When you fall and hurt yourself on someone else’s property, recovering compensation for your injuries can be a daunting process without the right legal help. Whether the fall occurred at a shopping mall, restaurant, grocery store or Orlando-area theme park, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to establish that the property owner’s negligence caused their injury. It helps to understand some of the most common defenses in slip and fall cases in Florida and how our team of experienced premises liability attorneys disprove them.
The plaintiff was to blame for the accident.
One of the most common defenses in slip and fall cases is referred to as comparative negligence. This defense reduces the amount of damages an injured plaintiff can receive in a personal injury case by the percentage of “blame” the injured person played in the accident. Florida is a comparative negligence state, which means that if a plaintiff is partially at fault for an accident in which they suffer harm, that person’s recovery of damages will be reduced in proportion.
Many states will operate under systems that bar the plaintiff from receiving damages if he or she played more than 50 percent in the cause for the accident. However, in Florida, you will receive some amount of compensation, even if you are found to be 99 percent to blame for the accident. It is for this reason that we always caution plaintiffs from sharing too much information regarding the accident on social media or making any statements at the scene of the accident that can indicate some level of blame.
The property owner was unaware of the dangerous condition.
A property owner may argue that he or she did not have enough knowledge of the hazard that led to the fall and subsequent injury. The question is, however, whether the hazard that led to your fall was something that should have been known by a reasonable property owner. Depending on whether you were invited on the property or were a trespasser, premises liability requires the property owner to ensure the property is free from unsafe conditions that would lead to an injury, including those that a reasonable property owner should know about. If you can argue that the condition that led to your fall was something that the property owner already was aware of or should have discovered through reasonable maintenance of the property, you will be able to successfully defeat this defense.
‘Reasonable steps’ were taken to prevent the fall.
Just because a person falls in a grocery store, restaurant or at a shopping mall, does not mean there is enough evidence to file a lawsuit. The plaintiff must prove that their injury was caused by the property owner’s negligence. Property owners are required to take only reasonable steps in protecting customers from harm.
The danger was obvious to a reasonable person.
Customers and individuals visiting a property have a duty of care to avoid obvious dangers. The ‘open and obvious doctrine’ can deflect liability when accidents and injuries are caused by a known hazard. This open and obvious defense would fail if the building where the injury occurred was not up to code, or there was inadequate lighting at the building entrances or in the parking garage, which attributed to the fall.
The claim was filed after the statute of limitations.
Another commonly used defense in slip and fall cases is to say that the claim was filed after the statute of limitations. Florida slip and fall cases must be filed within four years of the date of injury. If a claim is filed past that deadline, the injured person will be barred from filing a personal injury lawsuit to obtain compensation for their injuries and damages.
Businesses have a legal obligation to make sure their premises are free from harm and in a reasonably safe condition for customers and guests. Unfortunately, businesses and establishments sometimes neglect basic safety procedures which can lead to a slip and fall accident. If you are injured in a slip and fall accident it is important to seek immediate medical attention and consult with an experienced Orlando premises liability lawyer as soon as possible to ensure your legal rights are protected.