When you are hurt in a fall at a business location or on any kind of commercial property (i.e. a restaurant, a movie theater, a grocery store, a big box store, the bank, your child’s school, a car dealership, the local pizza joint, etc.), then you may have a “slip and fall” claim against those who own and/or operate that business and those who are responsible for keeping the premises safe for customers, clients, patrons, and guests.
The minute you cross their property line, that business has a duty of care to keep you safe from harm. If someone falls in the entryway because the business failed, for example, to have a mat on the floor when it was raining outside or the mat was old and worn, then that business may be legally liable for compensating a victim for their resulting injuries.
In Florida, there are many types and styles of entryways where a slip and fall can occur; plush lobbies that welcome hotel guests or patrons of the many restaurants; movie lobbies; dentists’ offices and doctors’ clinics will have entryways, too, as do many other establishments we visit during our daily lives: entries to the supermarket; the school’s administrative offices; the shopping mall.
Businesses Owe a Duty of Care To Their Invitees
This isn’t news to business – that customers are owed a duty of care; it is part of the responsibility of doing business. Most business owners have premises liability insurance policies to cover them for any liability resulting from their negligent actions or inactions.
A slip and fall accident in an entryway is something that the business has foreseen and must try to prevent from them from occurring.
Under Florida’s “premises liability law,” any business that invites people onto its property has a duty to take reasonable steps to keep its customers safe from harm while on the premises. If the business establishment fails to meet this duty of care to the customer, it can be considered “negligent” and legally liable for all the financial and non-financial damages suffered by the accident victim.
Enter the insurance company. Because there are laws in place that make the businesses liable for injuries resulting from falls if the business was negligent, there are liability insurance policies available to cover that risk.
Insurance Companies Helping Their Business Customers
As insurance companies pay accident victims by way of a settlement or a trial, it is the insurance company’s money that is at risk. Thus, insurance companies work with their policyholders to educate them on what preventative measures could be taken to avoid or lessen the risk of an injury resulting from negligence of the business establishment.
For slip and fall accident victims, this means a review of the online “risk manuals” compiled by these business insurers can be very helpful in assessing their accident and injuries and determining whether there is a likelihood of obtaining a settlement. Again, if the business failed to act as a reasonable and prudent business at the time of the accident, then it can be held liable for its negligence and required to compensate the victim for his or her injuries. This does not mean that the business operator is liable for every incident resulting in injury which occurs on the premises.
Insurance Company Risk Manuals
If you are hurt from falling down in an entryway to a business in South Florida, then do you have a negligence/ premises liability claim against those who own the property or operate that business? The answer is a “definite” MAYBE. If the business failed to take reasonable precautions to keep one safe, then there is an argument that there was negligence.
For instance, from Zurich, comes the following warning to its policyholders: slip and fall accidents make up 14% of the total claims that Zurich has to pay on business premises accident claims. For this reason, Zurich works with its customers to try and prevent these slip and fall (and trip and fall) accidents from happening in the first place.
Zurich considers its risk plan a “comprehensive program” designed to “address the problem from all angles”. Read more in its “Risk Management Guide To Slips, Trips And Falls.” (Note: that comprehensive plan also includes how to deal with a claim after the accident has happened to try and limit exposure and financial liability.)
Did the Business Act Reasonably In Trying To Prevent Your Entryway Slip and Fall?
In reviewing these risk manuals online, as well as others, here are some questions that a victim of an entryway slip and fall accident at a South Florida business may want to consider (and bring to the attention of the insurance adjuster when trying to convince him or her their policy holder was negligent):
- Where did you fall, was it before you entered the building’s interior? If so, was the entryway providing you protection from bad weather — like rain or hail? Was there an awning or a roof-line to help protect against bad weather?
- How many entries were provided by the business? Were they all available to you or were some blocked off from use? If so, why?
- Was it raining, or had it rained recently, at the time of your accident in the entryway? Did you have an umbrella at the time? Was it open or shut? Did the business provide customers with a place to shake out or store a wet umbrella?
- What about the flooring of the entryway, what was it made of? Was it a floor surface that was prone to being slippery when it rained, like marble or linoleum? Were there any protections against slipping on a wet floor, like slip-resistant materials for the entryway, or maybe grooving or texturing of the floor’s surface?
- What about floor mats? Where there any floor mats on the entryway at the time of your accident?
- If so, where were they? What condition were they in — were they raggedy or new, did the ends lay flat on the floor or did the corners roll up?
- Did you slip on the floor mat? Why? How?
