What to do after a Walt Disney World Slip and Fall
Several months ago I was asked through AllExperts.com about whether Walt Disney World is responsible for medical bills and pain and suffering after a guest at its resorts slipped and fell. The guest wanted to know whether they could make a claim against Walt Disney World (WDW).
Since the time of the guest’s slip and fall, Florida’s slip and fall laws have actually changed. In 2001, the Florida Supreme Court decided a case named Owens v. Publix which said that if there is water, drinks or some other liquid on the floor of a business, your case would not be dismissed and a jury would get to decide whether you were entitled to money damages. Essentially, the case put the burden of proving the business maintained the floor in a reasonably safe condition – on the business.
However, businesses in Florida such as Walt Disney World did not like having to prove they maintained the store in a safe condition, so in July 2010 the Florida legislature decided to change the law. Now, the burden falls upon the person that slipped and fell to prove that the business knew about the liquid substance on the floor. This can obviously be a difficult thing to prove.
If you fall at Walt Disney World, there are a few things you can do to protect your rights under the new Florida slip and fall laws:
1. Make notes about the area you fall
It is a rare occasion where a person can actually prove that WDW actually knew about the liquid on the ground. Unless you can get a Walt Disney World employee to admit they knew about the spill, this is an almost impossible standard. But, the new Florida slip and fall laws also allow an injured person to show that Walt Disney, or any other business should have known about the liquid on the floor. For example, if the spill was directly in front of a cashier or employee station at Disney, the employee is trained to look for spills and should have known about the spill if they had been diligent in their job duties.
Another example of should have known is a fall caused by a melting substance like ice cream or ice. If a person slips and falls in a pile of ice cream or ice that has started to melt and spread, this is a condition that remained on the floor for at least a little while to allow the liquid to solid to start to melt. When a person can show that the liquid they fell on has remained no the floor for a period of time, this is a dangerous condition that the business employees should have known about and corrected the problem.
2. Don’t wait to make a claim
Most of the people that visit Disney World and the other Orlando theme parks are visiting from out of town. If they or a family member becomes injured, the natural inclination is to wait until they return home to seek medical care, and to decide whether they will pursue a claim against the park. The delay is also lengthened by businesses “reassurances” that they will take care of the injured party. This never happens to the injured person’s satisfaction. However, waiting to make a claim can destroy your ability to make a claim. Over time, key evidence is lost or destroyed, and witnesses disappear or their memories fade.
Most businesses these days, including Walt Disney World, use videotape cameras to record occurrences at the business. Although most businesses won’t admit it, the primary reason they use cameras is not due to guests, but to monitor their employees.
A nice side effect to all the videotape cameras is that they capture everything that
goes on at the business, including injuries and accidents that happen to guests. However, these videotapes usually tape over themselves after a certain period of time. In smaller businesses, the tape loop re-tapes every 24 hours. In larger businesses like Walt Disney World, they keep the tapes for up to one week, or longer if the tape helps WDW. If the tape shows a dangerous condition that caused the injury or accident to the guest, they usually get taped over or destroyed shortly after the accident.
An injured party should immediately notify Walt Disney World, or the business where they become injured, in writing, that all evidence, including videotape surveillance of the business is to be preserved, without alteration, until the injured party has an opportunity to review the videotape. By taking this step, you may possibly preserve the single, most critical piece of evidence to your claim.
3. Get an Incident Report filled out at the scene of the accident
After becoming injured at an unfamiliar surrounding, most people’s immediate reaction is not how to preserve their claim, but usually embarrassment and trying to get back up and leave the scene before anybody notices. However, failing to report the accident to Walt Disney World representatives is one of the biggest problems you’ll face in making a claim.
Most businesses, including Disney World will first claim the accident never happened if it was not reported right away. If this argument fails, the next argument will be that even if the accident or injury did happen, by not reporting it, the injured person failed to give Walt Disney a chance to investigate the area and cause of the injury or accident. Reporting the accident or injury immediately to park personnel, and requiring a detail, and factually correct incident report to be filled out, ensures you do not encounter these defenses when making a slip and fall, or accident injury claim against Walt Disney World, or any other business. Also make sure the Incident report lists witness names and contact information, and details whether any photographs were taken of the scene of the accident.