You were out shopping at a local store in Palm Beach County when suddenly you lost your balance and fell over, breaking your hip. It turned out the shop’s floor was wet from customers tracking in rainwater, and nobody who worked there put down a mat or mopped up the water. Does this mean the store’s owners are responsible for your injury? If so, how do you prove it?
Elements of a slip-and-fall claim
Proving fault, or liability, in a slip-and-fall case in Florida essentially comes down to the following:
- The property owner knew or reasonably should have known about a dangerous condition on the premises (e.g., a puddle on the floor or a broken handrail on a staircase)
- The property owner failed to fix the problem or warn visitors about it
- As a result, you fell and suffered an injury
It is not a defense for the business to say they did not know about a hazard if they had “constructive” knowledge of it. This means that employees, management or ownership reasonably should have discovered it. For example, say a leaky pipe is causing water to build up in a back corner of a store. The store’s workers might not catch it right away, but if it leaked for several hours (or days) without anyone discovering the problem, and someone slipped and fell on the water, that could be constructive knowledge.
Drawing a line from premises negligence to your injuries
You then have to show a connection between the property owner’s negligence and your injuries. The owner (and their insurance company) might claim you got hurt before your fall or that you are exaggerating your injuries. Evidence, such as your medical file and testimony from a physician, can show when and how you got hurt.
Owners of stores, restaurants, hotels, offices and other places open to the public owe those visitors a duty to keep the premises reasonably clean and safe. When they fail to fulfill that duty, people can get seriously hurt.