Slip and Fall Accidents Attorneys in Tallahassee, Florida
You’re out shopping one weekend and suddenly you step into a wet spot on the floor, slip, fall, and end up being treated for neck, back, and head injuries. Who’s going to pay for your medical and other expenses, including any time lost from work?
If you point to the store owner/manager as the responsible party, file a claim against that person’s liability insurance, or even go so far as to file a personal injury lawsuit, you may be wondering something important. What are your odds of prevailing?
Your claim or legal action would fall under the concept of premises liability, which holds owners, operators, managers – whoever is overseeing the property’s safety conditions – responsible for accidents and incidents that should be discovered and rectified, or at least roped off with danger signs.
However, other factors can come into play, such as the reasonableness of knowing an unsafe factor existed. In the above example, had someone just moments before knocked over a bottle of detergent, or other substance that made the floor slippery, it might not be reasonable for the owner to have discovered and corrected the situation so quickly.
Another factor is your own involvement. Did you overlook signs that danger lay ahead or act carelessly? In this case, you could be held partially liable, or even in some cases totally liable.
If you or a loved one has been injured on someone else’s property, whether a store, a neighbor’s home, or even a public venue in or around Tallahassee, Florida, contact the personal injury attorneys at Larry K White, LLC. We have more than four decades of combined experience in helping injured individuals recover the compensation owed to them.
Larry K White, LLC also proudly serves clients in Gadsden County, Gainesville, Jacksonville, and Monticello County.
What Is Premises Liability?
In addition to the example above of a slip-and-fall incident, accidents and injuries can occur in a variety of sites and under a variety of circumstances, and such injuries fall under the concept of premises liability. In other words, it is the duty of the owner/operator of the property to maintain it safely. Slips and falls, which seem to be the most ubiquitous of all accidents, can also result from torn or loose carpet, extension cords, and defective thresholds or staircases.
If you’re shopping, an object from above may dislodge and hit you on the head. If you’re in another person’s home, a dog attack/bite is also a premises liability issue, as would any other accident occurring in the home. If you’re injured in a government building, somewhat different rules apply, so you need to confer with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney.
The standard for recovering compensation for an accident or incident is that the owner/operator knew or should have known of the dangerous condition and then was negligent in correcting it or sealing it off. Again, the standard of reasonableness mentioned above also figures in. If it proves unreasonable that the owner/operator could have known of – and taken care of – the looming hazard, then your negligence claim may be harder to prove.
Was Your Presence on the Property Covered?
Another issue to consider is whether you were on the property legally when you were injured. The law recognizes three types of visitors to any structure:
Invitees: If you run a business with open doors, then any person shopping in your store is an invitee and entitled to full rights for compensation for any injuries suffered. The same holds true if you invite friends over for dinner. They’re invitees with full rights.
Licensees: This class of people is still on your property legally, but they have been granted access for an agreed-upon purpose. Say you contract with an air conditioning repairman to fix your AC, and he or she drifts off to a part of your property not related to the AC unit, they could lose their premises liability protection depending on the circumstances. The owner/operator still must warn them of any dangers, however. A licensee is also someone who enters a business for other than a business purpose, for instance, just to use the restroom.
Trespassers: If you’re on someone’s property without permission – in other words, trespassing – then you most likely will lose all rights to compensation unless the owner/operator willfully injures you. Kids who stray onto your property are exempt from trespassing laws.
Proving Liability and the Statute of Limitations
As spelled out above, the elements of a successful claim or lawsuit award for a premises liability accident/injury are:
Proving the defendant owned or operated the property where the injuries occurred
Proving the owner should have known or did know that a hazardous condition existed
Proving the owner/operator through negligence failed to safeguard visitors
Proving as a result of the owner/operator’s negligence, you sustained injuries.
Note that you have two options in seeking compensation. The first is through the owner’s property or liability insurance, and the other is through a personal injury lawsuit. An insurance company requires prompt notification of claims, so if you don’t report an accident in a timely fashion, they can invoke a timely report clause and seek to close the claim.
A lawsuit, which can follow on the heels of unsuccessful negotiations with the insurance company, has a four-year statute of limitations, so you must file your lawsuit within four years of the date of your injuries, or of their discovery if the injuries don’t show up until later.
Pure Comparative Negligence
Florida recognizes the legal concept of pure comparative negligence, which can be utilized both by insurance adjusters and by juries in civil lawsuits. This standard holds that both parties to an accident may share responsibility. For instance, if you were busy texting on your phone when you slipped on something that you should’ve otherwise noticed, you can be held partially liable, say 30 percent.
Your 30 percent stake in negligence will thus reduce any compensation awarded to you by the same percentage. If the insurance adjuster or jury awards you $20,000, you’ll get only 70 percent of that amount, or $14,000 -- $20,000 minus 30 percent for your part.
As you can see, a slip-and-fall injury, or other injury based on premises liability, can pose challenges the average person probably won’t be familiar with. If you make a claim against the owner/operator’s property or liability coverage, you’re going to have to deal with a claim adjuster, who will do everything to try to get you to admit to some fault so your compensation can be reduced, or even denied.
Insurance companies also use other tactics to stall and draw everything out till you reach the end of your wits. Then they’ll offer you a low-ball settlement. Don’t fall for it. Involve an experienced personal injury attorney from the beginning.
Slip & Fall Accidents Attorneys
Serving Tallahassee, Florida
If you or a loved one has been injured in a slip and fall or other accident in or around Tallahassee, Florida, contact the personal injury attorneys at Larry K White, LLC immediately. We can help you file your claim, negotiate with the claim adjusters, and take everything to court if need be. While you recover, let us handle your claim.