Fort Lauderdale Slip and Fall Lawyer
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a slip and fall accident in Fort Lauderdale or anywhere in South Florida, or otherwise been injured while on another’s property, you should contact Englander Peebles as soon as possible. We are experienced Fort Lauderdale Slip and Fall lawyers. A slip and fall injury is a kind of personal injury claim that is also known as a premises liability claim. Cases of this sort may arise if you suffer injuries due to a hazardous condition or situation on another person’s property.
Premises Liability in General
A premises liability claim involves the following necessary elements:
- an injured person (usually a customer or other invitee);
- an identifiable dangerous condition or situation that caused the injury;
- the property owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition; and
- the owner had a duty of care to either warn or remedy the hazardous condition.
Establishing the existence of the hazard is critically important to pursue a premises liability claim successfully. The dangerous condition on the property has to present an unreasonable risk of injury to the individual. Additionally, there has to be a causal link between the dangerous condition and the injury suffered by the claimant. Therefore, the injury needs to be consistent with the condition presented, which at times requires that some objective standard of care be applied to the situation to control the facts and the circumstances.
Slips and falls are very common types of premises liability cases, which usually involves customers in commercial establishments who suffer a fall while present there and are injured as a result. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), falls are the top non-vehicular cause of accidental fatalities in the United States. The CPSC reports that falls can account for 9 percent of all accidental fatalities and 33 percent of all accident-related hospitalizations. 21 percent of people injured by falls did not get any hospital treatment. These basic injury statistics have stayed consistent throughout the years. The CPSC ranks the frequency of accidental injuries, from the most frequent to the least frequent, as follows: automobile accidents, falls, deadly firearms, poisoning, fire injuries, and drowning. Additionally, falls are the number one cause of accidental fatalities among the elderly.
Falls are common at in public places, commercial establishments, at home, and at work. A fall may occur at a restaurant, a grocery store, in the bathtub at a hotel, or at a construction worksite. Various possible factors may contribute to the likelihood of a fall, including inadequate warnings, poorly-constructed and planned walkways, inadequate handrails, or slippery floors due to poor materials or foreign substances.
Traction and Surfaces with Contaminants
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has conducted extensive studies on the causes of slip and fall accidents. ASTM’s research suggests that slip and fall accidents take place when the traction between the walking surface and the individual’s foot fails or is insufficient. A slip and fall accident primarily occurs when there is a breakdown between the interaction of an individual’s shoes and the walking surface. The large majority of slip and falls occur because of a slippery surface with foreign substances such as oil, water, grease, cleaning solution, floor wax, etc.
More recently, a new area of expert witness testimony surrounding slip resistance has grown in slip and fall cases. ASTM defines slip resistance as the comparative force which reduces the tendency of the foot or shoe to slide on a walkway surface, with or without a contaminant. In all situations, slip resistance may be affected by the following variables:
a. the floor material and the finish on the surface;
b. the material and texture on the bottom of the shoe;
c. the presence of any surface contaminants; and
d. the walker’s stride or gait.
The ASTM considers a walkway to be slip resistant if it has enough resistance to minimize the likelihood that pedestrians using reasonable care will slip on the walking surface under normal conditions of use. Particular circumstances and situations may increase the probability that a slip occurs. Before a fall takes place, the pedestrian controls what kind of footwear he or she will wear and the quality of the gait or stride. The owner or occupier of the property, on the other hand, will be responsible for the kind of flooring, the kind of finish on the flooring, and ensuring proper maintenance of the walking surface, the kind of finish on the floor, and ensuring proper maintenance of the floor. The property owner must also facilitate removal of any surface contaminants that may contribute or directly cause slip and fall accidents.
Open and Obvious Dangerous Conditions
In Florida, property owners must maintain their properties reasonably safe for invitees, and that even if an unsafe condition is open and obvious, a claimant may still be able to recover compensation for injuries because owners still have a duty in such circumstances. An open and obvious danger will only relieve the property owner of his or her duty to warn invitees into the property.
Evidence of Prior Incidents
Courts in Florida will allow claimants to demonstrate a history of slips and falls in the same location as the injury as evidence of a property owner’s negligence. The parties in such cases are allowed to collect evidence regarding previous falls in the area where the claimant suffered injuries. Normally, incident reports that are prepared specifically for anticipated litigation are not discoverable in a separate matter. However, the people who prepared those reports may be required to produce the information contained therein through interrogatories. That information may be used by the court to establish that the owner had notice of the hazardous condition and allowed it to remain even after others had suffered injuries there.
