What is “premises liability”?  Generally speaking this term of art refers to the liability of a property owner when an individual is injured b/c of some negligence of the property owner.  A lot of adjusters and attorneys also refer to these cases as “slip and falls” b/c the vast majority of them involve someone falling and hurting themselves. Some examples of premises liability include but are not limited to a slippery surface, broken, cracked or uneven floors or sidewalks, inadequate lighting, failure to install a railing when it is required by code and poorly maintained steps.

One common misconception we hear from our clients is the belief that if you fall and injure yourself at Wal-Mart, then Wal-Mart is automatically liable.  This is not the case. If you fall because are not paying attention and lose your footing, Wal-Mart has no responsibility.  Before you can hold the store owner liable you must show they have been negligent in the way they maintained their property.  Generally, property owners have a duty to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition A more expansive list of property owner duties is set forth below:.

  • Maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition
  • To Inspect for hazards or dangerous conditions
  • To Repair any dangerous condition
  • To Warn of any dangerous conditions

The Florida premises liability law changed on April 14, 2010 when the Florida Governor signed new legislation. This legislation repealed Florida Statute Section 768.0710.  Florida Statute Section 768.0755 provides the following:

  • The injured party has responsibility of proving the premises owner/occupant had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous situation
  • Constructive knowledge can be shown circumstantially as follows:
    • The condition was present for a length of time longer than a reasonable property owner should have taken to correct the condition; or
    • The condition occurs often, such as a soda fountain that periodically leaks but doesn’t get repaired.

Premises liability cases are hard to prove.  With an automobile accident a police officer shows up, charges the offending party, writes a report, draws a diagram, lists witness names, address and telephone number etc.  In 99% of premises cases, there is no police report, no one is charged, the injured party doesn’t think to get witness names, there is no report…I think you see how they can be extremely difficult to prove.  In closing I urge you to review the 5 essential to do’s if you are injured as a result of a slip and fall.

Five To do’s if you are injured on someone’s property

  1.  Take Pictures – Back before cell phones had cameras I had a client who after falling in a 7-11, was level headed enough to think to purchase a “throw away” camera at that store and take pictures of the “wet area”. Those pictures were instrumental in settling his case.  If you should find yourself in a situation where you suffer injury on someone’s property, I urge you to use your cell phone camera to take pictures of the condition that caused the fall.
  2. Get witness names and phone numbers.
  3. Ask for the store manager to write a report and give you a copy.
  4. DO NOT admit fault.
  5. Seek Treatment – If you are unsure whether you are injured go directly to the hospital