Frequently Asked Questions - Are Slip and Falls Harder To Prove Than other Negligence Cases?
Although they both fall under the category of personal injury cases, Auto Accidents and Premise Liability cases unfold far differently from each other and require different legal knowledge and tactics to prove negligence and to pursue the at-fault party. You will need an experienced personal injury attorney by your side during a slip and fall case as sometimes they can be much harder to prove than other negligence cases, such as an auto accident case.
You may believe that the slip and fall was caused solely by reason of the store’s negligence and to no fault of your own. However, negligence is not just automatically assumed or established. The burden of proof lies on the plaintiff – you. And this obstacle may prove to be harder than you first anticipated. However, on the other end, slip and fall case sometimes prove harder for the insurance companies to ignore as Florida law holds business owners to a very high standard when it comes to inspecting for dangerous conditions within their store and correcting those dangerous conditions.
The investigation of the incident must reveal that the defendant negligently maintained their premises and you suffered significant injuries as a direct result of the defendant’s negligence in maintaining their premises in a safe and prudent manner. Simply put, the four elements of negligence are as follows:
- A legal duty owed by Defendant to Plaintiff;
- Breach of that duty by Defendant;
- An injury to Plaintiff legally caused by Defendant’s breach; and
- Damages as a result of the injury.
The defendant had a legal obligation to fix the dangerous condition or to warn its patrons of the potential hazard. If they did neither, it would be your position that liability is clear.
Another standard when determining negligence against the defendant to consider is reasonableness. In order for the jury to decide if the defendant was negligent in your case, they will have to look at what would be reasonable under the circumstances. Let us take the simple example of you slipping on a puddle of water in the grocery store. You may think that you are not responsible for your injuries whatsoever and you may very well be right! However, in certain circumstances, the store may not be either. Let us say that the store’s video surveillance shows that, prior to your fall, another patron was walking the same aisle and accidently dropped and spilled their water bottle all over the floor. This patron then walks off and continues their shopping. Then, 3 hours pass by with the spill remaining on the floor unattended to. The store employees did not notice the spill, nor did they place any warning or caution signs to warn the other patrons of the potentially dangerous slipping hazard. So, you come along in that same aisle looking at the selves for your food and suddenly slip and fall to the floor on the very same water spill. This would show negligence on behalf of the store as an unreasonable amount of time went by and they did not notice the dangerous condition, remove the dangerous condition or at the very least warn its patrons of it with caution signs or wet floor signs. The jury may very well determine that, under the circumstances, the store had the obligation to ensure their premises are maintained in a safe manner and, thus, they should have been doing hourly inspections. They had an adequate amount of time to clean up the dangerous condition, but they took no action and, thus, maintained their premises in a negligent manner. Now, on the other hand, let us say that after the patron spilled their water bottle on the floor and continued their shopping. You came into the same aisle only five minutes after them and slipped on the water puddle and fell. A jury may deem that the store was not negligent as a reasonable amount of time did not pass to allow them to notice the dangerous condition and clean it up or warn its patrons.
Another way in which slip and fall cases may prove to be challenging would be the defense of comparative negligence. This can also sometimes occur in auto accidents but is argued far more often in premise liability cases. By claiming comparative negligence, the defendant is declaring that you contributed to your own injury. For example, they might say that the shoes you were wearing were unsafe or you were running in a place where you should not have been running or you simply were not paying proper attention. Should the jury deem you partially liable for your own injury, this can greatly reduce or altogether hinder your settlement.
The best evidence to gather in a slip and fall case would be photographs of the accident scene, whether that is photographs of the puddle of water you slipped in, or a wet unstable mat at their front door, or smashed produce on the floor. If possible, be sure to take plenty of photos at different angles of the product you slipped in and the surrounding area. Sometimes this is not possible because you may have been taken away by ambulance or you were by yourself and could not physically take any photos. Of course, that is not ideal, but an experienced attorney will request all photos and video surveillance of the store at the time of your incident. They will also put the defendant on spoliation notice which prohibits them from destroying or getting rid of any photos or videos of the incident that may be essential to your case, and any destruction of said materials would be deemed an intentional and highly prejudicial spoliation of crucial evidence for which your attorney could pursue all legal remedies allowed under Florida law.
For these reasons and so many more, it is imperative that if you were injured in a slip and fall, you need to consult the legal advice of an experience personal injury attorney. They will ensure that you receive the best representation and that your voice is heard. Often times when individuals try to handle these type of cases on their own against these giant corporations, they will get taken advantage of. A personal injury attorney will fight for every penny you deserve and ensure that liability and negligence is properly placed against the defendant and not you!