Who is responsible for a slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall injury? - Neufeld, Kleinberg & Pinkiert, PA | a personal injury law firm
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Who is responsible for a slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall injury?

First – remember that just because a trip or slip leads to an injury – does not automatically mean that someone else should pay. In Florida, the injured party has the burden of proving that whoever was responsible for maintaining a safe area, was negligent.

That means you have to prove that the potential slip-and-fall defendant knew or should have known that some unsafe defect existed on their property and that they failed to take appropriate corrective action OR that they took some affirmative action which made their property unsafe. I saw a recent example of business’s actions actually causing the unsafe condition when they elected to cut corners and paint over cracks in their defective floor (using slippery paint that virtually eliminated traction, thus violating coefficient of friction code standards). Another example we recently encountered is when a restaurant-owner failed to dilute their cleaning solutions causing severe chemical burns when our client sat down on the restaurant’s toilet (this doesn’t fall into the slip-and-fall category per se, but under the general rubric of premises liability). Third is when a strip-mall management company removed stairwell railings for repair and failed to replace them.

Examples of typical slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall defendants include: property managers of an office complex, parking lot or common area; a business owner (e.g. Publix, Wal-Mart or a restaurant); or even a city or county (i.e. if you tripped on a rise in the sidewalk).

Defenses to slip/trip and falls include:

  1. The injured person was not watching where they were going…i.e. it was your own fault.
  2. The injured person was not wearing appropriate footwear (i.e. wearing rubber-soled flip-flips in the rain makes it much more likely that you will slip-and-fall).
  3. The defective condition was open and obvious. I.e. you were not paying attention to something that you should have seen.
  4. A corollary to this is your prior experience. If you regularly go to a particular restaurant and have successfully navigated the step up the curb many times before tripping over it, then perhaps you were just particularly clumsy on this occasion.
  5. The defective condition was only created recently – therefore the premises had no opportunity to correct the problem. If you slip on a puddle of water in Winn-Dixie, you have to prove that the water was there long enough where a Winn-Dixie employee should have noticed and mopped up. If the customer in front of you spilled their bottle of water 10 seconds before you slipped in the puddle… that is not the store’s fault.

Tomorrow’s post will explain what to do immediately after a trip-and-fall or slip-and-fall accident.

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