Florida businesses have two major obligations to their customers. First, they must maintain their premises in a reasonably safe manner. This includes keeping things off the floor and making sure that their building is in generally in a safe condition—so their customers are not falling through the floorboards!
If the business does not do this, and you are injured, then you need to contact a West Palm Beach personal injury attorney, because you may have a slip and fall claim on your hands.
You can read more about basic slip and fall laws in Florida here.
Slip and Fall Accidents in Florida: Then and Now
You may have heard about the “slip on the banana peel” themed cases that were relatively easy to win in Florida. This is because the Florida Supreme Court determined in 2001 that having a foreign substance on the floor, like a spill or a banana peel is basically an automatic dangerous condition, so it was assumed that the business or property owner was not maintaining their premises in a safe manner. This decision, Owens v. Publix Supermarkets, Inc., made it very hard on business to keep up with spills and other potentially dangerous problems.
Slip and Fall Accidents in Florida: Today in 2016
In 2002, the Florida legislature decided to amend the slip and fall statute to make it much more difficult to prevail on these types of claims—in direct response to Owens.
The statute as it reads in 2016 requires the plaintiff to prove that either the business directly knew about the condition or they had some constructive knowledge of it. The victim should also show that the business should have taken action to correct the problem before it caused harm.
The Role of Circumstantial Evidence in Proving a Slip and Fall Claim
The Florida Code requires you to show actual or constructive knowledge, but it also allows you to use circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence are facts or information that allows you to imply something, but it does not directly prove anything. Generally, you will need a lot of circumstantial evidence to make up for the lack of direct evidence.
The circumstantial evidence that the Code allows for Florida slip and fall cases includes:
- The dangerous condition existed for a long length of time; long enough that a business establishment should have noticed its presence
- The condition occurred on a regular basis, so the business could have predicted that it would happen (it was foreseeable)
The Code specifically states that it does not affect any common law duties that the business must fulfill. One of those duties is that the business must keep the business reasonably safe.
Although what constitutes “reasonably safe” will vary depending on the type of business and circumstances, it generally means that the property should be maintained well and the floor should be clear of foreign objects or matters.
Defenses to Your Slip and Fall Claim with a West Palm Beach Personal Injury Attorney
One of the most used defenses to a slip and fall claim is that you were not using reasonable care yourself as you walked through the business. This could mean that you were not watching where you were going, or you were moving through the business much quicker than you should have. The argument is basically that you should have seen the dangerous condition and avoided it.
This defense is difficult to combat, but it is not impossible. A West Palm Beach personal injury attorney can build your case in a way that will deter this argument, helping you get the compensation that you deserve for your injuries.
If you have injured yourself at a business, you can still bring a slip and fall claim, but your chances of prevailing in 2016 are less than they were in 2001. Nonetheless, with a good West Palm Beach personal injury lawyer, your chances of obtaining a favorable result are much higher.
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