Posted By Alan Sackrin on December 15, 2016
Losing your footing on a wet floor can result in serious injuries. For some accident victims, these injuries can even be life-threatening (particularly if the victim is elderly). Still, insurance adjusters and defense lawyers will try to minimize these claims.
From a victim’s perspective, it’s difficult to understand why these claims aren’t always taken seriously especially when you look at the research about these accidents. For instance, according to the National Floor Safety Institute, research reveals the following regarding slip and fall accidents:
- Wet floor slip and falls can be fatal.
- Over 1,000,000 people will visit an emergency room each year because of injuries sustained in a slip and fall accident.
- Falls are the main reason that people visit the E.R.
- Slip and falls are the primary reason that people are sick and cannot come into work.
- Floors (and flooring materials) contribute directly to over 2 Million slip and fall accidents each year.
If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in a wet floor slip and fall in Florida, then you should know how our laws work to protect victims, including evidence requirements and compensation thresholds.
Whether you are negotiating your slip and fall accident claim directly with the insurance adjuster or you have hired a personal injury lawyer to help you get justice in the aftermath of your slip and fall, we are happy to provide you with the following information:
How Do You Prove The Floor Was Wet?
During a lawsuit, and even before a lawsuit is filed, it is the obligation of a slip and fall victim to prove with authenticated, admissible evidence that the floor was wet at the time of the incident. A demand for damages will need to explain (1) the circumstances of your fall and (2) why you believe your fall was caused by a wet substance on the floor.
How can you do either of these tasks? Evidence can include photos taken at the time of the accident, as well as witness statements describing the conditions. The store or business should have records of what happened (including video surveillance, which they do not like to share with victims). All of these can be used to support a claim. Similarly, police reports or EMT documentation may be helpful here as the responders will likely include a description of the floor surface in their reports.
Evidence here can include things like details regarding:
- wet clothing left on the floor;
- wet clothing dripping near the pool or spa;
- pooling and puddles after a thunderstorm;
- streaks on the floor surface;
- skid marks or wheel marks on the floor surface;
- foot prints on the floor surface; and
- any records that describe how the area was cleaned up (paper towels, mop) after the accident.
Proving How Long Was the Water on the Floor
Another issue in a wet floor slip-and-fall claim will be how long the liquid was on the floor. If the owner or operator delays in cleaning up a spill in the grocery store aisle or mopping a walkway after a rain shower, then that delay alone may be evidence of negligence.
Why? The business owner is legally required to know the condition of his or her business premises and has a duty to take steps to make sure things are safe for customers and guests (“invitees”). If there is a spill or accumulation of liquid on a floor surface, then the business has to fix that problem and protect people from harm.
However, there’s a reasonableness standard here. The law does allow the business some leeway, and the surrounding circumstances will be considered. A grocery store needs to keep its aisles clean, but it is not legally required to keep employees with mops on each aisle. The store has a duty to act prudently to watch over its premises for safety issues and when one is found, like a spill, to fix it promptly (acting prudently can include a regular maintenance schedule of checking for dangerous conditions – the store may maintain a log book to record these maintenance checks – during a lawsuit, you can ask to see the log).
Sources of the Wet Substance
There are all sorts of ways that a floor surface can become wet and dangerous. The location of the floor is one thing: indoors or outdoors, wet floors can cause slip and fall accidents.
Here in South Florida, rain and ocean spray are constant risks of a fall in all sorts of locations. Added to the physical location of the accident site are the varieties of operations that can be done there.
Different businesses have different wet floor slip and fall risks. Some of these include:
- Grocery store’s frozen food aisle has defrosting food;
- Melting ice cream in a convenience store aisle;
- Rain in the entryway to the doctor’s office building;
- Children spills in a fast food restaurant;
- Rain puddles in the stairwell of the college dorm parking garage;
- Sprinkler puddles in the parking lot of the condominium.
Businesses are aware of their duties to prevent and protect against accidents on their premises. Insurance carriers are also well-versed in how accidents can happen and work hard to educate their policy holders on how to minimize the risk of liability for an accident claim.
The efforts made to protect against slip and fall accidents due to a wet floor surface are dependent upon the area and location of the risk. However certain kinds of preventative measures will be undertaken in much the same way, indoors or outside, regardless of whether the danger lies in places like:
- Parking lots;
- Sidewalks or Walkways;
- Food and Drink Areas in Dorms, Restaurants, or Cafeterias;
- Showers or Bathrooms of Hotels and Resorts.
First, the business will probably set out warnings to anyone who might use the wet floor surface. It is commonplace to see wet floor signs near South Florida beachfront bars and hotel lobbies as well as local restaurants, shops, and office buildings.
These warnings are important. However, businesses need to do more than warn about a wet floor. They need to take steps, “preventative measures,” to protect against a slip and fall.