Common Slip and Fall Hazards
There are certain types of materials that may be common causes of various slip and fall accidents. Commonly-accepted dangerous flooring materials include marble, many types of finished or polished tile, and terrazzo. These types of floors may be slippery even when they are dry. Commercial establishments often use these materials in high-traffic areas like restaurant and mall entrances, airports, bathrooms, etc. For example, terrazzo can be a very dangerous surface for floors because its slip resistance is very low, even when dry. Other types of dangerous materials include ramp or floor paints that property owners often put on crosswalks, sidewalks, and disabled parking spaces. To increase their slip resistance, property owners should ensure that painted walkways have proper texturing by applying an abrasive additive or by adding cross-cut grooving to such walkways, particularly where they can reasonably foresee that these walkways may become wet and rendered dangerous. These painted walkways can become as slippery as ice when wet without such measures, and they may be held liable for injuries that stem from the hazard.
After installation, owners should ensure proper floor maintenance as well. There are particular kinds of waxes, floor finishes, cleaning fluids, and polymers that may contribute to very slippery conditions on the floor. Additionally, certain cleaning techniques may also play a factor in contributing to or creating the likelihood of a slip and fall accident. Consulting with safety professionals may help owners figure out if walkway paints, coverings, and cleaning materials and techniques alter the slip resistance of a walkway to unsafe levels.
Dangerous Conditions in Parking Lots
Safety experts have opined that property owners may ensure safety in parking lots by trying to design them without speed bumps. If such features do exist, particularly in pedestrian paths or walkways, experts recommend that the walkway is transitioned through a ramp to avoid injuries because of the speed bumps. Additionally, owners should clearly mark those bumps with contrasting color coding for the sake of pedestrians and that owners should place caution signage for sufficient warning. Finally, if such speed bumps are painted, they must be made more slip resistant.
Experts also indicate that parking lots may be made safer by reducing the need for wheel stops. If they are necessary, owners should ensure that wheel stops are not located in areas that are likely to be used as pedestrian walkways. Owners should use concrete, not landscape timbers, in constructing wheel stops, as well as paint them to contrast them from the surrounding area. Experts recommend that wheel stops be no longer than six feet in length and six and a half inches higher than the surface of the parking area. Additionally, experts state that there should be three feet of distance for pedestrian walkways between wheel stops. Finally, parking lots should have sufficient lighting or illumination so that pedestrians can see the wheel stops and avoid falling.
For safety, owners should maintain interior walkways free of hazardous conditions. For example, if the owner installs carpet, the carpet must be secured firmly, and its seams must be tightly maintained. The owner should ensure that the carpet has no loose or frayed edges, worn areas, wrinkles, holes, or other hazards that can cause slips and falls. Shag-type carpets can be particularly dangerous in stairways. Owners should regularly inspect carpets that exist on the property.
Owners should ensure that building entrances have mats, runners, or other measures to help remove transitory foreign substances from the shoes of pedestrians who enter therein. Rain, snow, and other inclement weather may cause interior walkways to become slippery, and runners and mats may help ensure that walkways remain dry despite high traffic from people who may track in water. Such runners and mats should be properly designed and have enough surface area to be effective in reducing the tracking of water and prevent making floors more slippery.
Finally, owners have to ensure that all walkways, inside or outside, are sufficiently lighted or illuminated. Such proper illumination has to be free from glare and be designed to minimize the existence of shadows that reduce visibility. The International Building Code prescribes standards for minimum lighting conditions.
Changes in Walkway Levels
Owners should ensure that adjacent walkways are in level with each other. The ASTM requires new construction and existing buildings to meet this requirement. Where adjacent walkway surfaces connect, the ASTM states that if there is a change in level more than half an inch, owners have to place ramps or stairways to make the transition safer. If the change in level is less than half an inch but more than a quarter of an inch, then the owner must level the difference between the surfaces. Finally, if the change in level is less than a quarter of an inch, the owner need not make any changes or implement additional measures.
Owners have to facilitate foot traffic that is free from unnecessary obstacles and impediments. To do so, experts recommend they study the behavior of those that enter the property and determine where individuals tend to walk and how they walk in that area. Then, the owner can implement whatever measures are necessary to ensure safety.
Contact Fort Lauderdale Slip and Fall Lawyer Gary Englander Today
If you have suffered injuries while present on the property of others, the owner may be held liable for such injuries and other damages sustained by his or her failure to maintain the property reasonably safe from dangerous conditions. They may have to provide compensation for slip and fall accidents to include, but not limited to, lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering. You should meet and consult with a knowledgeable Fort Lauderdale Slip and Fall Attorney as soon as possible. We are experienced slip and fall attorneys who routinely handles slip and fall cases in Fort Lauderdale. He can review the evidence in your case and help you determine whether you have a claim. Claimants should consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible after a slip and fall to help preserve evidence, such as video surveillance. Contact Englander Peebles at (954) 500-4878 or through our online form today to schedule your free initial consultation.