Condominium Lobby Slip and Fall
There are steps the association should take to protect unit owners and invited guests.
You shouldn’t have to worry about getting hurt as you come and go from your condominium. Entryways and lobbies of condo buildings, however, are hot spots for slip and fall injuries. This is because rain, mud, cleaning products, liquid spills, and any number of substances will land on the floor as residents enter and exit the condominium, ultimately creating hazardous conditions that can put people in danger.
The big question, of course, is if you do wind up slipping and falling in the lobby or entryway of your condo property and suffer an injury, do you have a case?
The answer is: it depends. And it largely depends on whether you can prove the condominium association or HOA was negligent and that negligence led to your injury.
How to Prove Negligence in Florida
Condo associations owe a ‘duty of care’ to every invitee who walks through their doors. This is part of the responsibility of doing business as required by Florida’s Premises Liability Law.
Under the law, every condo has a duty of care to take responsible action to keep residents and other invitees safe from harm while on the property. If the condo association or HOA fails to meet this obligation, it can be considered negligent and held legally liable for all damages the victim suffers.
In the case of a condo slip and fall on a rain-soaked floor, the accident is likely foreseeable and, therefore, the association has a duty to try to prevent it from occurring.
This is where a condominium association’s premises liability insurance enters the picture. Most condo associations have some sort of premises liability insurance, so they’re covered from any liability their negligent actions or inactions may cause.
When a slip and fall injury occurs in a condominium lobby, it’s the insurance company’s money that’s at risk – at least to the extent of the owner’s policy limits as damages above that limit are the responsibility of the Homeowner’s Association and, ultimately, the unit owners.
As a result, the insurance company may have to foot the bill for any damages a victim is awarded in a personal injury lawsuit. That’s why insurance companies educate condo associations on preventive measures they can take to avoid slip and fall injuries from happening in their lobbies and entryways.
Insurance Risk Manuals Are Written to Help Avoid Condo Lobby Slip and Falls
The education insurance companies provide condo associations usually come in the form of risk manuals. Slip and fall victims can review some of these manuals online to help determine if the condo was meeting its duty of care and whether reaching a settlement is likely.
Proving negligence in condominium slip and fall cases isn’t easy. On one hand, if a business fails to uphold its duty of care at the time of the accident, then it can be held liable for the victim’s injuries. But that doesn’t mean that condo associations are necessarily liable for every accident that occurs on their premises that leads to an injury.
Insurance companies working with condo associations and HOAs recognize the importance of preventing slip and fall accidents and frequently provide their clients with risk manuals outlining the steps that should be taken to ensure the safety and welfare of every unit owner, guest, or visitor.
Insurance risk manuals also may help shine some light on how condo lobby accident cases are evaluated, so you’re better prepared to know what the condominium association and its insurance company’s defense team is preparing to argue.
An example of an insurance company risk manual that could help a victim prove negligence comes from Zurich Insurance Group. As of 2020, the company reported that slip and fall accidents made up about 14% of its total business premises accident claims – the reason why helping its policyholders prevent slip and fall accidents is one of its major areas of focus.
The company’s insurance risk manual claims to be a comprehensive injury prevention program to address the problem from all angles. Within the manual is also a second set of guidelines about how to deal with a claim from a victim after an accident. This is the type of information that can be very helpful as you prepare your case and work to prove negligence.
Questions for Victims to Consider While Preparing Their Case
Consider the following questions as you review risk manuals and work to prove negligence.
- Did you fall before you entered the condo’s interior?
- If Yes:
- Does the entryway provide protection from bad weather — like rain or hail?
- Was there an awning or a roofline to help protect against bad weather?
- How many entries were provided by the condo? Were they all available to you or were some blocked off from use? If so, why?
- Was it raining, or had it rained recently, at the time of your accident in the entryway?
- If Yes:
- Did you have an umbrella at the time?
- Was it open or shut?
- Did the condo provide residents with a place to shake out or store a wet umbrella?
- What about the flooring of the entryway? What was it made of? Was it a floor surface that was prone to being slippery when it rained, like marble or linoleum? Were there any protections against slipping on a wet floor, like slip-resistant materials for the entryway, or maybe grooving or texturing of the floor’s surface?
- What about floor mats? Were there any floor mats on the entryway at the time of your accident?
