Condominium Parking Garage Slip and Fall
Your condo association should take these steps to protect unit owners and invited guests from these slip, trip and falls.
Condo parking garages may not look very threatening at first glance, but lurking behind every car, curb, and parking space are potential slip, trip, and fall hazards.
The next time you walk from your condo to your car, count the number of potholes, cracks in the pavement, and crumbling wheel stops you find in the parking lot and/or garage. There’s a long list of accident-causing hazards that can be found throughout condo property in Florida. Some of the most common hazards that can lead to a slip and fall on condo association property include:
- Broken Gravel or Curbing
- Uneven Surfaces
- Cracks in the Pavement
- Unsecured Parking Bollards
- Poor Lighting
- Ground Holes with Defective Coverings
- Speed Bumps
- Broken Wheel Stops
- Unpainted Surfaces
- Surfaces that Get Slick When It Rains
- Concrete Barriers
- Trash and Debris
- And More
If you slip in your condo parking garage or trip and fall in the parking lot, is the condominium association or homeowners association (HOA) responsible for your injury?
It depends. To answer this question in your individual case, you’ll need to determine if the owner or operator of the parking area was negligent and, if so, whether their negligence led to your injury.
Elements of Proving Negligence
Believing that the owner of the condo parking garage or lot was negligent isn’t enough. You’ll have to prove it. To prove negligence in a condo parking lot or garage accident, you’ll need to gather enough evidence to support your claim.
Gather any witness statements that you can. If other condo residents were in the parking garage and saw you fall, ask them what they saw and to describe the cause of the fall. Request any video surveillance that exists, incident reports from the condo association, any reports the medical team or paramedics issued if you were seen by a paramedic, and any other testimony that’s available.
Ask the condominium association if other similar accidents have occurred in the parking area. What many people don’t realize is that if the association does not want to provide this information, the victim can file a trip and fall lawsuit which gives them the power to ask a judge to issue an order requiring the association to provide any information on past accidents.
When a personal injury lawsuit is filed, the ‘discovery’ phase is the step in the process where the victim can obtain evidence about past accidents through depositions, interrogations, and requests for the production of documents. Ask to see the parking garage maintenance logs and ask the association questions about past slip and fall accidents.
The Condominium Association Owes a Duty of Care to Those Who Use the Parking Garage
If the condo association owns the parking garage—and it does in most cases—it then has what’s called a ‘duty of care’ to the individuals invited to use the garage. Their duty of care comes down to two responsibilities.
- Maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition
- Give warning of concealed perils
A crack in the parking lot asphalt that caused it to shift and become uneven is a hazard to everyone who uses the garage. The association has a duty of care to either repair the cracked asphalt or warn users of the danger the crack presents. They could put up a warning sign or rope off the hazardous area – the situation could be handled many ways. Ignoring it, however, is how an association fails in its duty of care.
When Proving Negligence, the Burden of Proof is the Victim’s
No matter how unfair it may seem, the injury victim has the burden of proving that the condo parking Garage owner was negligent, and therefore responsible for the injury. Under Florida law, the victim must prove that the association either knew or should have known about the dangerous condition that led to the injury.
The evidence the victim can obtain through witness statements and video surveillance, as well as during the discovery phase, is the admissible evidence they’ll need to provide that the association was negligent and liable.
Here are Some Steps Insurance Companies are Recommending Condominium Associations Take to Protect You and Other Guests
Because slip and trip and fall accidents are so common in parking garages and condo parking lots, the owners of garages usually have liability insurance to mitigate their risk. One tool that insurance companies use to help their clients mitigate risk is a risk manual. These manuals give the garage owners a roadmap of risk control measures to take that the insurance company believes can help protect against accidents.
The association and/or the management company should be taking the information in these manuals and using it to implement steps to protect unit owners and invitees.
When Evaluating Your Condominium Parking Garage Slip and Fall, Consider These Questions:
There’s a lot to consider as you evaluate your damage claim after an accident. Here’s a thorough list of questions to ask yourself as you get started.
- Were there speed bumps in the parking garage to prevent people from driving too fast?
- If Yes:
- How easy was it to see the speed bumps? Were they painted in bright colors? Did they have reflectors?
- Did these speed bumps contrast visually against the surface of the parking lot or space so that they were easily seen?
- How were these speed bumps designed? Were they “low-profile,” where they are very long across the traffic path but not that high, with only a short rise?
- Did the parking spaces include parking stops – the concrete bumpers that prevent a vehicle from pulling too far into the space.
- If Yes:
- Did they extend past the space, sticking out between the parked cars?
- Were the parking stops longer than the customary six feet?
- Were there any stormwater drains nearby the area of the accident?
- If Yes:
- Did they have paint or reflectors? How visible were they as compared to the surface of the surrounding parking garage?
- Did the parking lot have any potholes? Cracks? Dips or depressions?
- Could you see any repairs in the parking lot, where past potholes, cracks, or dips had been fixed?
- Does the parking garage operator have a repair record?
- If Yes:
- What does this repair record show about repairs made to the parking garage?
- Does this record also have any scheduling for regular and routine checks of the parking garage to see if repairs are needed?
- How fast are repairs made after the need is discovered? Day, weeks, sporadically?
- What’s the budget that has been set aside to maintain this parking garage each year?
- What’s the budget to repave this parking lot?
- How often is this scheduled to take place? Is it even on the calendar?
- Does the parking garage have lights?
- If Yes:
- What kind of lighting is provided for the parking garage?
- Where all the lights working at the time of the accident?
