Tripped on an Uneven or Damaged Surface...Who's at Fault?

Some people are of the notion that if they're injured in a slip or trip and fall at a business, the business is automatically liable for their injuries. The fact of the matter is that in Florida the owner of property can be held liable if someone falls so long as the fall is due to the owner's negligence, i.e. the owner breaches his duty owed to persons who come on to the property. Liaibility is not automatic.

The negligence of an owner usually arises in one of two ways. First, there's the situation where there's a dangerous condition on the property. This could include circumstances such as a pot-hole in the parking lot, an uneven sidewalk, or a loose tile in the floor. All of these conditions could cause a fall. Often these conditions are the result of the owner failing to maintain or repair a condition on the property. The pothole could have been filled, the sidewalk evened or the loose tile cemented in place. Not addressing these conditions could result in an owner being liable for injuries.

A second way that owners are held liable is when someone slips or trips because there's something on the ground that causes the surface to be slippery or obstructed. Slip and falls which occur in grocery stores are often due to items such as produce which falls on the floor and gets stepped on. Leaky faucets or other sources of water that ends up on the ground is another example. The falls that occur in this category are sometimes referred to as "foreign substance" slip and fall claims. The name comes from the fact that some substance or object is on the surface and causes it to be slippery.

With all slip/trip and fall cases in Florida, one issue that is often raised as a defense is whether the owner of the property had knowledge, or should have had knowledge, of the condition that caused the fall. In the case of a pothole in the parking lot, did the owner know about the condition? If each day the owner parked in the parking lot and walked past the pothole while entering the property, he could hardly claim that he did not know of the danger. However, if the pothole had just occurred, then the owner could claim that he could not have known about it and that there was nothing he could have done to fix it.

If you're in a slip/trip and fall, you should file an inceident report with the owner, document and photograph the dangerous condition, get the names of any witnesses, and if you're injured, seek immediate medical help. Failing to do this may jeopardize your claim. 

Slip/trip and fall cases are challenging even for seasoned lawyers. That is all the more reason that if you are injured in a slip/trip and fall, you should retain an injury lawyer to protect your rights. 

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