As personal injury attorneys, we hear from slip and fall victims all the time who want to know if they have a case to seek compensation for their injuries. The answer is, yes, of course, they can sue and try and pursue compensation for their pain. But the more important question is can they win? The answer depends on factors that are outlined below.
Let’s say a woman walks into a South Florida grocery store, and unbeknownst to her, the floors are wet. As a result, she slips and falls and breaks her leg. Does she have a case? Her injury didn’t occur because she was clumsy. The injury may now keep her out of work with new medical bills. Will she be compensated? That depends on a personal injury lawyer’s quick response, level of litigation experience, and knowledge of Florida Premises Liability law.
Slip and fall lawsuits are an important way to hold a negligent property owner accountable. These cases can be complex. The outcome of slip and fall cases depends on the answer to a variety of questions. For example:
- Did the property owner / manager know of the condition that caused the accident?
- How long was the condition present?
- What is the severity of the injuries?
- Are there witnesses who can testify on the victim’s behalf?
- Can the property owner prove the person fell because of carelessness?
The answer to these questions can help tip the scales towards a big win or a loss.
What Are the Different Types of Slip and Fall Cases?
There are many reasons a person might accidentally fall, such as an uneven surface or a hole in the floor. But today, we’re focusing on falls due to transitory substances, which are any solid or liquid substance located in a place where it doesn’t belong. These accidents can occur as a result of:
- Fluids on the floor resulting from cleaning solutions, a spill, or a leak.
- Weather conditions such as slippery or sandy surfaces that the owner should’ve remedied or warned about.
- Debris left out in a dimly lit area, causing a hazard.
- An object on the floor that would’ve been visible if the building was adequately lit.
How To Prove Slip & Fall Cases
Many attorneys shy away from taking slip and fall cases in Florida due to the high burden of proof. But our team at KL Injury Attorneys has the resources and experience to effectively litigate complex issues, and we’re ready to fight for the compensation our clients deserve. To hold a business (or multiple businesses) liable for injuries, we have to prove the owners or managers were negligent in maintaining the area in a safe condition. We also have to prove they knew, or should have known, about the unsafe substance before the accident occurred.
We see rare cases where plaintiffs had “actual” notice about the specific condition before the fall–and did nothing about it. But businesses don’t need “actual” notice to be held liable for damages. They only need “constructive” notice, meaning they should have known about the condition if they acted reasonably to protect the victim’s well-being.
To prove “actual” or “constructive” notice, we conduct thorough investigations to determine how long the substance was present or if it was an ongoing condition. When a case warrants such analysis, we spend considerable time and resources interviewing witnesses, hiring investigators, and talking to doctors and experts who can help us prove the case.
How Florida Courts Determine Slip and Fall Compensation
Another common question people ask is how much money they may be eligible to receive for a slip and fall injury. That answer also depends on different factors. For instance, Florida courts look at the severity of the injuries, including the damage itself, to determine compensation.
A broken back may warrant more money than a sprained toe due to the high medical and personal costs the victim must endure to get back to everyday life. This is especially true for victims who can longer work as a result of their injuries. Moreover, victims who were previously breadwinners may receive even more money because their household relies on their income to survive.
Let’s look at examples of recent slip and fall cases we handled to better understand how Florida courts determine compensation and who’s at fault.
Slip & Fall Case Study 1
In the first case, a client came to us with a compound fracture after slipping on a grape-like material at a local supermarket. The substance was near a corner rack in between a high-traffic aisle. After hearing her story, we filed a demand from the premises’ owner, but the owner denied her claims’ legitimacy.
Nevertheless, we filed a lawsuit and the supermarket settled for a substantial 6-figure settlement. We suspect the owner reviewed the surveillance video, saw the substance had been on the floor for a while, and decided it was best to settle before wasting time, money, and resources fighting us in court.
