In this article, we'll examine some key Florida laws related to slip and fall accidents, such as the time limits for filing a lawsuit in the state's civil courts, and what happens if you are found to be partly at fault for the incident that led to your injuries. We'll also touch on slip and fall claims against government employees or agencies, since these typically follow a different set of rules than slip and fall claims against private parties.
(To learn more about slip and fall claims, including what to expect in an insurance settlement or lawsuit, check out all the helpful articles in our Slip and Fall section.)
Under Florida law, you have four years to file a lawsuit after a slip and fall accident. The four-year clock usually starts ticking on the day of the accident. If you do not bring your case to court within the four-year time period, you may be barred from bringing it to court at all.
This law (called a "statute of limitations") only applies to lawsuits you file in court. It does not apply to claims you might file with an insurance company (such as a third party claim you bring with the property owner's insurance carrier). However, after a slip and fall accident occurs, it's always wise to get the insurance claim process started as soon as possible. This helps preserve your rights so that you can always file a lawsuit if you need to -- or credibly threaten to file one if settlement negotiations stall -- well within the four-year window.
Florida has its own set of rules for determining the outcome of slip and fall cases where the injured person (the one who files an insurance claim or lawsuit) is also partly at fault for the accident. Florida uses a "pure comparative fault" rule, which reduces the damages a claimant or plaintiff can receive if he or she is found to be partly at fault for the accident.
Florida's pure comparative fault rule works like this. Suppose that you suffer a slip and fall injury in the icy parking lot of a gas station (rare in Florida, but possible). You decide to file an insurance claim or take your case to court to seek damages. After investigating the claim or considering all the evidence in a court case, the insurance adjuster or the jury decides that your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and all other losses add up to a total damages award of $10,000. However, the adjuster or jury also decides that you were 10 percent at fault for your slip and fall accident (maybe you were running to get back to your warm car when the fall occurred).
What happens to your settlement or jury award? Under Florida's pure comparative fault rule, your award is reduced by an amount equal to the percentage of your fault. Here, you would receive $9,000 total, or the $10,000 award minus $1,000 that represents your 10 percent share of the fault.
Since Florida is a "pure" comparative negligence state, this rule stays the same regardless of the amount of fault assigned to you by the adjuster or jury. For instance, if you were found to be 90 percent at fault in the above example -- let's say you were at the gas station when it was closed, and the station owner could do little if anything to deal with the accumulating ice. In that case, you would still be eligible to receive $1,000, or $10,000 minus $9,000 that represents your 90 percent of the fault.
If a government employee or government agency was involved in your slip and fall accident in some way, you'll need to play by a different set of rules if you decide to take your case to court. For instance, you'll need to understand the Florida rules for cases against the government if you tripped and fell in a government building or slipped on a public sidewalk or a government building's parking lot.
In Florida, those seeking compensation for slip and fall injuries involving the government must begin by filing a General Liability Loss Report Form with the Florida Department of Financial Services' Division of Risk Management. More information and downloadable copies of the required form are available at the Division of Risk Management website.