Condominium Stairway Slip and Fall
Slipping and falling up or down the stairs can be incredibly scary. Your mind shifts from a relaxed state as you make your way through the building to a state of panic and fear as the floor falls out from underneath of you. Something as small as a puddle of water on the stairs can cause a lot of pain and distress.
A condominium slip and fall is one of the more common accidents that take place in condominium buildings according to research done by multiple insurance companies.
Utah Valley University also conducted a study showing that a large number of slip and fall accidents, including those that resulted in life-altering injuries, involved the victim’s knees, feet, ankles, wrists, shoulders, elbows, or head. Sadly, bruises, fractures, and even more serious life-threatening injuries can be the result.
Victims who suffer an injury because of a slip and fall on a condo’s stairway may be able to receive damages for medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other impacts they experienced as a result of the injury. But, to do so, they must prove that the condominium was negligent and, therefore, is responsible for the injury.
How to Prove Negligence in Florida
When you move into a condominium, you expect the association or HOA to care for the property and uphold its commitment to maintaining the quality of the building. The association’s commitment to you and all of its residents and guests includes a responsibility for the safety of everyone invited to step onto the property.
This is referred to as the condo association’s ‘duty of care.’ According to Florida’s Premises Liability Law, the association has a duty of care to maintain a safe environment and act reasonably to protect its residents and guests. If the association fails to meet its duty of care – if it is negligent – it can be held liable for the damage its negligence caused, including any damages you incurred as a result of the injury.
In Florida, the burden of proof of negligence lies on the shoulders of the victim. No matter how unfair it may seem, you’ll have to prove that the condo association did not uphold its duty of care to provide a safe environment in order to recover damages.
No matter how straightforward the circumstances of your injury are, proving negligence is rarely easy. There are multiple factors to consider when making a determination. As you begin to gather the data and evidence you need to build your case, focus your energy on 5 key focus areas related to the condition of the stairway – the steps, visibility, lighting, handrails, and the stairway itself.
Gather evidence related to these five focus areas to help you determine if a condo association acted reasonably to protect you and its other residents and guests.
This list of questions is one that the condo owners should ask themselves. It’s the responsibility of the condo association and management companies to familiarize themselves with these important procedures to keep invitees safe.
- Consider the surface of the stairs at the time of the accident. Were they slippery? Were they covered with any kind of slip-resistant surface material? If not, why?
- How about the series of steps? Were they uniform or were there any irregular stair risers?
- What about the footing and treads on each step? Were there non-slip surface treads on the steps to help you keep your footing, like friction strips or stair carpeting? Was it secure? Were the stairs wet or slippery?
- If there was a metal nosing on the edge of the stair tread, was it securely attached? On each step? Was it bent?
- Were the stairs easily visible? Could you see where to place your feet on the stairway? Did the condominium use high contrast striping on the stair step nosing or on the stairway landings to help you see where to place your foot on the stairs?
- If the steps were hard to see at the time of your accident, did the condo association fail to paint them with contrasting colors or otherwise mark them in a way to help your visibility?
- Were there any notices, signs, or warnings, placed there by the condo association advising residents and guests to be careful when walking up or down these stairs? If so, were they easy to see or was your view blocked?
- What else was on the stairway walls? Were there things like posters or notices that might distract you? If so, were these items prohibited in the stairways or did the condominium allow the items?
- Stairways need to be well-lit at all times, day or night. Was there enough light to see the stairs at the base of the stairway? What about as you went up or down the stairs? How about at the top of the staircase? At the landing?
- Some stairs need to have lighting for each stair tread. Did you fall in a dark place where there was no tread illumination?
- Handrails are legally required to be constructed and maintained in a certain way. Did the handrail stand out visually and contrast against the wall? Were they easy to find and to use?
- Was the staircase 44 inches wide or less at the time of your accident? If yes, then it needs to have a handrail. Did it?
- Was the staircase more than 44 inches wide? If yes, it needs handrails on both sides of the stairs. Did the condo association install handrails on both sides?
- Was the staircase more than 88 inches wide? If yes, it needs a handrail secured down the center of the staircase. Did it?
- As for the handrails themselves, were they at least 34 inches from the floor or the stair tread? That’s a minimum requirement.
- Did the handrails go out at least 18 inches beyond the top and bottom steps so you could get a grip on the handrail before placing your foot on the first step?
- Did the handrail stay close to the wall, no more than 3.5 inches into the staircase?
- Were there any missing or damaged sections of handrail?
- What about the grip on the handrail? Was it slippery? Was it sticky or in some other condition that wanted to make you avoid using it? Was it easy to grip?
The Stairway Itself
- Condominiums in Florida are legally required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This includes adhering to specific guidelines dealing with stairs, stairwells, and stairways. An online copy of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities – Section 4.9 – Stairs is available for download. Did the stairway comply with ADA guidelines? If not, then you may have an argument that the condo was not acting reasonably in protecting its customers from a fall on those stairs.
Overall, ask yourself if the condo association acted unreasonably towards your safety and if this negligence caused the accident. Your answers to each of the questions above can support your claim.
What Should You Do If You’ve Had a Slip and Fall in a Condo Stairway?
If you’re hurt in an accident, like a condo slip and fall, and the accident was the fault of the condominium, you have a right to sue the condominium owners for the damages you suffered. Bringing a lawsuit against the condo is not taking advantage of an unfortunate situation; it’s an effective way to make sure you’re taken care of and the condo takes the necessary steps to prevent future injuries.
If you believe you have enough evidence to prove the condo association was negligent, and that negligence caused your accident and injuries, you can pursue a slip and fall lawsuit against the association.
But, be prepared. This may be the first time you’ve filed such a claim. Chances are, though, your condo has been down this road before and knows how to build a defense against any liability lawsuit landing on their doorstep.
Having an experienced personal injury lawyer representing you through the claim process is essential for winning your case. If you’ve been hurt in a condo stairway slip and fall accident, consult with a lawyer 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 condo association failed in its duty of care, and help you get 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.