Proving Your Florida Parking Lot Slip, Trip and Fall Claim

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Last Update: 5/22/18

Parking lots can be a dangerous place where people suffer serious injuries with long-term consequences, including the permanent impairment of a body part. Often times, victims of these slip and fall accidents have to deal with issues like long term pain and suffering, extended physical therapy, lost wages from being off work as they recover from an injury to a shoulder, ankle, wrist, or hand.

When someone is hurt in a parking lot, in order to evaluate the viability of a personal injury claim, one of the first issues to examine is whether or not the owner or operator of that parking lot was negligent and did that negligence lead to the victim’s injuries. There are many conditions that can cause a parking lot slip and fall accident, such as:

  • Trash and debris,
  • cracks in the pavement,
  • cracks in the concrete,
  • curbs,
  • speed bumps,
  • broken wheel stops,
  • unpainted surfaces,
  • slippery surfaces from rain, or
  • concrete barriers.

What Proof Do You Need For Your Parking Lot Accident Claim?

In a parking lot injury case, a victim should gather facts from witnesses, request copies of any video surveillance, request a copy of any incident report, obtain a copy of any paramedic or medical provider report(s), as well as requesting documents about past similar accidents in that parking lot in order to prove a claim and show the owner was negligent (if the owner does not want to provide this information after receiving a formal request, a lawyer can file a trip and fall lawsuit and ask the Judge for an Order compelling the owner to provide this information).

The formal legal process of “discovery” may be needed in order for the victim to be able to meet the evidence burden for a slip and fall.  Discovery in a personal injury lawsuit can include requesting the production of maintenance logs or having the owner answer questions in a deposition about past slip and fall accidents.

Additionally, a victim will likely want to explore how the owner fulfilled its duty of care owed to invitees by requesting evidence, for example, about the owner’s procedures for checking for dangerous conditions on their property.

**QUICK FACT: A parking lot slip and fall victim has 4 years from the date of the fall to file a lawsuit in Florida.

What is the Duty of Care owed to parking lot slip and fall victim?

The owner of the parking lot has the following two duties to its business invitees:

(1) to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition;
(2) to give warning of concealed perils.

See – Burton v. MDC PGA Plaza Corp., 78 So.3d 732, 734 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012)

If, for example, there is a crack in the parking lot asphalt from the scorching heat of the Florida sun, or there is a slippery sidewalk surface from a recent rain, then the owner has a duty of care to the people using its parking lot to protect or to warn them about these dangers (which can include the use of warning signs or yellow warning tape).

How Can Design Impact A Parking Lot Slip And Fall?

There are many ways a parking lot’s poor design can contribute to a slip and fall or trip and fall, including:

  • Speed bumps can cause shopping carts to overturn, as well as create a tripping hazard for pedestrians if it is not painted an attention-grabbing color such as bright yellow or orange.
  • Painted end islands may encourage people to park illegally, which may obstruct the view of pedestrians and drivers.
  • Lack of pedestrian signing and crosswalks may cause pedestrians to jay walk in areas where there may be puddles, pot holes,  and other tripping hazards.
  • Raised/curbed end islands are one of the most common tripping hazards here in South Florida. Parking lot owners may prevent this by painting the curb a bright color to direct the attention of the pedestrian.
  • Wheelchair accessible ramps which create a raised edge on the sides can create a tripping hazard to pedestrians. This may be prevented by building ramps with slopes on all sides. Additionally, if a slip-resistant paint wasn’t used, then slip and falls are more likely to occur (especially on rainy days.)
  • Wheelstops/parking blocks may create a tripping hazard if they are not painted a bright color, or are too high to step over.

In addition, it is the parking lot owners duty of care to provide adequate lighting in the parking lots. Inadequate lighting can cause pedestrians to miss a pothole on the floor, puddle, crack on the sidewalk, raised curb, etc.

How Does The Owner’s Knowledge Of A Dangerous Condition Impact A Parking Lot Injury Claim?

Under Florida law, before the owner or operator of the Florida parking lot can be held liable for a victim’s injuries, the injury victim has the burden to prove negligence by showing that the owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition that led to the victim’s injuries.  This is done by providing admissible evidence of negligence like witness testimony, video surveillance, cell phone footage and other widely accepted evidence.

Read: Documentary Evidence in Florida Personal Injury Cases

Can an accident victim prevail with a claim even when the dangerous condition is obvious?

A parking lot owner will likely challenge a victim’s claim based upon arguments like the one successfully made by a Tires Plus store in Dampier v. Morgan Tire & Auto, LLC, where a business invitee fell over a tree stump as he walked across a planting bed next to the store’s parking lot. In that slip and fall lawsuit, the injured person failed to prove his case because the court held that “… some conditions are so obvious and not inherently dangerous that they can be said, as a matter of law, not to constitute a dangerous condition, and will not give rise to liability due to the failure to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition.”

However, a parking lot victim can still succeed when there is an obvious danger. Consider the case of Cook v. Bay Area Renaissance Festival Of Largo, Inc., where Cynthia Cook went to a local festival and was directed by festival volunteers to park in an overflow parking lot, where an unpaved walkway connected the festival grounds and the lot. On her way back to her car, Mrs. Cook tripped and fell on an exposed pipe on the unpaved walkway, cutting her foot.

The pipe was in plain view and Cook had been told to watch out for the pipe by her husband. She sued and the court ruled in her favor, explaining that even if the pipe was easily seen by the accident victim, the defendant could still be liable for failing “to exercise reasonable care to prevent a foreseeable injury” of an invitee because the owner should have known that harm could result from the open and obvious danger.

How Do Slip And Fall Lawyers Add Value?

Most parking lots are open areas with high visibility with a lot of lighting and they are well maintained. When someone is hurt in a fall in a Florida parking lot, you can expect a vigorous defense by the owner of the parking lot claiming that the injured party is to blame for the accident. Having an experienced premises liability lawyer to help build a case in order to get the victim the compensation he or she deserves can be vital to a victim. An experienced attorney will  gather sufficient admissible evidence, know which experts to hire (i.e. lighting and traffic pattern experts), and know what type of economic and non-economic damages to seek. Additionally, a personal injury attorney knows how the insurance company typically responds to an injury claim, and will be able to properly and effectively defend the victim’s position. This can be the difference between winning and losing a case. Slip and fall cases are not the easiest cases to win, but this does not mean that justice should not prevail.

What Should You Do?

A good piece of advice if you have been harmed in a parking lot slip and fall, is to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim 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) to answer your questions.

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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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