receives will be offset by the percentage of fault apportioned to them by a jury. Under this rule, if you are found to have contributed to your fall, your award will be offset by the percentage of “contribution.” Examples include individuals distracted by their phone or perhaps someone wearing inappropriate footwear for a particular terrain. Not only will jurors take this into consideration, but insurance adjusters will too when negotiating a settlement.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
Also, be aware of Florida’s Statute of Limitations for slip and fall cases. Florida Statute’s Section 95.11(3)(a) governs almost all personal injury cases and imposes a four year filing deadline. This means that a potential claimant must bring any lawsuit within four years from the date of the incident.
By Andrew Moore, June 22, 2018