Slip and fall accidents can happen in a walkway or hallway in all sorts of places here in South Florida — from stores and office buildings to hotel lobbies, condo common areas, and restaurants. It is the responsibility of the property owner, property manager, or business owner to make sure that visitors are protected from known dangers and dangers they should have known about on their premises.
Still, accidents will happen. Slipping and falling in a walkway or hallway can result in serious injuries, resulting in the victim incurring medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and time off from work, as well as other financial loss and damage.
Must the victim bear all of these financial burdens? Not if there is evidence that the owner or operator was negligent for failing to maintain a safe hallway or walkway. Under Florida’s premises liability law, a tortfeasor (the party who was negligent) can be held responsible to compensate a victim for his or her damages.
Establishing a Negligence Claim For Your Slip and Fall
The key here, from the perspective of the injured slip and fall victim, is to establish with admissible evidence that the business failed to act reasonably in trying to prevent the victim’s accident.
Under Florida law, a slip-and-fall victim has the duty to establish the business or property owner was negligent.
How to do this? First of all, these businesses have specific regulatory requirements that they must meet regarding their walkways and hallways. For instance, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and the American Disability Act (ADA) are two federal laws that set certain standards for walkways and hallways that are accessible by the public. Federal law defines what is reasonable for some things like surface slip resistance for a public walking surface: if the walkway or hallway fails to have 0.5 static coefficient of friction, then the business may be held negligent based upon that failure to meet federal standards alone.
However, in most walkway and hallway slip-and-fall accidents in Florida, it will not be so easy to establish that the tortfeasor was negligent. Most reputable businesses know that they are required to comply with the OSHA and ADA regulations.
What are some steps an accident victim can take to prove or establish negligence in order to settle a claim? We suggest when discussing a claim with an insurance adjuster that the slip and fall victim point to the “risk manuals” published online by insurance carriers to prove that the business failed to act reasonably in trying to prevent the accident.
Insurance Company Risk Manual
No one has more vested interest in making sure that property or business owners take precautions and protect against accidents than the insurance companies that provide accident insurance for them. These insurance companies not only provide policies that will cover accident claims brought against their policyholders, they also advise their clients on what things they can and should be doing to protect against anyone getting hurt on their premises.
From their years of processing accident claims, as well as advising their customers and doing their research studies, companies like Travelers, Zurich, and Chubb understand very well what is, and what is NOT, negligence by a business owner or operator in a slip and fall accident.
Since they have shared some of these risk manuals and assessments with the public, it makes sense for a slip and fall victim to review these materials and apply them to their particular circumstances. After doing so, will an accident victim be able to confidently demand their claim be paid because someone was negligent in the repair or maintenance of the walkway or hallway where the accident occurred?
Consider the following:
1. The Flooring of the Walkway or Hallway
From a risk standpoint, there are two main areas to consider regarding flooring after a slip and fall accident: the walking surface design and how it was maintained. Walkways or hallways may be located indoors or outdoors. They may be found on the ground floor or high above, several floors up and overlooking a scenic swimming pool area. Each location needs to be inspected carefully for its own particular circumstances because each location will have its own unique hazards based upon the risks associated with its particular walking surface and its natural surroundings.
- Confirm the type of flooring of the walkway or hallway at the time of the accident. Was the flooring appropriate for outdoor use? Was it appropriate for indoor use?
- If the flooring was tile or marble, or another slippery surface, was it treated with a slip-resistance film?
- If the flooring was tile or marble, was it freshly mopped or waxed?
- If the flooring was polished marble, then was it treated with the appropriate non-slip coating?
- Was the floor made of wood? Was the wooden floor treated with a non-slip coating?
- When was the last time that the wood floor had been waxed?
- Was the floor carpeted? What kind of pile did it have?
- Was the carpet the right kind of carpet for this kind of walkway or hallway? Was it made for heavy-traffic areas? Was it appropriate for use indoors or out?
- Was there any need of repair for the hallway or walkway flooring in the past few months prior to the accident? If so, who did the repair? Get their name and address to check on why the repair was needed and what was done.
- Was the floor painted? What kind of paint was used? Was it slip-resistant paint?
- How about the condition of the floor itself. Was it free of any cracks or holes?
- Did the flooring have any slopes or depressions?
2. Floor Finishes of the Walkway or Hallway
How a floor is kept up and maintained is critical to safety. This is especially true for walkways and hallways since they are considered to be high-traffic areas. A floor’s finish must be ready to handle lots of foot traffic over a long period of time.
