Many apartment complex slip and fall accidents occur as a result of the landlord’s negligence. Often times, it is the landlord’s failure to maintain their property and address conditions that they knew about or should have known about that leads to these accidents occurring. Unfortunately, when an accident does happen, the tenant victim, or their guests, find themselves having to deal with the stress of recovery which comes from the pain of the accident as well as from the mounting medical bills and lost wages and having to deal with the landlord and his or her insurance company.
However, not every slip and fall injury results in a valid claim for damages. A tenant must be able to show that the landlord failed to use reasonable care in order to collect compensation for his or her damages.
In other words, in order to successfully recover compensation from the landlord, the tenant has to build a “prima facie” case of negligence.
Proving Fault And Negligence
Simply stated, a tenant must produce facts to show how the fall was caused by the landlord. To do so, a tenant should gather evidence that the landlord/owner was negligent because the landlord had (1) a legal duty to the tenant that (2) was breached and this breach of duty (3) was the proximate cause of the (4) personal injuries sustained by the tenant in the slip and fall.
There are different types of evidence that a victim can use to prove the landlord is at fault for a slip and fall occurring on its premises. Some of which include:
- Witness statements
- Police reports
- Store surveillance
- Constructive knowledge
Landlord’s Duty To Maintain the Property
Florida law requires landlords to maintain their rental property and protect their tenants and their guests from harm. This includes abiding any applicable housing codes.
If a landlord learns of a dangerous condition, or if a dangerous condition that the landlord should know about occurs, then the landlord has a duty to fix the issue in a reasonable amount of time.
Landlords are responsible for the repair and maintenance for matters that include leaky roofs, broken or missing handrails, adding anti-slip materials to steps and pool areas, properly affixing carpets, cracked sidewalk, parking lot wheel stops and speed bumps and addressing other common slip and fall hazards.
Can The Tenant Be At Fault?
Apartment falls are commonplace and result in all sorts of injuries, from minor sprains, to serious fractures to hands, wrists and hips, and even head trauma or death. When a slip and fall accident happens in a rental property, one of the main issues is who was at-fault and does the tenant share in the fault.
Not all slip and fall accidents result in 100% liability for the landlord. There are situations where the tenant is partially responsible for the accident. In Florida, there is a legal doctrine known as comparative negligence. This doctrine apportions fault among the landlord and tenant. Thus, a tenant’s compensation will be impacted by the amount of negligence caused by the tenant. For example, if the tenant is determined to be 35 percent responsible, the tenant’s damage award will be reduced by that amount. Meaning, the tenant will receive 65 percent of the amount awarded by the jury.
In a rental home, some dangers that may result in a fall where the landlord or owner is not legally bound to pay damages include:
- Floors with heavy amounts of wax on them
- Debris on sidewalks
- Fallen tree limbs
- Hidden debris or conditions in un-mowed grass
- Items impacting ingress and egress
- Darkened stairs due to burned out bulbs
- Oil leaked from vehicles onto the driveway or garage floor
- Wet leaves accumulating on the sidewalk
Can Renter’s Insurance Cover Slip and Fall Damages?
Even though most tenants get rental insurance to cover theft or burglary, some policies may cover injuries caused by a landlord’s negligence, including slip and falls in areas where the landlord is obligated to maintain the premises.
What Damages Can A Victim Recover – Pain And Suffering?
If a tenant is hurt in a slip and fall at their apartment complex and the injuries are significant, then the tenant should be able to recover both economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages include compensation for items such as:
- Physical therapy bills
- Hospital bills
- Rental of medical equipment
- Lost wages
Non-economic damages include:
- Loss of the enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
Statute of Limitations
In Florida, slip and fall claims have to be filed within a certain time before the claim is barred. The Florida Legislature has set these deadlines in specific statutes, called statutes of limitations.
According to Florida Statute 95.11(3)(a), any action founded on negligence must be filed within 4 years from the date of the slip and fall.
If a victim does not file a lawsuit before that deadline, then the lawsuit will not be permitted to proceed. Meaning, a judge has the power to dismiss the lawsuit by granting a motion for summary judgment in favor of the defendant.
What Should You Do?
In Florida, when a tenant is hurt in a slip and fall at their apartment complex or other leased premises, the landlord and other parties, like a maintenance company, landscaper, cleaning service, delivery service, can be held legally responsible for their damages. The tenant should, after seeking medical attention, should immediately report the accident and then review both their lease agreement as well as Florida’s negligence law to determine which parties are responsible for the tenant’s damages. Then, the tenant should make a diary of the event, including how the injury has impacted his or her daily life, and gather as much evidence as possible to support his or her claim. All of the steps are important to preserving a tenant’s rights and making sure the tenant has the best chance of recovering maximum compensation for his or her injuries.
Additionally, a good piece of advice is to speak with an experienced Florida lawyer to learn about your rights, including how most insurance companies respond to these claims. Most lawyers, like Larry Tolchinsky, offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person, whichever you prefer) to answer your questions.
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