- Were there any warning signs that the floor was wet or slippery at the time of your accident?
- Were there any holes in the floor of the entryway? Were there any cracks or broken tiles?
- What about drainage for the entryway, was there any kind of grid or grate to allow for draining off of liquids like standing rain water or puddles?
- How often did employees come to clean the entryway? What was their standard operating procedure here? Did they try and mop and sweep during times when there was low foot traffic in the entryway?
- What documentation was provided to the employees on keeping the entryway clean and neat? You need to read this and maybe ask for a copy.
- Is the entire entry covered in carpet? If not, what other materials are used: marble, wood, concrete, vinyl? Why was this design chosen? Bad design of the entryway can result in a dangerous condition and an invitation to slip and fall accidents, even if the designer believes the concept is beautiful or trendy.
- If the entire entryway is carpeted, then was the carpet fully laid down, or were they bumps or waves in it? Did it have fraying edges or gaps or threadbare sections where heavy foot traffic had taken its toll on the carpet nap?
- Have there been other accidents where people have fallen in the entryway? What measures were taken by the business to try and keep future accidents from happening after that?
What about handrails? Were there any in the entryway?
- If so, where were these handrails? Were they securely fastened to the wall? Were they at the proper height so someone could easily grasp them as they walked along? What was the condition of the handrails at the time of the slip and fall: were they secure on the wall, were they slippery from over-use or from sticky hands?
- What about the lighting? Was it hard to see where you were going in the entryway? Were there light fixtures with burnt out bulbs?
- Did the design of the entryway create a romantic ambiance that resulted in a dangerous condition where you couldn’t see to safely walk across it?
- How often is the place mopped and swept? Did you trip and fall over trash or debris (leaves, etc.) in the entryway?
- When was the last time that someone worked on repairing or maintaining the entryway? Who were the contractors involved here? Get their names and addresses. Did they make any suggestions to the owner or operator on how to make the entryway safer? Were these suggestions followed?
- If it was raining, did the business put out special absorbent mats designed to help collect the rain water and keep the entryway from becoming slippery from rain water collecting on its surface?
- If so, were these absorbent mats designed for this purpose or just something the business pulled out in a pinch, like throw rugs or towels? Did these absorbent mats have drainage holes to allow the rain water to move out of the traffic path?
- Were these absorbent mats at least 6 feet long, the minimum industry standard for absorbent mats to be able to dry footwear?
Did these absorbent mats lie flat? Did you trip and fall on the mat?
- If the entryway is made of a variety of materials, then how do they transition? Is it a smooth surface, carpet to tile, etc.? Is there a gap where a heel or the tip of a cane could get caught and cause a fall?
- Is there an uneven foot surface? Can you see where the transition happens, or is it hard to determine when you will leave a carpeted area and start walking on a more slippery concrete or tile floor?
- Does the entryway have stairs? Is there a ramp alternative? If not, is the business failing to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act?
- What was the condition of the stairs to the entryway, were they in good repair and condition? Were they weak or rickety? Did you fall on the entryway stairs?
- Was any entryway stair surface wet from rain, or oil, or a spilled drink or liquid? Did you slip on that wet stair?
- Was there any warning to avoid using the entryway stairs because they were in need or repair or because of a wet surface?
- What was the condition of the stair rails to the entryway stairs or steps? Was it broken or flawed? Did it contribute to your fall?
Insurance companies advise their policy holders to take steps to protect against these kinds of slip and fall accidents, and the entryway should be safe for customers even if there is a sudden Florida rain storm. Policy holders are advised to do things like “…maintain your property and buildings to reduce potential slip, trip and fall hazards. All flooring surfaces should be well maintained at all times. Areas such as walkways, aisles, and passageways are of special concern due to the high volume of traffic they receive.”
Given the circumstances surrounding your slip and fall accident in the business’ entryway, do you believe that they complied with these warnings given by this insurer? If not, then can you document with facts and evidence that the business has failed to act reasonably in trying to prevent your fall in their entryway?
Do You Have a Slip and Fall Accident Damages Claim Against a Business for a Fall in its Entryway?
If you or a loved one have been the victim of a slip and fall accident that happened in the entryway of a business here in South Florida, then you may want to investigate possible legal claims against the owner and operator of that business with an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer.
If the business failed to act reasonably to prevent your slip and fall, it can be found negligent under Florida premises liability law and legally liable to pay the damages that have resulted from your slip and fall accident, including pain and suffering, medical costs, lost wages, and more.
A good piece of advice if you or a loved one has been injured in a slip and fall, is to at least speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer 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, 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.