Slip/Trip and Fall Claims

personal injury attorney Tampa FLThe law governing Slip/Trip accidents has been changed recently. The burden of proof is different now. The law used to be that all the claimant had to show was that an accident had occurred and injuries resulted from the fall. The burden of proof was on the defendant to prove that they were not negligent in failing to correct the problem that caused the fall.

If someone slipped on spilled milk in a grocery store aisle, the store would have to show that the aisle was monitored and inspected at reasonable times throughout the day and the aisle was clean the last time it was inspected. Therefore, the milk must have been spilled shortly before the fall and the store did not have knowledge of the spill until after the fall.

To prove this defense to the claim, the store would have to show that the store had a written policy regarding inspections of the premises and that store employees were diligent and had, in fact, inspected the area of the fall shortly before the fall. Store customers are legally considered Business Invitees and the store is under an obligation to do everything possible to protect the customer from being hurt while shopping in the store.

If the store can prove this defense, then the question of fault becomes a question of fact for the jury to decide. If it is determined that the store could not have known of the spill in time to clean up the mess, then the store is not liable to the customer for his injury and damaged ever though the customer did nothing wrong in causing his injuries.

The new law provides that the claimant must prove that the store should have known of the spill and had time to clean up the spill. The store no longer has to prove it was not at fault in causing the fall. It is now the claimant’s burden to prove the store was at fault. How does the claimant prove the store should have been aware of the spill and cleaned it up before the fall? How would he know how long the spill existed before the fall?

Placing the burden of proof on the claimant to prove the store at fault makes it extremely difficult for the claimant to prevail. It can be done in some cases, depending on the facts that are discovered prior to trial, but many claims are denied because of this new law the folks in Tallahassee passed and the governor signed into law.

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