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Does Florida’s Recreational Use Statute Apply to My Personal Injury Case?

Sportsman such as hunters and fisherman, along with metal detecting treasure hunters and even hikers should be familiar with the term “ask permission” before entering upon private lands. If you enter on posted, private land without permission, you could be charged with trespassing. It you are injured while trespassing, you do not have a case unless the land was not posted and a lake or other attraction could be deemed an attractive nuisance. .

Let’s say you saw that lake and did ask permission which was granted. You are walking from one spot to another along the shore and the ground gives way and you fall into a pit that was covered by some rotten wood. Is the owner of the land responsible for the injuries you received? The answer is most likely no. All states including Florida have what is known as the Recreational Use Statute. It is codified in Florida as F.S. 375.251. The intention of this statute is to relieve tort liability from land owners so they may offer public use of their properties. As long as the property owner is not charging a fee for the use, he is protected from liability.

Florida’s Recreational Use Statute states that a land owner or lessee who provides the public with a park or outdoor recreation area cannot be presumed to extend any assurance that the area, land or water, is safe for any purpose. This is meant to include, but not limited to, swimming, fishing, boating, picnicking, cycling, hiking, hunting and many other outdoor activities.

The Recreational Use Statute and Public Events

There have been several cases where a person was injured at an event where the property owner provided the space at no charge to a town or charity. In one case in Wisconsin, a woman was injured when a tethered air balloon broke free and she was struck by the basket while waiting in line for a ride. The balloon ride company’s defense was twofold. First the lady was going to take a balloon ride and had signed a release. Second, the balloon company cited the recreational use statue as protecting them from liability. The Wisconsin Supreme Court disagreed.

Because the balloon ride company was not the land owner per se, and the operator of the balloon ride was inexperienced in tethering for bad weather, the court dismissed the defenses argument of tort liability protection under the statute. In addition the woman had admittedly signed the waiver but had not yet presented it. The injured woman was awarded damages in that case.

Property in Florida is often opened to fairs and festivals at no charge to charities or other non-profits. These non-profits then invite carnivals, concert promoters or sporting event promoters to set up and operate an attraction. The charity may charge a fee to the attraction management or to each individual operator or vendor. If an injury occurs to a visitor on a ride, or while participating in another activity, the land owner is protected against a lawsuit under the Florida Recreational Use Statute. The ride operator is not. But what about the non-profit company who is renting the space as a third party? Because the non-profit is charging for the space, they are not protected by the statute either.

A ride operator is expected to take adequate precautions to ensure the safety of riders. There should be adequate warning signs regarding safety. It is not that cut and dried however. There is the assumption of risk factor and often a disclaimer of responsibility printed on the individual tickets. These are possible defenses to the claims against the ride operator, however weak they may be, but the Florida Recreational Use Statute is not applicable as a defense.

The Florida Premises Liability Lawyer

If you are injured at a public event or while participating in recreation, it is important to seek the aid of a Florida premises liability lawyer. Determining the liable party in these cases is often difficult. In the case of an injury on a ride it could be negligence on part of an employee. The ride company is responsible for the actions of its employees. It may be fully or in part due to a defective part or design. In that case the blame would fall on the manufacturer. If the venue operator invited a recreation company with a known poor record for safety violations;, that may be another avenue to pursue.

Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA has successfully litigated many personal injury cases involving all types of public venues and recreation areas. If you were injured call and speak to a premises liability lawyer at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA. There is no charge to talk with an experienced lawyer to evaluate your case. Call us today at 727-451-6900.

Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
727-451-6900

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