If you’ve suffered a serious injury after tripping and falling on someone else’s property, your priority should be getting the medical attention you need.
However, after you’re out of danger, you might start thinking about how you’re going to cover your medical expenses or make up for the lost income in case you missed work. You may also start thinking about the circumstances surrounding your accident and whether or not the property owner was at fault.
If you believe your accident was a result of the property owner’s negligence and want to receive compensation, you’ll need to gather evidence for a premises liability suit. Under Florida’s premises liability law, the injured person is responsible for proving that the property owner’s or business’s negligence caused their injury, which means you’ll need concrete evidence to win your case.
What You Need to Prove in a Premises Liability Case
Before you can start gathering evidence, you need to understand the definition of premises liability. You can file a premises liability suit when you suffer an injury due to a hazard, such as a wet floor, on a property to which you are granted access. That could mean an open house that a realtor is showing you or a residential property that you are renting, but it can also apply to any business, store, restaurant, hotel, or other areas open to the general public. You would, however, be able to make a strong case if you were trespassing on a private or closed property.
In order to win your case, you will need to prove that the property owner had constructive or actual knowledge of the dangerous condition that caused your accident, yet failed to take reasonable precautions, such as putting up a “Wet Floor” sign. Constructive knowledge can be proven by circumstantial factors, such as the length of time the dangerous condition existed or the regular occurrence of the condition.
Evidence That Will Work in Your Favor
You’ll need to gather evidence to prove three things: 1.) that you were injured, 2.) that there was a hazardous condition on the property, and 3.) that the owner failed to take reasonable care to prevent that hazard. Producing all this evidence can be daunting, so the best thing you can do is contact a personal injury attorney who has ample experience helping clients gather evidence in premises liability cases. You and your lawyer may use evidence such as:
- Your medical records. Your injury may not be readily visible or may have healed since the accident, so you may need to rely on medical records, x-rays, and your doctor’s testimony to prove you were physically harmed.
- Pictures of the accident scene. If the hazard still exists while you are building your case, you and your lawyer can return to photograph it. If the accident occurred in a public place with video surveillance, your lawyer should also be able to get access to the footage.
- Witness testimonies. If other people saw your accident occur and can provide a reliable testimony, you and your lawyer should contact them.
- Other relevant documents. In some cases, your attorney may uncover additional evidence proving the property owner’s negligence, such as a letter telling the hotel operator the escalator you fell on was overdue for inspection.
- Expert testimony. You and your attorney may call on an impartial expert in accident reconstruction or safety to testify in your case. For example, an expert in biomechanics might testify that you fell because the uneven spacing of a store’s stairs caused you to lose your balance.
Start working with your attorney to gather evidence for your premises liability case as soon as possible – it will be easier to reconstruct the scene and contact witnesses if you act quickly.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Lawlor Winston White & Murphey. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and was recently voted by his peers as a Florida “SuperLawyer”—an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state—and to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite.”