Residents, business owners, and government agencies in Florida all have a responsibility to keep their property safe from hazards that could injure visitors. If you have been injured in an accident due to unsafe conditions at a home, business, parking lot, or public park, you may be eligible to seek compensation for the cost of your injuries. Working with an experienced premises liability lawyer can help if you wish to file a claim.
What Is Premises Liability Law?
Premises liability law involves personal injury claims that stem from an individual sustaining an injury due to unsafe conditions of a property, including commercial, residential, and public property. However, the issue of liability in premises liability cases can prove complex; property owners are not necessarily liable for all injuries sustained on their land. Injured victims must prove that the property owner, or other entity in control of the property, acted negligently and failed to maintain safe conditions. Proving neglect involves showing that the owner or property manager either (1) knew about the hazardous condition that caused the victim’s injury or (2) reasonably should have known about it and that the person in charge failed to fix the hazardous condition or post signs that clearly warned of the danger. Some of the most common types of accidents involved in premises liability cases include:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Dog bites
- Water leaks or flooding
- Toxic fumes
- Failure to maintain or inadequate maintenance of the property
- Defective conditions on the property, such as malfunctioning elevators or escalators
- Inadequate building security that leads to an injury or assault
- Swimming pool accidents
- Amusement park accidents
Property owners have varying degrees of responsibility with regard to their visitors, depending on the type of visitor. Visitors are grouped into different classifications, and that classification determines what level of care a property owner owes them. Below we discuss the various classifications:
- Invitees: People frequently enter stores, restaurants, and other private businesses to conduct business. This type of visitor is known as a business invitee. For homeowners, repairmen and utility workers also fall under this classification. Invitees have the right to assume that the business or home in which they are working has been inspected for dangerous conditions that could cause an injury.
- Licensees: When individuals—most often family or friends—go to a private residence for social, non-business purposes, the law classifies them as licensees. Homeowners have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their property, which involves either repairing dangerous conditions or warning visitors of the danger.
- Trespassers: Trespassers are individuals who have entered private property without permission. While property owners generally don’t owe a trespasser the same level of care, they are prohibited from setting up dangerous conditions that could harm a trespasser, such as a trap, and if they discover a trespasser on their property, they still must warn them of any known dangerous conditions that aren’t obvious through ordinary observation.
- Children: The law provides special protection to children who trespass onto other individual’s private property, because children are often unable to understand the idea of trespassing and its illegality, and they are attracted to certain things that can be dangerous, such as swimming pool, trampolines, old appliances, and cars. Accordingly, homeowners have a responsibility to secure their property with gates, locks, and other means, so curious children are not accidentally injured or killed. This legal concept is known as the attractive nuisance doctrine.
Types of Injuries Involved in Premises Liability Cases
While premises liability cases can involve almost any injury imaginable, some are more common than others, including:
- Broken bones due to slips and falls, including hips, wrists, and ankles
- Tears and strains to muscles, ligaments, and joints
- Head, neck, or back injuries, often due to slips and falls
- Drowning and near drowning from swimming pool accidents
- Disfiguring injuries due to dog bits and other premises liability accidents
- Burns due to premises fires
News About Premises Liability Law
In November 2018, a woman filed a lawsuit against a Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Orlando. According to a report from the Florida Record, the woman alleged that she slipped and fell due to a slippery substance on the floor, resulting in pain, disability, disfigurement, and scarring. She claimed that Texas Roadhouse should be held responsible for her injuries because it failed to follow its corporate policies with regard to a dangerous condition, failed to provide adequate staff on duty or to assign the task of inspecting or maintaining the premises to someone, and did not provide necessary warning signs of the slippery substance.
As reported by WPTV, a Florida woman sued a full-service bar and off-leash dog park in St. Petersburg after a dog at the facility bit her nose, which required stitches and to have a plastic surgeon reattach her nose. The incident occurred in May 2018 while the woman was interacting with a dog at the bar. She had previously encountered the dog with its owner, but at the time of the injury, the dog was separated from its owner, and the woman held out her hand and spoke to it. The dog then attacked her. The woman alleged that the owner of the establishment failed to adequately protect its patrons from harm. According to the property owner, the business requires that visiting animals be current on their vaccinations, spayed or neutered, over one year old, and non-aggressive.
According to a June 2016 article from the BBC, after a two-year-old was taken and killed by an alligator while visiting a Disney-owned property, the public wondered whether Disney was liable for the child’s death. The child was wading in an area with “no swimming” signs posted when the alligator accident occurred; however, Disney had not posted any signs warning of alligators. The question of liability under these circumstances hinged on whether Disney’s failure to post signs warning of alligators constituted negligence, and whether Disney knew or should have known that alligators frequented the area. The article also notes that Disney had been working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to remove nuisance alligators. After the boy was killed, five alligators were trapped and euthanized in the water where the accident occurred.
In 2017, the Leon County School District was sued in regard to a 2014 accident that involved a child who slipped and fell on uneven concrete at the top of an elementary school drop-off point in. According to a report from WTXL, the child hit her head due to the fall and suffers from ongoing headaches. The plaintiff alleged that the school district acted negligently by failing to warn students of the dangerous condition, and by not taking proper measures to repair it. In addition to the injury and medical costs that stemmed from the accident, the lawsuit also seeks compensation for mental anguish, physical and mental pain and suffering, and loss of services.
