The state of Florida has made it significantly more difficult for plaintiffs to prevail in slip-and-fall cases.
The Old Law Compared to the New Law
The old premises liability law simply required plaintiffs to prove that an accident had taken place. The new law, which went into effect on July 1, requires plaintiffs to prove that a defendant knew of the conditions that resulted in the accident.
Plaintiffs have another avenue to pursue under the new law: they can prevail in a slip-and-fall case if they can prove the defendant should have expected an accident because of recurring conditions, and that the defendant could have taken steps to remedy the conditions.
For example, if a defendant has a steep set of stairs without a handrail, the defendant could be expected to anticipate that a preventable accident might take place, and the defendant could be expected to install a handrail.
The practical effect of the law is that with a higher burden of proof on plaintiffs, cases will in some situations be more difficult to prove in court or settle favorably. Businesses and others will be less likely to settle cases unless there is evidence that they knew, or should have known, of the conditions leading to the accident.
A lawyer for a business lobby told The St. Petersburg Times that the new law “reintroduces fairness” to the legal system, but Florida Justice Association general counsel Paul Jess disagreed. He said after a painful slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accident at a business, the victim is not in a position to gather evidence.
“At that point, your only interest is getting to the emergency room, getting pain medications and getting patched up,” he said. “You are not in a good position to know how long the banana peel was on the floor.”
Accidents Continue to Happen
The new law won’t change the reality that preventable slip-and-fall accidents happen and injure people. Nor will it erase the medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering associated with those accidents.
If you or a member of your family has suffered an injury in a slip-and-fall incident, contact a Florida personal injury attorney for an evaluation of the facts of the case.