- If Yes:
- Where were they?
- What condition were they in — were they worn-out or new? Did the ends lay flat on the floor or did the corners roll up?
- Did you slip on the floor mat? Why? How?
- Were there any warning signs that the floor was wet or slippery at the time of your accident?
- Were there any holes in the floor of the entryway? Were there any cracks or broken tiles?
- What about drainage for the entryway, was there any kind of grid or grate to allow for draining off of liquids like standing rainwater or puddles?
- How often did employees come to clean the entryway? What was their standard operating procedure here? Did they try and mop and sweep during times when there was low foot traffic in the entryway?
- What documentation was provided to the employees on keeping the entryway clean and neat? You need to read this and maybe ask for a copy.
- Is the entire entry covered in carpet? If not, what other materials are used: marble, wood, concrete, vinyl? Why was this design chosen? A poorly designed entryway can result in dangerous conditions and invite a slip and fall accident.
- If the entire entryway is carpeted, was the carpet fully laid down, or were they bumps or waves in it? Did it have fraying edges or gaps or threadbare sections where heavy foot traffic had taken its toll on the carpet nap?
- Have there been other accidents where people have fallen in the entryway? What measures were taken by the condo owners to try and keep future accidents from happening after that?
- What about handrails? Were there any in the entryway?
- If Yes:
- Where were these handrails?
- Were they securely fastened to the wall?
- Were they at the proper height so someone could easily grasp them as they walked along?
- What was the condition of the handrails at the time of the slip and fall: were they secure on the wall, were they slippery from over-use or sticky hands?
- What about the lighting? Was it hard to see where you were going in the entryway? Were there light fixtures with burnt-out bulbs?
- Did the design of the entryway create a romantic ambiance that resulted in a dangerous condition where you couldn’t see to safely walk across it?
- How often is the place mopped and swept? Did you trip and fall over trash or debris (leaves, etc.) in the entryway?
- When was the last time that someone worked on repairing or maintaining the entryway? Who were the contractors involved here? Get their names and addresses. Did they make any suggestions to the owner or operator on how to make the entryway safer? Were these suggestions followed?
- If it was raining, did the condo put out special absorbent mats designed to help collect the rainwater and keep the entryway from becoming slippery from rainwater collecting on its surface?
- If Yes:
- Were these absorbent mats designed for this purpose or just something the condo managers pulled out in a pinch, like throw rugs or towels?
- Did these absorbent mats have drainage holes to allow the rainwater to move out of the traffic path?
- Were these absorbent mats at least 6 feet long, the minimum industry standard for absorbent mats to be able to dry footwear?
- Did these absorbent mats lie flat?
- Did you trip and fall on the mat?
- If the entryway is made of a variety of materials, how do they transition? Is it a smooth surface, carpet to tile, etc.? Is there a gap where a heel or the tip of a cane could get caught and cause a fall?
- Is there an uneven foot surface? Can you see where the transition happens, or is it hard to determine when you will leave a carpeted area and start walking on a more slippery concrete or tile floor?
- Does the entryway have stairs? Is there a ramp alternative? If not, is the condo failing to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act?
- What was the condition of the stairs to the entryway, were they in good repair and condition? Were they weak or rickety? Did you fall on the entryway stairs?
- Was any entryway stair surface wet from rain, oil, or a spilled drink or liquid? Did you slip on that wet stair?
- Was there any warning to avoid using the entryway stairs because they were in need of repair or because of a wet surface?
- What was the condition of the stair rails to the entryway stairs or steps? Was it broken or flawed? Did it contribute to your fall?
What Should You Do?
Many victims injured in a condo slip and fall are hesitant to take legal action and bring a lawsuit against the condominium – they often fear the stigma of appearing opportunistic or quick to sue. But, if a condo failed in its duty of care to keep you safe, you have every right to seek damages and ensure the condominium implements the changes necessary to keep you and others safe in the future.
If you slipped and fell in a condo lobby and suffered an injury as a result, consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer who is familiar with Florida premises liability law and condo accident claims in Florida.
Your lawyer can help prove negligence by demonstrating to the court that the condominium association or HOA failed in its duty of care and help you get the damages you deserve.
Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in-person) to answer your questions. When you’re ready to speak with a personal injury lawyer about your case, give Alan a call at 945-458-8655.