Here, slip-resistant materials are vital, as is the need to keep these areas free from hazards and obstacles at all times. Those personnel who are given the job of policing the hallways and walkways to make sure they are safe need to be trained and aware of the dangers inherent in loose trash on the floor, or what looks to be an innocent puddle after a rain storm.
- What is the coefficient of friction for the floor surface? Does it mean the federal standard of 0.5 or higher?
- Was there wax on the floor of the walkway or hallway at the time of the accident?
- Who applied the wax? How thick or thin was the coating?
- Was there a warning sign that the floor had been freshly waxed?
- Were the floors of the walkway or hallway buffed to a high sheen? Was the nonslip still wet when the accident happened?
- Who waxed the floor where the slip and fall occurred?
- Did they use a mop that was not oiled on a waxed floor?
- Were they trained in how to clean the floors so that they knew how to properly clean and finish the floors to minimize slipping?
- Were they knowledgeable in the floor treatments that were being used on the floors at the time of the accident?
Whenever a customer is faced with three or more steps up or down, then it is reasonable to expect that they will be provided with a handrail for support. These handrails may also be important in long hallways and public walkways for ease of use. Many hallways and walkways provide handrails to assist their customers.
- Did the walkway or hallway have a handrail?
- What materials were used to make the handrail? What materials were used to affix the handrail to the wall of the walkway or hallway?Do the handrails start at a minimum of 18 inches before the walkway or hallway begins to rise (elevation)?
- Do the handrails end at a minimum of 18 inches after the walkway or hallway no long rises (end of elevation)?
- How solid were the handrails attached to the walls at the time of the accident? Were they wobbly? Were they loose?
- Were they painted or otherwise visually noticeable? Could you easily spot that there was a handrail provided for your use?
Railings are vital to a passageway that opens to danger, particularly if the walkway or hallway opens to floors below (like a multi-level shopping center or condo tower as two examples). All too often, railings are taken for granted by businesses as they inspect their property for slip and fall dangers.
- Did the walkway or hallway have a railing?
- What materials were used to make the railing? What materials were used to affix the railing to the wall of the walkway or hallway?
- How solid were the railings attached to the walls at the time of the accident? Were they wobbly? Were they loose?
Dark hallways and walkways are invitations to a slip-and-fall accident. Visibility in a public passageway is vital. After an accident, the amount of direct and indirect light, as well as glare must be considered as contributing to a slip and fall injury.
- What kind of lighting was provided in the hallway or walkway? Were all the lights functioning properly?
- At the time of the accident, was the lighting adequate in the hallway or walkway? Sometimes, aesthetic design in a hotel or restaurant may call for low lights, but that low lighting can invite a slip-and-fall accident.
- Where were the lights located? Were they positioned so they didn’t blind you as you looked around at your surroundings?
6. Floor Mats, Trash Cans And Other Materials
Rugs, floor mats, plants in pots, sculptures, chairs, standing signs, trash bins, and many other things can be found in public walkways and hallways. These must be considered by the business when evaluating the safety of their hallways and walkways. Rugs and mats should be in good shape and lie flat on the floor. They should have a slip-resistant backing. Trash or debris on a walkway or hallway should be immediately removed. All too often, it’s not the structure of the walkway or hallway but other materials that are the cause of a slip-and-fall accident.
- What materials were located in the hallway or walkway at the time of your accident? Did they impede your movement?
- Was the hallway or walkway congested at the time of the accident? How?
- Were there obstructions in the hallway or walkway at the time of the accident? What were they?
- Were there any wires or electrical cords loose or on the floor of the hallway or walkway at the time of the accident?
- Were there any cover plates on the floor in the hallway or walkway at the time of the accident? Were they properly installed? Were they loose?
- Were there any rugs or mats in the hallway or walkway at the time of the fall? What kind were they? Were they frayed or torn? Did their corners turn up with age? Did they have any backing or anti-slip materials to protect against falls?
Do You Have a Claim?
For victims of a hallway or walkway slip and fall (or trip and fall) accident here in South Florida, it’s important that they understand the obligations a business or property owner has to keep its invitees safe. Knowing what an insurance company believes to be reasonable behavior can be helpful in proving the tortfeasor was negligent and convincing insurance to pay a claim.
It’s possible for a victim to proceed on their own with their claim. However, an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer can help with issues like how an insurance company usually approaches a slip and fall claim or how to deal with reimbursing the victim’s medical insurance, Medicaid or other health care providers.
A good piece of advice if you or a loved one has been injured in a walkway 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.