Do You Have a Slip and Fall Case?
We receive a great deal of e-mail and calls here at our Florida law offices, many of them having to do with people who have been hurt. While some cases seem to be cut and dried, there are others types of cases in which there are very broad grey areas. The cases that involve what is called “Premises Liability,” or “Slips and Falls,” can be very tricky.
Simply falling and injuring yourself is not enough to file a lawsuit. For instance, if you trip over your own feet and fall in the middle of a suburban street, there is nobody to blame except yourself. There are actually quite a few elements of the fall that must be considered before legal action can be decided on.
Premises liability is basically what it sounds like: It is the part of the law that holds the owners of premises responsible for the damages caused by certain types of injuries that occur on their property. But in quite a few cases, the law favors the owner of the premises. It is for that reason that you should discuss the particulars of your case with an attorney who has experience in premises liability cases.
Although each case is different, plaintiffs in premises liability cases basically fall into three different categories: The invitee, the licensee, and the trespasser. Each category is different, and each category has an important bearing on whether or not a premises liability case is valid.
The Invitee: An example of an invitee would be someone who walks into a place of business with the intention of shopping or transacting business. In other words, if the person who owns the premises makes money from people entering the property, any of those people are invitees. If you walk into Macy’s, Wal-Mart, a 7-11 or an Ikea, you are an invitee. That word is used to signify that the premises owner has opened his or her doors and has invited the public in to shop, fill up their gas tanks, etc. A premises owner should be extremely careful about the safety of everyone that comes on to the property for commercial purposes. This means that everything in the store should be safe. Every item on every shelf should be properly secured. The floors should be free of debris or should be clearly marked if it is wet. In many cases, the owner of the premises has a duty to periodically inspect the store to see there is no danger to the customers.
The Licensee: A licensee is different from an Invitee. Although the word sounds like it should have some commercial connotations, in terms of premises liability, it has none. A licensee is someone who is invited onto the premises for no commercial or business purposes whatsoever. If you invite your friends over to watch football and they accept your invitation, they are licensees. The rules regarding premises liability change a little bit here. Liability exists mainly when it can be proven that there is a danger on your property that you know about but have done nothing to fix, and that the injury happened to a licensee because you did not specifically tell them about the danger you knew was there.
That seems like a lot to take in, so here is an example. If all of your friends are coming downstairs to watch football, and you warn them about the step that doesn’t look broken but is in fact broken, then you have given them fair warning. If you don’t warn them and they all fall down the stairs as a result, you may be liable for any damages.
The Trespasser: If you have clearly posted signs saying that no one is allowed in, or if you have simply closed your business up for the night, then you have pretty much done all that you can. Trespassers are people who enter without invitation or really any legal right, so if a burglar trips and breaks his leg in the middle of your store, he won’t be able to sue you. But believe it or not, there are certain instances where trespassers have won premises liability cases, so it is best to discuss your case with an experienced trip and fall attorney.