It is a relatively common occurrence to see someone in a store or a restaurant slip and fall. These accidents usually leave the victim slightly bruised and very embarrassed but otherwise unharmed. According to data compiled by the state of Florida, some fall victims are not as fortunate. The Florida Department of Health reviewed reports of falls occurring during a one-year period and discovered that 62,500 people required hospitalization and another 2,475 died from injuries they suffered in a fall. Accidental falls are the primary cause of injury-related deaths among state residents who are 65 years of age and older.
Restaurants and stores are popular places for residents and visitors, but unsafe conditions existing within these types of establishments can lead to falls and injuries. Knowing your rights and what to do to protect them if you are injured is essential. Here are three things to know if you have an injury due to a slip and fall.
Your status and a business owner’s obligation to protect you
Lawyers refer to cases in which a client falls and suffers an injury as a slip and fall. Whether you have the right to hold the property owner liable depends on how the accident happened and on your status. Your legal status determines the duty owed to you by the store or restaurant in which you fell. The following are the three status classifications:
Trespassers are on someone’s property without permission. The owner of the property has a very limited duty of care to a trespasser. In general, owners must protect them from known or intentionally created dangers. For example, setting a trap designed to cause injury to a trespasser would violate the owner’s duty of care, but a trespasser injured by tripping on a sprinkler head probably would not.
When you go to your friend’s home for a party, you are a licensee. The homeowner must maintain the property and warn you of dangers of which he or she is aware. This is a higher duty of care than what would be owed to a trespasser.
Entering a store or a restaurant to purchase something or to get something to eat makes you an invitee. Invitees are on the property for a business purpose. As an invitee, you are owed the highest duty of care. The owner must ensure the premises are safe and free of any hazards that could cause harm. This obligation is not without its limitations, particularly when you slip and fall on liquids, debris or other things on a floor that makes it hazardous. How long the substance was on the floor could be a factor in determining whether the owner is liable.
Florida law could limit your right to sue
One of the most common situations occurring in restaurants and stores is a foreign substance, such as food, water or other debris, causing a person to slip and fall. For instance, the produce sections of supermarkets are perfect locations for fruits and vegetables to fall on the floor. Supermarkets spray water on produce periodically throughout the day to keep them fresh, but it is a process that can also leave the floor wet and slippery.
If you were to fall on a lettuce leaf or on a wet spot on a floor, holding the store or restaurant liable might not be as easy as you think. Florida statute 768.0755 states that the owner of an establishment must know of the existence of the foreign substance and fail to take steps to clean it up or otherwise prevent it from being a hazard. Knowledge of the hazard can be actual or constructive.
Constructive notice exists when there is evidence showing either of the following:
- The condition existed for a sufficient length of time that the business should have been aware of it had its employees exercised reasonable care.
- The condition was foreseeable because it happened regularly as in the example of the water used to spray the produce.
You should, if possible, take note of what caused you to fall. This information could be helpful to your attorney in proving constructive notice.
Do not leave an establishment without reporting your slip and fall
A fall can cause injuries that might not immediately be apparent. Common injuries associated with falls include:
- Fractured bones
- Head injuries
- Sprains and strains
- Bruises and contusions
Even if you do not think you are injured, notify a manager or other person in charge of the establishment. Get the name, title and contact information of the employee or manager taking the report. Ask for a copy of the completed report to be provided to you.
Gather as much information as possible before you leave the premises. Ask a friend to assist if your injuries prevent you from doing so. If there are witnesses, get their names and contact information. Take pictures of the location where you fell. If you slipped on debris or liquid, take pictures of it.
Speak to a Slip and Fall Attorney
Your primary concern following a fall should be to obtain a medical evaluation of your injuries as quickly as possible. Once you have been seen by a physician, contact an experienced Tampa Bay attorney for advice on how to proceed with your claim for compensation from the restaurant, store or business establishment where the accident happened. The slip and fall accident attorneys at Kinney, Fernandez & Boire, P.A. will provide you with a complimentary case evaluation to determine your legal options.