Every year, tens of thousands of Americans suffer falls with injuries, many of which are quite serious. However, not all falls give rise to a lawsuit or potential insurance claim. Simply put, a lot of people do not really understand when an injury warrants legal action to recover compensation. A slip and fall lawyer should always be your first call to discuss your situation to determine if you have a potential right to seek compensation for your injuries. So, what makes a case compensable? When should you seek legal help?
Negligence Actions in Florida
Florida law allows people to seek compensation for injuries when the following elements can be proven:
- The responsible party had a specific duty to act. This can be as simple as a store owner having a duty to maintain a safe walkway within the store or as complex as a construction site having a legal duty to provide secure barriers to protect public sidewalks.
- There was a violation of that duty. The responsible party must also have taken some action or failed to act in some way, thus breaching the duty owed to the victim.
- You can prove that the violation is what caused your injury. Just because a business or individual was careless and failed to follow the rules does not automatically mean that this is specifically what caused the injuries. You must prove that the negligence proximately caused your injuries.
- You can prove that you suffered damages. Damages are a legal concept. They describe the losses or harms suffered by a victim. A slip-and-fall injury victim should be able to show proof of injury, pain and suffering, lost income, lost earning capacity, medical expenses – or other typical damages. If you have fallen because of someone else’s negligence but you are not at all injured or harmed in any way, then this last element would not be satisfied.
Understanding Types of Defendants
The type of defendant in a case is important, too. Florida law recognizes three types of defendants in slip and fall incidents. When a person suffers an injury on someone else’s premises, one of the first things the victim and his or her attorney must determine is what level of care or duty was owed. A responsible party can fall into one of these categories:
- Invitee. An invitee is someone who is expressly or implicitly invited onto the property. Shoppers in a grocery store are business invitees, because they are there for the mutual benefit of themselves and the business owner. In this case, the business owes a duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition and to warn of potential hazards.
- Licensee. This is a slightly lower standard, in that a licensee is someone who is not prohibited from being on the property, but who is also not necessarily there for any mutual benefit. However, Florida law still holds that the property owner must warn of hidden dangers that may not be obvious and cannot do intentional harm to the licensee.
- Trespasser. A trespasser is one who is present without the consent of the property owner. Under Fla. Stat. § 768.075(3), there is no duty to warn trespassers of dangers on the property. However, a landowner or business owner must not do intentional harm to a trespasser unless the trespasser presents a danger (i.e. The Castle Doctrine or Stand Your Ground).
Exceptions to the Rules
Florida also applies an attractive nuisance standard for small children, when determining if a minor child should be treated as a trespasser. The law sets forth that when a landowner has something on the property that is reasonably likely to attract small children and present a danger, the landowner cannot defend injuries by claiming the minor child was a trespasser. This is typically seen with trampolines and swimming pools.
Get Help With Your Slip and Fall Today
If you or a loved one has been seriously hurt in a fall, and someone else caused the injuries because of an unsafe condition, call The Law Offices of Matthew J. Jowanna, P.A. and speak with an experienced slip and fall attorney who can assist you with deciding if you, indeed, have a potential slip and fall case for compensation. Act quickly because there are tight deadlines on how long you can wait to make your claim.