- What is the repair and maintenance schedule for replacing burnt-out light bulbs?
- What is the repair and maintenance schedule for electrical issues with parking garage lighting?
- Are all repair and maintenance schedules being followed?
- Who is assigned to do these repair and maintenance checks?
- Who is assigned to do the actual work of repair and maintenance?
- Are there any islands in the parking garage?
- If Yes:
- Do these islands have curbs?
- Do these islands contrast visually against the surface of the parking lot or space so that they are easily seen?
- Are the curbs to the island painted? What color? Does this help to make them easier to see at night? During the day?
- How often does someone check the parking garage to see if these curbs need to be repainted?
- What kind of paint is used in the parking garage? Is it easily seen? Is it slip-resistant?
- Are there any barriers or pylons in this parking garage or in the condo parking lot?
- If Yes:
- How are they used?
- Are they easily seen by those using the parking garage?
- What about the overall surface of the parking lot – is it even?
- Where are there uneven surfaces?
- Are there protections in place here to help anyone walking over these uneven surfaces?
- What about sand – is there a procedure in place to keep sand and water off the parking lot surfaces?
- If Yes:
- How is this done? Who does this?
- Is it done at the same time that customers or employees are needing to walk on the parking lot surface?
- What companies are involved in overseeing, inspection, repair, or maintenance of this parking garage?
- What are their addresses and phone numbers?
- Is this parking garage in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act?
- Is this parking garage leased by or to another entity? Who?
- Where is the lease?
- What does the lease provide as parties responsible for the inspection, repair, and maintenance of the parking garage?
- Are there any signs in the parking garage explaining who is responsible for its upkeep?
- Are there any signs in the parking garage that warn you of a dangerous condition on the condo property?
- Were any signs in place in the parking garage at the time of your accident that warned of danger (like a “wet surface” sign)?
- Was there an accident report made after your fall?
- If Yes:
- Who wrote it? What is their name and address?
- What other accident reports have been made regarding this parking garage in the past five years?
- If Yes:
- Who wrote them? What is their name(s) and address(es)?
These are the same questions the condominium association should be asking themselves in order to keep the condo property safe for unit owners and guests.
Flaws in the Design of the Parking Garage and/or Parking Lot May Be to Blame for Some Trip and Slip Accidents
There’s a chance the parking garage and/or parking lot weren’t designed well from the beginning. Some examples of flawed parking garage designs include:
- Speed Bumps. While created to make parking lots safer, speed bumps are tripping hazards that cause many parking garage injury accidents, especially when the speed bump isn’t painted to contrast against the asphalt.
- Painted End Islands. When people park illegally around poorly placed island ends, the cars driving through the garage can’t easily see other drives and pedestrians.
- Raised Curb End Islands. This is one of the most common tripping hazards in South Florida. Without proper paint on the edge of the curb, pedestrians can easily trip over the raised curbs.
- Wheelchair Accessible Ramps. Ramps create a raised edge of a curb or asphalt that can cause a walking pedestrian to trip and fall pretty easily. Contrasting paint around the perimeter of the ramp is an easy fix. But if these ramp areas don’t also include slip-resistant paint, they can also become slip hazards on rainy days.
- Lack of Crosswalks. Without designated places to cross, pedestrians create their own routes which can lead them across potholes or through slippery puddles.
- Wheelstops/Parking Blocks. Wheel stops and parking blocks are a tripping hazard if they’re not painted a bright color or are too tall to step over. In order to avoid these being a tripping hazard, they must be a maximum of 6 feet wide and be completely covered by a car when it’s using the parking spot.
- Proper Lighting. A parking garage must provide adequate lighting – it’s the parking garage owner’s duty of care to provide it. Inadequate lighting could cause a pedestrian to step in a pothole they couldn’t see or slip in a puddle they didn’t realize was there.
What if the owner of the parking garage argues that while the hazard existed, it was open and obvious and, therefore, could easily have been avoided? There have been cases in the past that, despite the victim attempting to prove negligence, the owner successfully argued that the hazard could have easily been avoided. Take the case of Dampier v. Morgan Tire & Auto, LLC where the business invitee tripped over a tree stump next to the store’s parking lot. In the slip and fall lawsuit, the victim was not awarded damages.
In this case, the court held that “…some conditions are so obvious and not inherently dangerous that they can be said, as a matter of law, not to constitute a dangerous condition and, will not give rise to a liability due to the failure to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition.”
A tree stump is one thing, but in other cases where there was an obvious danger involving a hazard that could result in a foreseeable injury, the victim can succeed and collect damages for their injury. The case of Cook v. Bay Area Renaissance Festival of Largo, Inc. is a good example of what happens when a parking garage owner fails to uphold its duty of care, regardless of how obvious the hazard may have been.
What Should You Do?
If you were injured in a trip or slip and fall accident in a condo parking garage, or parking lot, in Florida, and it was due to the condominium’s negligence, don’t hesitate to bring a lawsuit to seek damages. Not only can the lawsuit attempt to hold the condo owner accountable for your injury, but it can also force the owner to make the repairs necessary to keep others safe.
When you do file a lawsuit, expect the association and its insurance company to put up a vigorous defense. They’ll make it hard for you to prove negligence and try to make it look to the courts as if you’re the one to blame.
If you or a family member were injured by a slip or trip and fall in a Florida condo parking garage, talk with an experienced personal injury lawyer familiar with Florida premises liability law.
Your lawyer can help you that the condo association failed in its duty of care and that its negligence caused the injury. After proving the condo was negligent, your lawyer can help you receive the damages you are entitled to recover.
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.