In Florida, landowners must provide a reasonably safe environment for visitors to their premises. If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, the owner of the property you suffered injuries on may be liable for your damages, including medical bills or lost wages.
The attorneys at Nessler & Associates have represented slip and fall accident victims since 1977. We offer experienced legal representation if you were hurt in a slip and fall accident in Florida. Learn how our attorneys handle slip and fall cases and how we fight to get you the compensation you deserve.
What is a Slip and Fall Accident?
A slip and fall accident happens when someone slips on a wet, slippery surface and falls because of dangerous conditions. A slip and fall accident typically occurs in an area with low friction. Often, people lose their footing due to slippery materials coating the walking surface, such as ice, water, or another liquid.
Under Florida’s premises liability doctrine, property owners have a legal obligation to provide a reasonably safe environment to visitors. If the owner fails to do so, they may be liable for any injuries caused by the unsafe environment. The liability covers both residential and commercial property.
Florida’s premises liability laws cover three areas of negligence based on the victim’s purpose for visiting the property:
An invitee is someone who visited the landowner’s premises to conduct business or visited the premises in response to an invitation from the landowner. Business customers, such as those shopping at a grocery or retail store, make up the bulk of the invitee category. Under Florida’s premises liability doctrine, invitees are owed the highest standard of care.
To adhere to this enhanced care standard, property owners must do a few things:
- Keep their property in a safe condition
- Repair or provide notice of any potential hazards
- Regularly inspect the property for possible dangers
Since owners are responsible for regular inspections, they may be liable for injuries to invitees resulting from a hazard they should have reasonably been aware of.
Licensees are individuals who visit the owner’s premises to advance the owner’s interests with the visitor’s consent. The most common type of licensee is a social guest, such as a visiting friend or attendees of a party held on the landowner’s premises.
Under Florida’s premises liability doctrine, licensees are afforded the second-highest care standard. According to Lukancich v. City of Tampa, property owners must not engage in willful misconduct that would harm a licensee or intentionally expose them to danger. They must also warn the licensee of potential hazards.
However, in the case of invitees, the property owner does not have to fix the hazard. Instead, they must only warn the licensee if they know about the danger and if it isn’t an open, obvious concern.
A trespasser is anyone visiting the landowner’s premises without their knowledge or permission. Florida’s discovered trespasser’s rule requires landowners to exercise reasonable care for the trespasser’s safety.
This means that landowners owe discovered trespassers a duty to prevent intentional or avoidable injuries. For example, a landowner could not set a trap in anticipation of a trespasser or fail to notify a discovered trespasser of a known hazard.
Types of Slip and Fall Accidents in Florida
Slip and fall accidents are unfortunately common. According to the National Floor Safety Institute, slip and fall accidents account for over one million hospital visits annually. Some common causes of slip and fall accidents include:
- Wet or slippery flooring with no warning signs
- Broken, uneven, or loose flooring, carpet, rugs, or mats
- Food, drink, or grease on flooring
- Freshly-waxed or polished flooring
- Broken, slippery, or unkept stairs
- Debris in stairways
- Poor lighting in stairways
When individuals slip and fall, the injuries they sustain can be traumatic. Some common injuries associated with slip and fall accidents include:
- Cuts and bruises
- Soft tissue injuries, such as sprains or ligament tears
- Broken bones
- Head injuries, such as concussions
- Spinal cord injuries
If you’ve suffered from injuries resulting from a slip and fall accident, you will likely require extensive medical and rehabilitative care. A slip and fall attorney can help you file an accident claim to seek damages to cover your accident-related losses, such as medical bills and lost wages.
Proving Negligence in a Slip and Fall Case
To win a premises liability claim, you will have to prove that the property owner was negligent and their negligence caused your damages. To do this, your lawyer will need to address five factors:
The Landowner Had Possession of the Property
The first thing your lawyer will need to prove is that the person you are bringing the liability suit against had possession and control over the property in question when the accident occurred. Your attorney can prove this element through documentation of land ownership, such as a deed.
However, the Supreme Court of Florida’s ruling in Bovis v. 7-Eleven extends the duty of care to anyone who manages access to the premises.
The Property Owner Owed You a Duty of Care
For the landowner to be responsible for providing a duty of care, your lawyer must prove whether you were legally allowed to be on the premises and what duty of care the owner had toward you.
