You’re out shopping at a store and—bam! You slip on the store’s floor, fall, and break your wrist.
Time to sue, right? Well, maybe. If you slip and fall on someone else’s property, you may be able to get compensation from the owner of the property. But this is not guaranteed: It is actually quite difficult to prove that the property owner’s negligence caused your fall. Here are the five most important factors that a Florida slip and fall attorney will look at to see if you have a case.
Where You Fell and Why You Were There
Where you were and your reason for being there are factors that matter to your Florida slip and fall claim. If you slip and fall at a store that is open to the public, you are what the law calls a business invitee. A property owner must exercise reasonable care to disclose all dangerous conditions of which it is aware, including slippery floors, to invitees. Still, if a property owner does not warn you about a hazard, but you should have noticed the danger yourself, the owner may not be liable.
On the other hand, if you fell at a store when the store was closed, or you fell in an area marked “employees only” that you did not have permission to be in, you are no longer an invitee. Now, you are a trespasser. The only duty that a property owner owes to a trespasser is not to affirmatively injure them. They have no duty to warn you of anything, and they probably will not be liable for your slip and fall injuries.
Witnesses to Support Your Story
Witnesses are important to any case, but they can make or break a Florida slip and fall claim. If you have no witnesses, the only person telling your side of the story to the jury will be you. While you, as an injured person, can be a powerful witness in describing what happened and how your life has changed as a result, the store will try to make you look like someone who is just out for money.
Plenty of people receive large settlements or prevail at trial on the strength of their own testimony. But a few key witnesses can improve your case substantially.
You may think that you need a witness that saw you fall. Not so. The manner in which you fell may not be the most important issue to your Florida slip and fall claim. Instead, the store may argue that your fall happened because you were careless or because of your shoes or clothes. It may also argue that it had no notice of the dangerous condition that made you fall.
Witnesses that saw the condition of the floor when you fell can explain how the floor was dangerous. Witnesses that saw the floor’s condition in the minutes or hours before you fell can prove that the store should have known about that danger. Proving both of these things are key to any slip and fall claim.
After you fall, look for potential witnesses and get their contact information if you can. If you are seriously injured, don’t try to move; just call out for help. People that respond may have seen something, and your Florida slip and fall attorney will contact them later and prepare them to testify for you.
Video of the Area
Surveillance video from the store can also be helpful. Many stores now have cameras covering every area of the store to catch shoplifters. These cameras may have captured your fall. They may also have seen how the floor came to be dangerous.
For example, if you slipped on a pool of olive oil in a grocery store, the camera may show a person dropping a bottle of oil half an hour before your fall. This would have given the store ample time to discover and clean up the oil before you fell. Or it may show store employees walking past the spill without doing anything—or worse, cleaning up the spill poorly, leaving a thin, invisible sheen of oil on the floor. Any of these things would greatly strengthen your case.
Go to the store’s manager as soon as you can and ask for a copy of the store’s surveillance video. Most systems keep recordings for a very short amount of time (perhaps as short as a week), so you must act quickly. If you are not physically able to return to the store, send a family member, or call an attorney to go on your behalf.
If the store refuses to make a copy for you, ask them to save the video from that date. If they agree, get that agreement in writing. This way, if the video is destroyed before you can get a copy, you may be able to argue that it would have supported your case had it existed. And finally, if they refuse to agree to save it, document that and call an attorney right away to preserve your rights.
What You Were Wearing
What you were wearing, especially your shoes can impact the strength of your case. If you were wearing shoes prone to slipping, like high heels or sandals, the store may argue that your shoes were to blame for your fall. If you were wearing laced shoes, but the laces were loose or untied, this would also hurt your case.
Document what you were wearing at the time of your fall by taking pictures of your sensible shoes and well-fitting clothes and your claim will be much stronger.
Whether You Got Treatment
If your fall causes even a minor injury, call an ambulance, and get treatment. Even if you do not go to the hospital, the paramedics will document your slip and fall injuries, preventing the store from arguing that you were not injured, or that you are exaggerating the extent of your injuries.
Documenting your injuries can determine how much your claim is worth. Your injuries (and the cost of treating them) generally drive the amount of money that you can recover. If they are not fully documented, your claim may lose value.
If you have been hurt in a slip and fall, call a Florida slip and fall attorney today to discuss your case and see if you are eligible for compensation.