I have heard that there are people out there that stage fake slip and fall accidents in South Florida shopping malls, department stores, restaurants, and hotels. Apparently, they throw down dishwasher soap or spill some soda and then pretend to slip and fall. As they are laying there, presumably they are videotaped from above by the store manager. Those really unlucky frauds might be ended up on the evening news and should be reported to the police for insurance fraud.
Sophisticated video surveillance systems that record these scams are designed to protect stores and the public from people who are out to make a quick buck from shoplifting for fraudulent lawsuits. But, as a Miami lawyer that sues Florida shopping malls, I know that these videotapes can also be used to hold store-owners, property managers and others responsible for not keeping their stores clean, safe and well lit.
Most people believe that falling in a Broward department store automatically entitles them to make a claim for personal injuries. This is not true. Florida Statute §768.0755 puts legal liability on store owners and managers only when the injured person proves that the fall was caused by a dangerous condition that the business actually was aware of.
Surveillance videos can and should be used by Florida PI lawyers to determine how long the slippery condition existed. Accordingly, whenever our Miami slip and fall attorneys are retained to represent an injured person, we immediately request that the store preserve and maintain the tape.
We have sued stores like CVS, Publix and Walmart. By the time we request a copy of the surveillance tape, the defendant claims it has been destroyed or taped over. Most systems run on a 24-hour loop which means the footage is erased if not properly stored after an incident. In my experience as an Orlando slip and fall lawyer, it usually means that the tape is not going to be helpful for the defense. We routinely request the policy and procedures of maintaining the tapes, especially in light of a reported claim.
In addition, we recommend obtaining the tape for the entire period of time the claimant is in the store. This means before and after the fall. It is important to see how the client is walking and what the client is doing from the moment they enter the store until the moment they leave. If the injured person is transported by ambulance from the scene, it is valuable evidence that should also be preserved and viewed in every case.
Section 768.0755 (b) provides another way to hold Florida business owners responsible for a slip in fall when the dangerous condition occurs with regularity. For example. surveillance video showing a persistently leaking pipe, air conditioner or freezer display, for the days and weeks before the fall is very helpful in proving that the condition was foreseeable.
Those who are hurt in a slip, trip or fall accident in a Florida restaurant or hotel should not be afraid of the surveillance video showing their fall. These videos provide crucial evidence in holding restaurants, parking lots and movie theaters responsible when their negligence causes serious injuries.