For example, if you were visiting a grocery store, the owner had an implied duty of care since you were an invitee. If you are considered a licensee, the standard for duty of care may not be as high. If you were trespassing, you only have minimal protection under Florida’s premises library law.
The Property Owner Was Aware of the Danger
If you were visiting the premises as a licensee, your lawyer must prove that the property owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the danger that caused your accident.
To prove this, your lawyer will need to demonstrate that one of the following conditions were met: that the hazardous conditions existed long enough for the owner to be aware of them or that the conditions occur with such regularity that the owner could have foreseen their occurrence.
If you were visiting as an invitee, the landowner owes you an even higher standard of care. Since they are responsible for regular property inspections to detect potentially hazardous conditions, invitees may not need to prove the landowner’s awareness of the danger, as the landowner must make themselves aware of and fix such hazards.
Your Injuries Occurred as a Result of the Landowner’s Negligence
Your lawyer will also have to prove that your injuries resulted from the landowner’s failure to provide care. Typically, your lawyer will establish that your injuries were caused by negligence through expert witnesses, analysis of your injuries, or analysis of the premises.
It is important to thoroughly document the extent of your injuries through evidence like medical reports and photographs. An excellent example of photographic evidence that may prove negligence is a photo of a puddle of liquid without a wet floor sign to warn visitors.
Your Injuries Caused Damages
The final portion of your claim will require proof that your injuries caused damages. Damages fall under two broad categories: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages are the most commonly-awarded type of damages. This compensation allows victims to recover from both economic and non-economic losses.
Punitive damages are rarely rewarded and seek to punish a negligent party for malicious or intentionally harmful behavior.
Compensatory damages typically cover calculable expenses such as medical costs. Your attorney will likely claim any out-of-pocket medical expenses as damages, using receipts or medical bills for evidence.
Lost wages are another common form of compensatory damages. To claim lost wages, your lawyer must prove that your injury prevented you from working and that the lost wages you claim would have reasonably been earned had the injury not occurred. Often, your lawyer will use evidence like paystubs, bank statements, and medical reports to prove lost wages.
If your injuries were severe and affected your quality of life, your lawyer may attempt to recover additional, non-economic compensation for your pain and suffering.
Winning Compensation for a Slip and Fall
Florida operates under a pure comparative negligence doctrine. Under this doctrine, if your actions contributed to the fault of the accident, your economic and non-economic damages will be reduced proportionately by the percentage of fault you contributed. For example, if the court finds you 15% at fault for the accident, your damages will be reduced by 15%.
You can still recover compensation in Florida even if you were 99% at fault. Your lawyer will attempt to recover the maximum amount of damages possible. Three types of damages can be awarded: economic, non-economic, and punitive.
Economic damages are granted for specific, measurable losses that occurred as a result of the accident. For example, lost wages, medical expenses, damaged property, and lost business opportunities fall under economic damages. During your initial consultation with an attorney, they will assess your economic losses to begin your case.
Unlike economic damages, non-economic damages are awarded for losses that cannot be calculated. Some examples of non-economic damages include awards for emotional distress, pain, a new disability, physical disfigurement or impairment, or reduced quality of life.
Punitive damages are awarded to punish the defendant for gross negligence. Punitive damages are less common than economic and non-economic damages and are reserved for cases where the defendant acted intentionally or in an otherwise egregious manner. In Florida, punitive damages may not exceed $500,000 or three times the total compensatory damages, whichever is greater.
How a Florida Slip and Fall Attorney at Nessler & Associates Can Help You Win Compensation
If you suffered from injuries due to a slip and fall accident, the Florida attorneys at Nessler & Associates can help you file a claim with the premises owner’s insurance company.
With decades of experience, our personal injury attorneys will help you understand your rights and help you through the often-complicated legal process. Our skilled personal injury lawyers have won our slip and fall clients $1 million or more in damages, so we know how to fight to earn you the maximum possible compensation.
Our law firm operates on a contingency fee policy, which means you only have to pay us if we win your case. If you are looking for a Florida slip and fall lawyer to represent you, call us at (800) 727-8010 to schedule a free consultation. Let us use our decades of experience and resources to help you maximize your settlement.