In other words, the owner probably had constructive notice because of the length of time the material was on the floor. This owner should have taken steps to clear the aisle to prevent our client from falling hard on her arm.
Slip & Fall Case Study 2
In the second case, a client came to us after he slipped on debris on the sidewalk outside his apartment building. He fractured his kneecap and underwent surgery as a result. The building owner refused to settle, so we took the case to court. Our client received a multiple 6-figure settlement.
In this case, the building owner tried to absolve itself of responsibility by claiming the victim was careless. The defendant attempted to blame the victim by saying the sidewalk debris was an “open and obvious condition” that he could have avoided. Also, weighing against the victim was that he fell outside his home, which means he walked that sidewalk daily and “should’ve known about the debris.”
We knew this would be a challenging case to win, but we still felt our client deserved compensation. And we were right. During the discovery phase, we learned about other factors that helped us win a significant amount of money. We discovered:
- The landscaping company left a lot of debris on the walkway that they should’ve cleaned.
- The concrete was improperly protected against slipping risks, which created a “banana peel” effect when it was wet.
- The concrete was in disrepair and not maintained at the level of the manufacturer’s recommendations.
A Strong vs. Weak Slip and Fall Case
- Level of injury. Sprains and mild pain represent weak cases in the eyes of Florida law. On the other hand, significant injuries like compound fractures and debilitating pain are more substantial cases.
- Timing. The amount of time a substance sits on the floor before the accident occurs matters. If someone falls on a transitory substance that sat on the floor for hours, they have a much stronger case than if the item had just fallen seconds earlier.
- Victim’s ability to prevent injury. If someone falls on a clearly visible pile of trash, they may have acted carelessly, which makes this a weaker case. But if they’re walking through a darkened hallway covered with hidden debris, they probably couldn’t have prevented the accident. Thus, they have a much stronger case.
- Surveillance Video. Surveillance videos are one of the most crucial factors in developing a strong slip and fall case. That’s why personal injury attorneys must act quickly to request the premise owner preserve the footage. In cases where the owner ignores the attorney’s request and does not provide the footage, the jury will be instructed to assume the video proved the owner was at fault. That’s great news for the victim’s case. However, if the personal injury attorney does not make the request right away, they run the risk that the video might have been inadvertently deleted. In this unfortunate scenario, the victim may find it more difficult to prove negligence and liability.
- Traffic in the area. Foot traffic in the area can help determine whether a case is strong or weak. For example, someone who falls on a highly trafficked walkway might have a stronger case than if they fell in the back corner of a store. Why? Because the premise owner should be more diligent about ensuring the safety of commonly used areas that pose foreseeable slip risks. However, Florida law does not require store owners to immediately pick up a dropped item, regardless of the traffic in the area where it falls. So, if a victim slips on a grape that sat on the floor for only a few minutes, this case may be more difficult to prove negligence.
What To Do After a Slip and Fall Accident
Anyone who has slipped and fell due to a transitory substance should take the following actions:
- Focus on the injury first. Seek medical attention.
- If possible, take photos or video of the condition/area that caused the slip.
- Fill out an incident report with the place of business and request a copy.
- Try to remember or write down the name of the people that helped.
- Contact a personal injury attorney.
- Do not wash the shoes and/or clothes worn because the substance that caused the slip may be on the clothing.
- Don’t speak with anyone until speaking with a personal injury attorney.
The Bottom Line
Remember, the premises owner is liable for injuries if he or she knew of (or should have) a dangerous condition and did nothing about it. An owner can fight a slip and fall claim if they can show the injured person was careless or should have prevented the fall. That’s why it’s our job at KL to investigate the strong points and weak points in every case to determine if we can help clients win the money they may deserve.
If you slipped, tripped and fell that resulted in an injury that is affecting your life, we offer a free, no-risk case evaluation. Timing is critical. We must put property owners on notice and investigate immediately. Call our team now, tell us your story, and we’ll let you know how strong your case may be.