Anyone who owns property that is open to visitors is responsible for ensuring that their property is reasonably safe and that hazards are either addressed or mitigated by posted warnings. This is true for homeowners, but is especially relevant when it comes to commercial property like stores, hotels and restaurants. This area of law is known as premises liability.
One of the most common ways to get hurt on private property is in a slip-and-fall accident. Below are some considerations for when the property owner might be held liable for someone’s injuries.
Aspects of an injury claim
Liability for a slip-and-fall comes down to the details of the hazard and the resulting accident. To successfully hold the property owner liable, you may need to show that:
- You were legally on the property at the time of the accident (not trespassing)
- A slip-and-fall hazard existed that the property owner knew about or should have known about
- The hazard was not adequately addressed within a reasonable amount of time
- You were injured as a result of the hazard
- You suffered damages (physical, financial, etc.) related to the accident and your injuries
Timing and knowledge of a hazard are very important elements. If a customer spills something in a grocery store and another customer immediately slips on it, the property owner typically wouldn’t be deemed responsible. If the spill had been there for several hours before the accident, however, that is a much different story.
Assigning fault for the accident and injuries
Accidents are not always one-sided. In many cases, victims bear at least a modicum of responsibility for their injuries. Thankfully, shared fault doesn’t prevent you from being eligible for compensation in a slip-and-fall lawsuit. Instead, a percentage of fault will be assigned to you, and if you win your case, your total award will be reduced by your assigned percentage of fault.
If you suffered a slip-and-fall in a grocery store due to a freshly mopped floor with no sign posted, you would likely have an actionable case. But if you were busy looking at your phone just before the accident, a jury might find you 10 percent at fault and reduce your award accordingly.
How much time do you have to file a lawsuit?
For most personal injury cases in Florida, including slip-and-falls, the statute of limitations is four years from the date of injury. This is generous when you consider that many states have a statute of limitations lasting just two years.
As for the timing within that four-year window, many victims file within six months to a year. You need to wait long enough to uncover the full extent of your injuries, but not wait so long that memories fade and evidence gets lost.
Slip-and-falls can be devastating – know your options
At best, a slip-and-fall can be a little embarrassing or result in some light bruising. But the outcome can also be much worse, including traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and broken bones. When the damage is bad enough to cause significant injury and steep medical bills, it may be time to consider all of your compensation options.