It seems to be a recurring headline, one that our Panama City premises liability law firm see pop up most often during the Spring Break period. Balcony falls raise a host of issues. Many times, these accidents are fueled by alcohol, and intoxication leads to poor decision-making and risk-taking behaviors. While the focus in the media is often placed on the victim, it is important to remember that property owners and operators have legal obligations and must ensure a building's safety. When these obligations are not met, a premises liability claim may be appropriate.
It's telling that WJGH introduced this week's story by noting that they believed it to be "our first balcony fall of the season." On Monday March 11, at approximately 2:45 in the afternoon, a young man was standing on a balcony on the 3rd floor of the Boardwalk Beach Resort. The man, believed to be a Spring Break visitor, reportedly tried to swat at a seagull when he tumbled over the railing. Luckily, the man fell into soft sand. He was taken to the hospital as a precaution.
A quick look back serves as a reminder of just how lucky this young man was to land safely. Last year, one of the earliest headlines addressing spring break-related balcony accidents covered a pair of falls that occurred over the weekend of March 19, 2012. One 21 year-old victim fell from a 2nd-floor balcony and walked away unharmed. The other victim, also age 21, fell from a 21st-floor balcony and died as a result of his injuries.
In some cases, a balcony fall is the result of the victim's own behavior. However, it is important not to jump to conclusions based on the age of the victim or the season of the incident. Premises liability law deals with accidents arising from the negligent maintenance, design, or operation of a property. "Slip and fall" cases are among the most common types of premises liability claims. Claims can be based on a temporary condition, such as an over-waxed balcony floor, or a more permanent issue, such as a railing that is too low or too weak to keep visitors safe. These problems can stem from construction issues or maintenance failures, such as wood that has been allowed to rot and weaken a rail.
As a general matter, premises liability claims stem from the duty of a landowner or other party, such as the operator of a business, to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition or to warn people of a danger that is not otherwise obvious. The nature of the duty varies according to the relationship of the potential plaintiff with the owner or operator, and it is highest in the case of a business relationship such as a hotel and a guest. Another major element in these cases is the degree of control that the defendant has over the property. This inquiry seeks to determine who was responsible for ensuring the safety of the area.
Fault and causation are complex matters. A fall may result from a combination of factors, such as the victim's inebriation and an unsafe property. Victims may have legal claims, even if their own negligence contributed to the incident. If you have been injured in a property related accident, you owe it to yourself to protect your legal rights. Call our Panama City slip and fall lawyer to schedule a free consultation. Involving an attorney early can help ensure crucial evidence is preserved.