Understanding Slip and Fall Cases in the Florida Courts
You just spent an amazing day with your spouse, exploring history and art at a local museum. You are walking through the final exhibit when you lose footing on an area of uneven flooring and fall, breaking your leg and spraining your wrist. Not only is it a terrible way to end the day, but it marks the beginning of medical visits, hospital bills, pain and suffering.
From a legal standpoint, you want to know who is ultimately responsible for what happened to you. Who will pay your medical bills and compensate you for the pain and inconvenience that it has caused?
The success of a Florida slip and fall case largely depends on witness statements. Victims should attempt to gather contact information for as many witnesses as possible. This is best done at the time of the accident. It can become difficult to locate witnesses and solicit their statements once the incident has passed. The injured party should also try and take pictures of the area where you fell. Having a picture of the location, as it appeared at the time of the accident, is useful to the judge or jury. Additionally, if you wait to take the pictures, the defendant may make alterations to the area in order to correct the cause of the slip and fall. If you do not have pictures from the time of the incident, your case can quickly become a matter of one person’s word against another, which can weaken your likelihood of success.
What the Plaintiff Must Prove in a Florida Slip and Fall
Why is it important to gather all of this evidence? Slip and fall cases are rarely as cut and dry as the victim thinks. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant:
- Caused the condition that lead to the accident. In the museum example, the injured party would need to prove that the museum owners created the exhibit and set it up in a way that caused the slip and fall to occur.
- Knew the problem existed and did nothing to correct it. If the museum owners knew that the exhibit flooring was uneven with the walkway and did not fix it, the business could be found liable.
According to an article in the Tampa Bay Times, litigating these cases became more challenging for Florida lawyers in 2010, when the “knew and failed to act” requirement became law within the state. Prior to that time, the plaintiff only had to show that there was a problem. Now, knowledge of the problem and a failure to correct are also required. Many argue that this requirement gives the defendant an advantage over the plaintiff in slip and fall cases.
Florida Slip and Fall Negotiations
Slip and fall cases are commonly resolved before they get to court. For a business, it is often less expensive to offer the plaintiff a settlement, than to pay lawyers and go through with a long and drawn out lawsuit. These payments are often based on the cost of medical treatments, so it is important for the injured party to keep up with all medical payments. Because of this tendency to settle, it is important to secure the representation of a Miami personal injury lawyer quickly after the accident occurs. An experienced Florida lawyer can ensure that all medical documents are submitted to the correct party in a timely manner, and facilitate the negotiation process.