Preventative measures involve doing things to ensure there is good traction on the floors, even if the floors are wet. This can be done with grading into outdoor flooring, and with rubber stripping of indoor floor surfaces.
Another preventative measure used both inside and outdoors are anti-slip floor treatments. Here, the business places anti-stripping materials or anti-skid paint on the floor or even on the hotel bath tub or shower flower. These measures help provide traction even if there is a wet floor surface.
Preventative measures may also be floor mats placed indoors and outside to absorb any moisture that might otherwise accumulate on the floor surface. These can be placed permanently in the location, or the business may have “rain mats” or “storm mats” to use only in bad weather.
Locations Where These Falls Occur
In South Florida, our climate and locale invite wet floor surfaces, particularly for businesses that enjoy a close proximity to our beautiful ocean beaches. Sometimes, humidity alone can steam up a bar or restaurant and cause a wet floor condition.
This means that there are all sorts of places where the danger of a serious slip and fall on a wet floor surface exists here. Examples include:
- Entryways and exits (see, “30 Questions to Ask After an Entryway Slip and Fall”);
- Kitchens or cafeterias,
- Medical areas,
- Janitorial closets,
- Parking lots,
- Hotel pool or Hotel bathroom
- Gyms and fitness center locker rooms,
- Public Bathrooms (see our related article: How Do You Know If A Business Acted Reasonably In Trying To Prevent a Restroom Slip and Fall Accident?)
- and store aisles ( for more, read Grocery Store Slip and Fall – How to Prove Your Claim).
For an accident victim, the key here is to understand the duty of that business and its industry. Different businesses take different steps to protect against wet floor slip and fall accidents.
For instance, a grocery store has a duty to keep its aisles safe and free from spills by routinely checking for hazards. Similarly, anyone operating in the restaurant industry knows the need to keep kitchen floors safe by using special flooring mats, as well as to make sure that restaurant dining areas are safe for patrons.
Florida Statute – Transitory Substances
When there is a wet floor on a Florida business premise, then the owner and operator has a legal duty to warn its guests and clients that there is a dangerous condition by taking measures like displaying a “wet floor” sign.
However, the wet floor sign is only required if the business knew or should have known of the wet floor surface. These are complicated issues, controlled by Florida statute 768.0755.
If there is a lack of proper warning and someone falls on a wet floor, the failure to have a “wet floor” sign may be enough to establish the liability of the business owner. Each situation must be evaluated on its own individual facts.
For more information, read “I Slipped and Fell at the Store But There Was a Wet Floor Sign: Do I Have a Case? In Florida, Maybe.”
The legal basis for a business being at fault or responsible for paying an accident victim’s damages after a slip and fall accident on their wet floor is “negligence.”
Negligence involves a duty to the victim; and a breach by the business (which the victim has to prove); with the breach of duty causing the victim’s harm (which the victim has to prove).
In a wet floor slip and fall case, these negligence scenarios can involve all sorts of things, including:
- excessive amounts of wax or polish,
- treating one part of floor and leaving other parts untreated,
- failing to use proper floor treatment,
- not using a non-skid product,
- failing to close off an area where there is a wet or damp floor.
Common Injuries Resulting From a Wet Floor Slip and Fall Accident
When the business is found negligent, then what happens? They are responsible for compensating the victim and paying the costs and expenses resulting from the accident. These damages can include medical bills, rehab therapy, pain and suffering, lost wages, and loss of enjoyment of like, resulting from injuries like:
- Sprained, bruised, and/or torn muscles and ligaments,
- Fractured hands and wrists,
- Foot and toe injuries
- Head injuries,
- Hip injuries,
- Lacerations and cuts, and
- Ankle injuries (Read – Ankle Injuries in a Slip and Fall Accident: What Kind of Damages Can You Recover in a Florida Slip and Fall Claim?).
Additional Resources About Wet Floor Slip and Fall Accidents
If you want to learn more about slip and fall litigation in Florida, check out the following:
- Our discussion on Can Your Slip And Fall Claim Related To Water On The Floor Survive A Summary Judgment?
- Alan’s video, “What happens if I can’t prove how the water got on the floor in my slip and fall case?”
- Our Slip and Fall Table of Contents, which provides forms, pleading examples, and more.
Experienced slip and fall attorneys have seen all sorts of scenarios. It’s amazing how varied the circumstances can be to cause someone to slip and fall on a wet surface here in South Florida.
All too often, insurance adjusters dismiss these claims as minor or they outright deny responsibility for what has happened to the victim.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a slip and fall accident on a wet floor here in Florida and you have questions about dealing with an insurance adjuster, a good piece of advice is to speak with an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer to learn about some of the issues that can arise, including how most insurance companies respond to these claims and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person, whichever you prefer) to answer your questions.
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.
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