Trip and Falls or Slip and Falls in Florida
Florida requires slip or trip and fall injury victims prove that premises owners in business establishments had actual or constructive knowledge about the dangerous condition that caused the fall or created the dangerous condition. So what’s the difference and how can you document the incident?
Actual KnowledgeActual knowledge involves a business, or its employees, being actually aware that a dangerous condition exists on their floor and not correcting the condition until after someone is injured by it. The specific dangerous condition can vary from water or food on the floor to cracked or raised sidewalks. While actual knowledge may seem obvious, it is often difficult to prove as employees often cover for their employers or an a full investigation is not undertaken.
In Publix v. Bellaiche for example, a woman slipped and fell due to water in one of the aisles. Both the woman and her husband testified that they saw Publix employee with a mop in their hand after the fall. However, Publix testified that they did not utilize wet mops. Neither the woman or her husband testified that the Publix employee was using the mop or that the mop was wet. As a result, a jury verdict in favor of the wife was reversed as the Third District found there was no evidence of actual knowledge of the dangerous condition by Publix employees.
Constructive KnowledgeConstructive knowledge differs from actual knowledge in that it does not require the business to actually be aware of the dangerous condition in order to be held liable in certain claims. Where a dangerous condition has existed 1) for such a length of time that the establishment should have known about it, or 2) that the condition occurred with regularity and was foreseeable, a court may find that a business was on constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition. Constructive knowledge is a fact-intensive analysis involving determining what the dangerous condition is and where it came from, how long it had been present, how often it occurred and many other facts. A significant problem for injury victims to overcome is how a dangerous condition came to be and how long it had been present. While there is no bright line rule as to how long a dangerous condition must be present, in Walker v. Winn-Dixie, the Fourth District found that as a matter of law less than four minutes was insufficient to prove constructive knowledge.
Active NegligenceActive Negligence requires an action, or inaction, of a business or its employees in creating the dangerous condition which injures a guest. Active negligence requires neither actual or constructive knowledge of the condition to hold a business liable for injuries to a guest. Rather, the fact that the business created the condition that harmed the guest is the basis for liability. Active negligence can come in many forms including failing to enforce their own safety rules.
Documenting the IncidentHopefully you will never be injured due to a trip or slip and fall as the result of a dangerous condition. However, if you are documenting the event and the cause is important and here are a few things you can do to document the event:
1. Note the area where you fell and what you slipped and tripped over.
2. Photograph the substance or condition that caused your fall from various angles and distances.
3. Write down any statements you recall from employees, especially if those statements indicate they knew of the dangerous condition.
4. Obtain the names and contact information of any witnesses.
5. Obtain a copy of any incident report you are asked to fill out.
6. Photograph any visible injuries.
7. Preserve any clothing that may have any substance on it and save the shoes you were wearing.