Establishing negligence when you slip, trip or fall and get hurt
Everyone trips, slips and falls at some point. But does this mean you can sue? Not always.
The circumstances of certain accidents could point to negligence on the part of a property owner. Whether the property is a mall, a government building, a school or even a private residence, all property owners have a duty to maintain a safe environment.
If you are injured in a slip and fall accident in Florida, you have a right to seek compensation. Under Florida law, a plaintiff must prove that the property owner did not maintain the premises with visitors’ safety in mind.
What is negligence?
Property owners must maintain a duty of care to all visitors. The following examples can constitute negligence or a breach of duty of care:
- Water on a floor that isn’t mopped up in a timely manner
- Failure to secure a pool area on private property
- Poor lighting
- Uneven or broken walkways
- Absence of handrails on stairways
- Fallen trees
- Placing signs, displays or products where someone could trip
- Not advising visitors about the presence of aggressive animals
- Failure to keep an area free of debris
- Allowing too many people in a space
To prove negligence in the above situations, a plaintiff must prove that a reasonable length of time passed where the property owner did nothing to remove or otherwise mitigate the hazard. A breach of duty of care can also constitute a dangerous situation that is allowed to occur regularly, even if it is monitored.
How to prove negligence
Even if you believe that you have a good case for negligence, you still must prove to a judge or jury that negligence occurred. One way to do this is by gathering evidence from the accident scene as soon as you experience an injury from a slip and fall incident.
If possible, take photos of the scene with your cell phone so you will have a visual record. Writing down what happened leading up to the incident as soon as possible after it occurred is also important. Another reliable source of evidence is footage from surveillance cameras, if you are on a property that includes those devices. Your attorney can assist in securing that footage.
Personal evidence is often just as important as evidence from the accident scene. Preserve your clothing and shoes to indicate that you wore clothing that wouldn’t have contributed to your fall. Maintain a journal that details your medical treatment and recovery. Details should include the type and extent of your injuries, the treatment received, how the injuries affect daily life, levels of pain, mental anguish and emotional suffering.
You can also take photos of yourself during recovery. The more detailed you can be about how the accident has affected your life, the better chance you will have to win your case.
Gathering evidence is doubly important because of Florida’s comparative negligence provision. If you want to receive the maximum compensation available to you under the law, you’ll need to present evidence that you didn’t contribute in any way toward the mishap.
If the court believes you were even partially negligent in the incident, your compensation will be reduced. The court will reduce your final award by the percentage that it determines you contributed to the accident.
For example, if a ruling states that your responsibility is 20 percent, you would only be able to recover $80,000 of an award that was originally $100,000.
Can trespassers become slip and fall plaintiffs in Florida?
In most cases, if someone has trespassed on private property and suffers an accident, that person cannot sue for personal injury.
The biggest exception to this rule under Florida law involves children who may sustain an injury or lose their life while trespassing. When a property owner has an “attractive nuisance” such as a pool or a playset, the owner must take care to ensure that children cannot get easily on the premises if they are unsupervised.
Contact a Tampa slip and fall attorney today
Obtaining experienced legal help is crucial to getting the largest possible settlement in a slip and fall case. If you believe that you have a valid slip and fall injury case, contact the legal experts at Tragos, Sartes & Tragos. We will analyze your case and determine the best possible course of action to recover what you are owed.