In late October 2018, a woman filed a premises liability suit against a St. Petersburg Wal-Mart due to a fall she suffered in 2017. According to a report from the Florida Record, the woman tripped and fell due to a worn and raised floorboard in the infant department of the store. The fall caused her to land on her side and strike her head. In her lawsuit, she alleged that she suffered severe bodily injuries that caused pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, and substantial medical expenses. She also alleged that the store failed to give adequate notice or to otherwise warn its customers of the dangerous condition.
According to a July 2018 report from NBC Miami, trampoline parks in South Florida are linked to hundreds of injuries and dozens of lawsuits. For example, the family of a 13-year-old girl who suffered a broken ankle two years ago while playing at a Coconut Creek trampoline park filed one such lawsuit. According to the report, at least twelve such lawsuits have been filed against this one trampoline park. In the past two years, individuals have made over 300 9-1-1 calls from trampoline parks in the region, with 70 of those calls requiring paramedics to respond. In spite of prominently displayed signs warning of risks, as well as required waivers, trampoline parks can still be found liable for the injuries to their patrons, often due to lack of supervision. In the 13-year-old girl’s case, the trampoline park filed a counterclaim, alleging that the girl’s father signed a waiver in which he agreed not to make any attempts to recover damages due to injuries suffered at the park.
As reported by the Miami Herald in May 2018, a former employee of Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft, filed a lawsuit against a trust controlled by him and his wife, Melinda. The employee, a woman who worked as a cleaner at a ranch owned by Bill and Melinda Gates, filed her claim after sustaining an injury when she slipped and fell downstairs at the property, possibly due to a slippery carpet. She claimed to have suffered catastrophic injuries that required several surgeries and that she was unable to return to work due to her injuries.
What Are the Provisions of a Premises Liability Claim?
Below we discuss important provisions of a premises liability lawsuit:
- Under Florida’s statute of limitations law, a plaintiff must file any premises liability claim within four years from the date of the accident.
- Plaintiffs in premises liability lawsuits must be able to prove that an unsafe condition on the property caused their injuries, that the property owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition, and that the property owner failed to repair or warn of the unsafe condition.
- Florida follows a pure comparative negligence standard, meaning that if a court determines that an injured individual was partially responsible for the accident, the court will reduce any damages award according to the injured party’s percentage of fault.
- When filing a premises liability claim, plaintiffs may seek damages for medical bills, lost wages, loss of future earning ability, pain and suffering, and—if your loved one died due to a dangerous property condition—wrongful death.
- While it is possible to file a premises liability claim against a government agency if you sustained an injury due to an unsafe condition on public property, the law caps your potential recovery at $200,000.
- Premises liability claims can be filed against more than just the property owner. Anyone charged with maintaining a property can be the subject of a claim, including property managers or even companies contracted to provide maintenance for the owner of a property, if the unsafe condition fell within the purview of their work.
How You Can Help Your Premises Liability Claim
If you have been injured due to an unsafe condition on private, commercial, or public property in Aventura, you should take the following important steps:
- Seek immediate medical help for your injuries. Hang on to copies of any of the bills or other records regarding your injuries and the treatment that you receive.
- If your injury occurred at a commercial or public location, file a complaint with the appropriate management. Make sure to get the name and contact information of the person you speak with, as well as a written copy of your complaint.
- Take pictures of the unsafe property condition and any signage near it. You should take these photos as soon as possible following your accident to preserve evidence that the unsafe condition existed.
- Gather the names and contact information of anyone who may have witnessed your accident.
- Avoid accepting any settlement offers from the property owner’s insurance company until after you’ve spoken to a qualified personal injury attorney.
- Avoid posting about the incident on social media.
What Doesn’t Warrant a Premises Liability Claim
Just because you may have been injured on someone else’s property does not necessarily mean that the owner of that property is liable for the damages that you have suffered. In order for you to be able to file a premises liability claim against the owner of a property, you were injured on, the owner of that property would have to have been negligent in a way that directly leads to an accident that caused a plaintiffs injury. Negligence can come in all kinds of forms but it has to be traceable to a property owner. Also, in order for a property owner to be negligent, they have to have some knowledge that of an issue that can cause injury to a plaintiff.
For example, you can sue on the grounds of premises liability in the case of someone slipping and falling because of a spill on the floor. However, that spill had to of been present and known to those running the property and despite being aware that it could injure someone they would have to neglect to clean it up. You can’t sue someone because you slipped on a spill that just occurred. A property owner has to have an opportunity to do something about it. It is in the absence of a property owner’s action that negligence is determined.
How We Can Help You
The experienced premises liability lawyers at Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP may be able to help you secure compensation for the full cost of your injuries through a premises liability claim. These claims are often complex, as the burden of proof is on you to prove the extent of your injuries and that the property owner’s negligence caused your injury. If you retain one of our attorneys, we will take time to investigate your case, determine any other parties that may be jointly liable, and evaluate whether you may face any potential liability under Florida’s comparative negligence standard. We cannot guarantee a favorable result in your case, but we can promise to aggressively negotiate with insurance carriers on your behalf or to litigate your case in court if settlement seems impossible. Call Sibley Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP at (954) 302-7068, or contact us online, to schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced premises liability attorneys.
Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP
PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS
20807 Biscayne Boulevard Suite 100,
Aventura, FL 33180
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