Now I know that whenever you hear about a slip and fall you think of those corny “ I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” commercials that only apply to the elderly. However, the truth is that a Slip and Fall can happen to anyone, even you! A Slip and Fall injury occurs when you trip over an object or uneven walkway, hole in a path or even when you slip on a wet surface.1 Regardless of your physicality or age these injuries do happen and can have permanent effects on your quality of life. These injuries may leave you asking questions like; “Will I be able to work again?” “Will I ever be able to walk without a cane?” “Will I be able to support my family?” “When will the pain stop?”
For example, a young woman recently fell on a poorly constructed sidewalk at a church located in Palm Beach County. The women sustained injuries that resulted in four surgeries, with two more remaining. Although no amount of money will ever make her whole, a jury was able to compensate her $2.5 million dollars for her injuries.2 The reality is; while we never expect these things to happen, they come and go in a split second and have lasting impressions on our lives.
The fact is that these types of injures happen all the time and you should know that Florida has made it increasingly difficult to recover damages, even when you were injured through no fault of your own.3 In 2010, Florida amended its laws in favor of corporations and insurance carriers imposing a greater burden upon YOU (the plaintiff) in Slip and Fall cases. While this may seem unfair; as the law stands, the burden of proof is completely on YOU! This in turn gives business owners and insurance companies a much better chances of not compensating those that have been injured.
In Florida, whenever you walk into a business you are given the status of an “invitee,” which essentially is a person who comes into a store to conduct some sort of business. As an invitee you are given the most protections available at law, as opposed to trespassers who receive no protections whatsoever. Say, for example, you walk into a Wal-Mart to purchase a bottle of water; in this case you would be classified as an invitee. As an invitee, the business owes you two duties: (1) a duty to use reasonable care in maintaining the property in a reasonably safe condition and (2) a duty to warn you of any dangers which should be known to the owner and which are unknown and cannot be discovered by the invitee.4 Basically, the store must do its part to make sure that the store is free of all hazards, such as objects on the floor, wet surfaces, holes and anything else that may cause harm to its customers/invitees. Further, the store has to warn the invitee of known dangers.
Now so far it may seem simple, the floor was wet and I fell. Now they have to compensate me, right? I wish it was that simple, but in order to make your claim for recovery you have to prove that the business you visited knew (had notice) of the hazard that injured you and failed to fix it. There are two ways to prove notice; (1) Actual Notice and (2) Constructive Notice. Though actual notice is self-explanatory, actual knowledge of a hazard is generally very hard to prove and therefore, most of the time you have to prove your case through constructive notice. Constructive notice is proven through inferences and circumstances, such as the hazard existed for an unreasonably long duration, or that the hazard occurred so regularly that it was a common occurrence at the store.5 However, the new laws only allow inferences to be made after all other reasonable possible outcomes have been made. Therefore, it is key that a detailed investigation takes place immediately after the accident to ensure that all-possible causes of the fall are considered.
The most important thing to remember is that if you think you have suffered a Slip and Fall injury see your doctor immediately! You will be unable to prove injuries without medical records and/or bills. Every day you wait may potentially reduce the value of your case. The reason is that the longer you delay, the more the owner and insurance companies will argue that your fall did not cause the injuries. They will also argue that the injury was not as severe as you claim.
With Slip and Fall cases becoming increasingly harder to prove, making a wrong move could be costly. At risk are your medical costs, lost wages (both now and future), disability and emotional peace of mind. When you are injured you may find yourself against a large corporation with even larger resources, and that is not something you should go through alone. After suffering an injury you may be offered a quick settlement, however you should strongly consider seeking the advice and help of an attorney before signing anything. A skilled attorney can defend your claim and give you the best chances of maximum recovery. The lawyers at Berkowitz & Myer will guide you through this troubling experience and help you maximize your recovery. Call us today or go to www.berkmyer.com to learn more.
- Tallent v. Pilot Travel Ctrs., LLC, 137 So. 3d 616, 617 (Fla. 2d DCA 2014).
- Stat. § 768.0755 (2016).