Should you slip, fall, and sustain an injury on a sticky or slippery floor at a supermarket, restaurant, or mall, what is your recourse? To be compensated for this kind of personal injury, you will have to prove that the owner of the property was negligent and you may need an Orlando premises liability attorney.
What are a Florida property owner’s safety responsibilities? What’s required to prove that the owner of a property was negligent? To learn some answers, keep reading because slip-and-fall injuries are common – and often quite serious – here in central Florida.
The law in this state requires property owners to maintain their properties in a way that minimizes the risk to visitors. When properties are not adequately maintained, Florida property owners may be held liable for any personal injuries sustained by visitors to the property.
Property owners are not liable for injuries they couldn’t reasonably prevent, but when they know – or should have known – about a hazardous condition and failed to fix that condition, anyone who’s injured has the right to pursue – and to prevail with – a premises liability claim.
IF YOU ARE INJURED IN A SLIP-AND-FALL ACCIDENT
How you report a slip-and-fall injury depends on where the injury happened, but you should try to notify a property owner, store manager, or facility manager. Larger restaurant and hotel chains, attractions, and retail locations may have a pre-printed accident form for you to complete.
If you report an accident and injury this way, stay strictly with the facts, keep it brief, and do not say anything that might be used against you or used in a property owner’s defense. Simply state what happened, when, and where.
Seek medical attention at once if you’re injured because you slipped and fell. If you file a premises liability claim, you’ll need medical paperwork and evidence that supports your claim. Take photographs of the site where the accident happened.
If your photographs show exactly what the hazard was and why you were injured, those photos can be powerful evidence. If there were eyewitnesses, try to obtain their contact details. Eyewitness testimony can also be powerful evidence in premises liability cases.
IF YOU SEEK COMPENSATION, WHAT WILL YOU HAVE TO PROVE
Prevailing with your premises liability claim will require you and your attorney to prove the following “elements” of your case:
- The owner of the property owed you a “duty of care.”
- That duty was breached because the owner was negligent.
- The breach was a direct cause of your personal injury or injuries.
Trespassers are a different matter. Typically, no duty of care is owed to trespassers, but property owners may not create conditions intended to harm them.
If a property is protected by a dog, for example, at least one clearly posted sign must provide a warning about the dog. Property owners should consider alarm systems or security guards to avoid the possibility of injuring a trespasser – and then facing a lawsuit or even criminal charges.
WHAT ARE A PROPERTY OWNER’S LEGAL RESPONSIBILITIES?
A property owner breaches the duty of care by failing to take reasonable measures to keep visitors from slipping, falling, and being injured. These examples might constitute an owner’s breach of his or her duty of care:
- failure to clean up quickly water or spilled liquids on a retailer’s floor
- failure to keep a pool area secure to keep out children
- failure to inform visitors about a potentially aggressive dog
- failure to keep any areas open to the public reasonably free of hazards
You see the word “reasonably” a lot in discussions of premises liability. A property owner is not liable for every conceivable injury that someone might suffer on a property. If you walk into your neighbor’s barbecue pit because you were looking at your smartphone, you have no claim.
In most cases of premises liability, if a property owner had the ability to prevent a slip-and-fall injury and didn’t – even after having knowledge of a hazardous condition and the time needed to repair it – that property owner may be found liable and required to compensate the injury victim.
HOW DO PROPERTY OWNERS DISPUTE INJURY CLAIMS?
Anyone who files a premises liability claim not only has to prove that a property owner was negligent, but victims also must prove that they were in fact injured and need compensation for medical expenses. If you slip at the supermarket but walk away unharmed, you have no claim.
Property owners may defend themselves against premises liability claims by hiring their own attorneys and offering one or more of these defenses:
- The hazardous condition was obvious to everyone: Property owners have no duty to warn customers or guests of obvious hazards. Only a not-so-obvious hazard requires a warning.
- The injury victim assumed the risk: If the person who was injured knew the risks before entering the premises, a property owner probably will not be liable.
- The victim contributed to the injury: Florida is a “comparative fault” state, so if your slip-and-fall damages amount to $100,000, but a court determines that you were fifty percent at fault for your injury, a property owner is liable for only $50,000 of your damages.
In central Florida, an Orlando premises liability attorney can help you dispute any defense that a property owner might offer to avoid liability.
IS THERE A TIME LIMIT FOR TAKING LEGAL ACTION?
Florida law gives the injured victims of negligence four years to file a premises liability claim, but if you are the victim, don’t wait four years – or even four weeks – to speak with an attorney. If your injury keeps you from working, the bills start piling up fast, and you must take action.
Speaking of bills piling up, if you’re out of work and trying to pay medical expenses along with your regular monthly bills, how can you afford to hire a lawyer? Don’t worry. An Orlando premises liability attorney will handle your case on a “contingent” fee basis.
EVERY VICTIM OF NEGLIGENCE CAN AFFORD AN ATTORNEY’S HELP
That means you will pay no fee to an attorney until and unless you are compensated with a negotiated settlement or a jury verdict. Your first consultation with a premises liability lawyer is free, so it’s your chance to ask questions and learn how the law applies in your own situation.
Nothing is more important than your health and well-being. If you have been injured because a property owner was negligent in central Florida, the law entitles you to compensation. That is your right.