You’re walking along in a store, shopping or running errands, and the next thing you know, you’re on the ground in excruciating pain. It all happened so fast that you’re not even sure what happened, you just know that you fell and you’re hurt. You’re embarrassed, hurting, and the only thing on your mind is getting up and making the pain stop.
This is often what we hear from clients that have been involved in a slip and fall accident. It always happens so fast, and they aren’t sure what to do afterwards. Hopefully this never happens to you, but unfortunately it is one of those things that just happens, and it can happen to anyone. If you do find yourself in this situation, there are a few things you may want to know about ahead of time.
In Florida, just because you slip and fall on someone else’s property doesn’t mean that they’re automatically liable for your injuries. Florida businesses aren’t required to keep their premises perfectly safe – that would be impossible. The Florida Legislature recognizes that and has written the law that applies to slips or trips and falls on “transitory foreign substances” in businesses at Florida Statutes §768.0555. A “transitory foreign substance” is just a legal term for some liquid or item that was temporarily in a place where it shouldn’t have been.
The law states that for a business to be liable for a slip and fall on a foreign substance, the person must be able to prove that the business knew about the substance or should have known about the substance if they were being reasonably careful. In other words, if you slip on a liquid that the business didn’t know about or couldn’t have reasonably known about, they are probably not responsible. On the other hand, if the business did know about the liquid, or if they should have known about it, they’re probably responsible.
Florida law gives us two ways that it can be proven that the business “should have known” about the substance. First, if the substance had been there for a long enough time that they should have discovered it, and second, if the problem occurred frequently in the past so that they should have known it was likely to happen again.
Proving that the substance had been there for a long enough time that the business should have discovered it can often be done by just observing it. For example, was it a liquid that had started drying? Was it a liquid that should normally be cold (milk, orange juice, etc.) that had turned warm? Did it have footprints in it showing that other people had previously walked through it? Was it sticky, dirty, smelly?
If you slip and fall on a substance in a store and you’re in pain, call for help, even if you don’t think you need it. The surprise and embarrassment of falling in public may make you want to get right up and hope that no one saw you fall, but your health is more important. An employee will most likely come and immediately clean up the liquid, erasing any evidence of the substance. If you’re with someone at the time, make sure they take photos or videos to preserve the evidence. If you’re alone and you’re able, take photos or videos. Try to use your senses to observe the situation, as this may be the only remaining evidence of the accident.
The experienced lawyers at The Fina Law Firm can help you to put the evidence together and to determine if the business is responsible for your injury. We can also find out through the legal process whether the business often had this same issue in the past, in which case they should have anticipated it and corrected the situation so that your accident could and should have been avoided.
We’re happy to walk you through the process and answer any questions you may have. If you’d like to set up a free consultation today, give us a call at 904-878-2379 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.