If you slipped and fell in a store, hotel, or property in Florida, you will likely face an uphill battle in collecting compensation. Property owners and their insurers work very hard to pay out as little as possible after a premises liability accident, like a slip and fall. While you attend doctor’s appointments and rehabilitation sessions, they’re looking for any angle to reduce or deny your claim.
After suffering an injury from a slip and fall, however, you will immediately learn how difficult property owners and their insurance companies will make it for you to get compensation for your injuries. One of the main roadblocks in a financial recovery after a Florida slip and fall accident is getting the owner to admit fault.
Below is a list of the most common defenses that property owners and insurance companies use when defending slip and fall cases. An experienced Florida slip and fall attorney can help you get past these defenses and help you on the path to recovery.
Top 5 Defenses to Slip and Fall Cases in Florida
Defense #1: It Was Your Fault
The first thing property owners and insurance companies usually do in defending a slip and fall case is blame you. They may say that you weren’t wearing appropriate footwear or acting recklessly at the time. They may claim you were on your phone and didn’t see the warning signs posted. If they can shift the blame onto you – they will.
If a property owner is able to shift the blame to you for your slip and fall, then they can reduce their potential liability under a legal defense called comparative negligence. Comparative negligence considers how much you are to blame for the accident and reduces your potential for recovery by that amount.
For example, if you are hurt from a slip and fall at the supermarket, and a court finds that you were 50% to blame for the accident, your recovery will get reduced by 50%. The best way to help prevent this is to refrain from making statements about what happened until you speak to an attorney.
Defense #2: They Didn’t Know of the Hazard
Along with blaming you for your slip and fall, property owners and their legal teams will commonly argue that they were unaware of the dangerous condition that led to your slip and fall injuries.
In many cases, this is not a valid defense because various legal standards require property owners to maintain and keep their property from unsafe conditions. Even if the property owner didn’t know the dangerous condition existed, they can be held responsible if they should have known that the dangerous condition was there.
To win your case, you must show that the property owner should have known about the hazard and failed to act.
For example, a hotel’s pool chemicals are out of balance, causing serious chemical burns and skin irritation for many guests. A hotel is supposed to maintain its pools regularly and ensure that the chemicals are in balance to protect guests. They could be held responsible if they didn’t perform the necessary tests. Even though they were unaware of the imbalance of pool chemicals, they should have known, and other reasonable owners would have taken these precautions to prevent an injury on hotel property.
Defense #3: The Property Owner Took Reasonable Steps Toward Safety
To recover from a property owner or insurance company after a slip and fall, you must prove that your injuries were caused by the property owner’s negligence. If the property owner can show that he or she took “reasonable steps” towards making their property safe for visitors, they can be excused from any financial liability.
The burden is on you to prove that the property owner did not take reasonable steps to maintain safety on their property. If you can show that they did not reasonably maintain their property, then the property owner can be found negligent and financially responsible for compensating you for your injuries.
What do reasonable steps look like?
- Regular inspections: Property owners should inspect the property for potential hazards such as wet or slippery surfaces, uneven flooring, and loose carpets or tiles on a regular basis. Inspections can be conducted daily, weekly, or monthly, depending on the property’s size and usage.
- Adequate lighting: Adequate lighting is crucial for preventing slip and fall accidents. Property owners should ensure that all areas of the property are well-lit, especially staircases, walkways, and entrances.
- Non-slip flooring: Installing non-slip flooring materials such as rubber, carpet, or textured tiles can help prevent slip and fall accidents.
- Warning signs: Property owners should post warning signs in potentially hazardous areas, such as wet floors or uneven surfaces.
- Handrails: Handrails should be installed in all areas where there are stairs or slopes, and they should be properly maintained to prevent accidents.
- Maintenance: Promptly repairing any property damage that could cause slip and fall accidents, such as loose tiles or broken handrails, is essential.
- Training: Property owners should train their staff to identify potential slip and fall hazards and take appropriate action to prevent accidents.
Defense #4: It Was an Open and Obvious Danger
Florida law states that when you are on another’s property, you have a duty of care to avoid open and obvious dangers. The open and obvious danger doctrine is a legal defense that allows a property owner to be excused from liability if they were injured from an open and obvious hazard on their property.
In other words, if a reasonable person would have noticed the hazardous condition and avoided it, the property owner may not be liable for any resulting injuries.
The open and obvious danger doctrine is based on the idea that individuals must exercise reasonable care for their own safety. If a hazardous condition is obvious and easily avoidable, individuals are expected to take reasonable steps to avoid it.
However, there are some exceptions to the open and obvious danger doctrine. For example, the property owner may still be liable if the hazardous condition is unreasonably dangerous despite being open and obvious. Additionally, if the property owner knew or should have known that the hazardous condition posed an unreasonable risk of harm, the open and obvious danger doctrine may not apply.
This defense would fail, however, if you could show that the building was not up to code or that there was inadequate lighting or warning signs where you were injured.
Defense #5: You Filed the Slip and Fall Lawsuit Too Late
The statute of limitations in Florida for slip and fall claims is two years. That means you have two years from the date of your slip and fall injury to make a claim in court. If you do not file a lawsuit within those two years, the property owner is excused from all liability for your injuries sustained in a slip and fall.
There are exceptions to this law, however. Other circumstances may also toll the statute of limitations. Because determining the time limit for filing a premises liability or wrongful death lawsuit can be complicated, talk to an experienced attorney today.
Why You Need a Florida Slip and Fall Attorney Handling Your Case
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, having a lawyer on your side is essential. Insurance companies will do everything they can to pay out as little as possible, often offering lowball settlements that do not fairly compensate you for your injuries. When you hire a slip and fall accident attorney, you have someone who understands the laws and how to negotiate with insurance companies.
Your lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve, whether negotiating a fair settlement or taking your case to court. With a lawyer on your side, you can obtain significantly more money than you could on your own, and you can hold the property owner accountable for their negligence.
Contact Our Florida Slip and Fall Accident Lawyers
If you have recently experienced a slip and fall accident on a property in Florida, you must take action immediately to protect your rights and get the compensation you deserve. Don’t let the property owner or insurance companies take advantage of you by offering you an unfair settlement or denying liability for your injuries. Instead, take the first step towards justice by calling a slip and fall accident attorney at Prosper Shaked Accident Injury Attorneys PA.
Remember, time is of the essence after a slip and fall accident in Florida. Our skilled attorneys can guide you through the legal process and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Don’t suffer in silence. Call a slip and fall accident attorney today and take the first step toward justice. Call our law offices today at (305) 694-2676 or fill out our contact form.