Slips and falls can occur anywhere: at home, at a friend’s house, at the grocery store or even at a Florida amusement park.
And, as we all know, falls can cause serious injuries.
Orange Park personal injury lawyer, John Fagan and his legal team have considerable experience handling all types of personal injury claims —including slips and falls—and they are dedicated to helping you get the compensation you deserve.
One important factor in any slip and fall case is always where the fall occurred.
It makes a difference whether the fall occurred on private property or commercial business premises.
Because, while many of the rules concerning negligence apply no matter where the fall occurred, there are some differences in legal liability depending on whether the fall happened on private property or on commercial premises.
First, let’s start with a basic understanding of the laws pertaining to slip and fall cases.
What is Premises Liability?
The broad legal category that slip and fall cases fall into (no pun intended) is that of premises liability.
Premises liability is the legal concept that a property owner or occupier is responsible for maintaining his/her/its property in a safe condition for visitors. This duty applies to both private property and commercial property.
Briefly, both public and private property owners (or occupiers, such as tenants) have a duty to maintain the property in a safe condition for visitors. If they breach that duty, either intentionally or through carelessness (negligently), and someone is injured, the property owner/occupier can be held liable for that person’s injuries.
Premises liability differs from ordinary negligence cases—for example, a car crash.
In ordinary negligence cases, the defendant’s liability turns on whether or not he or she exercised “reasonable care” in the circumstances.
That is not the situation that applies in premises liability cases.
In premises liability cases, a property owner’s liability for injury to another turns on that person’s status in relation to the property.
Visitors Have Varying Degrees of Status When on Florida Property
Florida’s premises liability law is primarily one of common law. In other words, while there is statutory law limiting the liability of commercial property owners (discussed below), there is no single Florida statute that governs the responsibilities of a premises owner/occupier.
Instead, an owner’s duties turn on the visitor’s status.
Visitors or those entering onto property, whether public or private, are divided into three categories. They are:
Invitees (or “business invitees” if the property is commercial) are defined as those who are invited onto the property or are on the property for the benefit of the owner/occupier.
Licensees are people who enter into private property for their own “convenience, pleasure, or benefit.”
Trespassers are people who enter onto or into property, or remain there, without the right to do so and for their own purposes.
Florida Property Owner’s Duty of Care
As noted above, a property owner’s duty of care to a visitor depends on that visitor’s status.
Property owners/occupiers owe the highest duty of care to invitees. They must keep the property in a reasonably safe condition and must warn invitees of all known or concealed dangerous conditions that may exist on the property.
The duty owed to a licensee in Florida is less than that owed to an invitee. While a property owner still has the duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition, he need only warn licensees of dangerous conditions that exist on the property that the property owner actually knows about.
The duty owed to a trespasser in Florida is the least onerous of all. To avoid liability for injury to trespassers, all the property owner must do is refrain from wantonly or willfully trying to injure or set traps for them.
What is the Difference Between a Slip and Fall on Private Property and One on Commercial Property?
Generally speaking, the difference is one of the property owner’s duties and potential legal protections available to the property owner.
Regardless of whether you slip and fall on private property or on commercial property, to establish a prima facie case, you will need to prove the following 4 essential elements:
- Duty – that the property owner owed you a duty of care
- Breach – that the property owner breached that duty
- Causation – that the breach caused your injuries, and
- Damages – that you were, in fact, injured.
The main difference between a slip and fall on private property and one that occurs on commercial business premises is that Florida law affords business owners additional legal protection against lawsuits.
Florida’s Commercial Property Statute
Florida’s slip and fall statute requires anyone who slips and falls on a “transitory foreign substance” in a Florida business establishment, to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the business had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition.
This means that a slip and fall victim who is injured on commercial business premises must prove not only the four essential elements listed above, but also that the business property owner was aware that the dangerous condition existed at the time and that they should have taken steps to remedy it.
Slip and Fall Attorney in North Central Florida
If you slip and fall and are injured while on private property, public property, or commercial business property, experienced Florida personal injury attorney, John Fagan is here to help you. Our practice is dedicated to helping accident victims. If you need help or simply want more information on this subject, you can contact us here or simply call our firm at: 777-JOHN. We serve clients throughout Florida. Our main office is in Orange Park, but we have consulting offices in Palatka, Middleburg, Keystone, Starke, Gainesville, and Ocala.