Finding Building Code Violations Can Be Crucial to Slip, Trip, and Fall Cases in Florida
What is the Florida Building Code?
Back in the 1970s, the State of Florida began requiring local governments to adopt one of four “state minimum building codes” for protecting public health and safety. After Hurricane Andrew ripped through South Florida in 1992, causing a property insurance crisis worse than any this state had previously seen, it became painfully clear that a review of the entire state building code system was needed.
This review revealed the building code system in place in Florida was utterly inadequate in the face of a major hurricane. Not only was there inconsistent compliance with the four model codes throughout the state, but the four model codes themselves were insufficient for protecting against major hurricanes like Andrew.
The Florida Building Code Study Commission was formed in 1996, and the Commission would ultimately propose a number of reforms, including creation of a uniform set of building codes and stricter enforcement of building codes throughout all of the state.
In 1998, the Florida Legislature followed the Commission’s recommendations and amended Chapter 553 of the Florida Statutes to create a statewide standard building code. This is how we go the first edition of the Florida Building Code.
Since March 1, 2002, the Florida Building Code has superseded all local building codes (for example, it replaced the South Florida Building Code that we had in Miami-Dade and Broward counties). The Florida Building Code is updated every three years, and it can be amended more frequently. The 2020 Florida Building Code is the Seventh Edition of the Code.
At Law Offices Cytryn & Velazquez, P.A., our attorneys have extensive experience in handling injury cases involving building code violations. We often work closely with architects and other building code experts to make sure that we uncover all building code violations in our premises liability cases.
Law Offices Cytryn & Velazquez, P.A. has recovered millions for our clients injured in slip and fall and trip and fall cases. Contact us today for a free consultation.
What is the Purpose of the Florida Building Code?
The purpose of the Florida Building Code is fairly straightforward. In fact, the Code explicitly states its purpose in the very first chapter of the Code itself:
The purpose of this code is to establish the minimum requirements to provide a reasonable level of safety, public health and general welfare through structural strength, means of egress facilities, stability, sanitation, adequate light and ventilation, energy conservation, and safety to life and property from fire and other hazards attributed to the built environment and to provide a reasonable level of safety to fire fighters and emergency responders during emergency operations.
The Code provides rules and standards for the design and construction of public and private buildings and other structures throughout Florida and establishes rules for ensuring statewide compliance with the Code.
In short, the central purpose of the Code is to protect the health and safety of the public across Florida.
How Can Florida Building Code Violations Impact Your Slip, Trip, or Fall Case?
Under Florida law, an owner or manager of a premises owes guests the duties of:
1) ordinary care in maintaining the premises in a reasonably safe condition, and
2) warning guests of latent dangers at the premises of which the owner or manager knew or should have been aware of.
Generally, in order to establish a defendant’s negligence and prevail in a slip, trip, or fall trial, it is necessary to prove that the defendant violated at least one of these two duties.
It is well-settled in Florida that violation of a building code is prima facie evidence of negligence. What this means is that evidence of a violation of a building code is not conclusive evidence of negligence, but it is one fact that a jury can consider when determining whether a defendant was negligent.
Although a building code violation does not automatically mean that a defendant will be found negligent, such a violation is sufficient to get your case past summary judgment or directed verdict (when a court grants a defendant summary judgment or directed verdict, essentially the court dismisses the case instead of letting the jury decide). Evidence of a violation of a building code is important because it is one way to ensure that your case will be submitted to a jury to decide whether the defendant was negligent.
Some examples of common building code violations include:
- Stairs with insufficient treads (the part of the stair you step on)
- Stairs with a riser (the height of the stair) that is too tall
- Stairways without adequate handrails
- Walking surfaces without adequate slip resistance
- Walking surfaces with uneven pavement or non-apparent changes in level
- Parking lots with inadequate lighting
These are just a few examples of possible building code violations that could result in serious injury. Since the Florida Building Code regulations are so wide ranging, covering all sorts of issues relating to electrical, mechanical, plumbing, structural, and a whole lot more, there are many, many different possible building code violations that could contribute to a slip, trip, or fall incident.
When we take on a new slip, trip, or fall case, one of the first things we try to do is to inspect the scene where your incident occurred. We try to send somebody from our office out to the scene to take pictures, videos, and measurements of the area as soon as possible after the incident. This way, we get a good idea of what the scene of the incident looked like at the time you were injured. By going out to the scene, we are able to start looking into whether any building code violations may have contributed to your incident. That way, we get a head start on gathering evidence that we can use to benefit your case.
If you or somebody you know was injured as a result of a slip, trip, or fall anywhere in Florida, call our attorneys today at (954) 833-1440 for a free consultation. We offer consultations over the phone, via Zoom video conference, or in-person at our office in Coral Springs.