Fort Lauderdale is filled with places to go and things to see all year ‘round. Unfortunately, many of these places increase the risk of encountering hazards that could cause you to injure yourself on someone else’s property. If you’ve been injured because a residential property owner, business owner, or even a governmental entity was negligent in the upkeep of their property, you could be eligible for compensation for your injuries. An experienced premises liability lawyer may be able to help.
What Is Premises Liability?
Premises liability is a type of personal injury case in which an individual is injured due to an unsafe condition on private or public property. In order to succeed with a premises liability claim, the claimant must be able to prove:
- The property owner knew about the dangerous condition, or should have known.
- The property owner failed to fix the dangerous condition or warn others about it.
- The claimant was injured by this dangerous condition.
There are three types of visitors to a Florida property, and the duty of care that a property owner bears for his or her visitors depends on what type of visitor they are. The visitor types are as follows:
- Business invitees – Business invitees are at the property for business purposes. An example of a business invitee is a customer of a retail store, or it could also be a repairman who goes into a home or business to do work for the property owner. Business invitees are owed the highest duty of care from property owners, including regular inspections of the property for dangerous conditions, promptly fixing any issues, as well as warning others if hazards exist.
- Licensees – Licensees are social guests such as friends and family members who enter the property for a special occasion, or neighbors who stop by to visit. Property owners are required to keep their property in safe condition for licensees, and to warn others of any known hazards.
- Trespassers – You would not think that a property owner would have a duty of care to someone who is on their property without permission. However, property owners are responsible for avoiding intentionally hurting trespassers. An example of something that would cause a property owner to breach the duty of care that they owe to a trespasser would be setting up a booby trap or similar dangerous condition designed to harm the trespasser.
Another group that Florida property owners have a responsibility towards regarding how they maintain their property is children. Florida law requires that owners keep “attractive nuisance” items such as swimming pools, old cars, and refrigerators secure on their property to prevent children from becoming curious and potentially hurting themselves due to the presence of such items.
Plaintiffs in premises liability cases may seek damage awards for economic losses, such as medical bills, missed work, and loss of future earning potential. They may also seek compensation for non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering. However, Florida places a cap on the amount of money one can be awarded for non-economic damages of three times the amount sought for economic losses, or $500,000, whichever is the larger amount.
Types of Premises Liability Claims
Slip and fall or trip and fall cases are the most common type of premises liability claim. These accidents may occur due to a number of unsafe conditions, including:
- Water or debris on the floor
- Broken or missing handrails
- Broken or uneven sidewalks
- Parking lot potholes
- Inadequate lighting
- Torn carpet or holes in flooring
- Exposed electrical wiring
Although slip/trip and fall accidents are the most common type of premises liability claim, these are also claims that may be made under the umbrella of premises liability:
- Inadequate security
- Fire hazards
- Elevator or escalator maintenance problems
- Swimming pool accidents, including everything from drowning or near drowning, to slips and falls on wet surfaces near the pool and hazards that are presented by empty swimming pools.
- Falling merchandise
- Broken locks or windows
- Construction site hazards
- Dog bites
- Toxic substances
What Kinds of Injuries Are Seen in Premises Liability Cases?
The types of injuries that our premises liability clients suffer from due to their accident are varied, and depend on what the accident entailed. Here are some of the more common injuries we see:
- Back and spinal cord injuries from falls.
- Head injuries caused by falls, falling merchandise, or near-drowning.
- Burns from fire hazards or toxic substances located at a residential, commercial, or public property.
- Broken bones, including hip fractures, caused by falls. Other bones that may be broken due to an unsafe condition on a property include arms, wrists, legs, ankles, and vertebrae.
- Strains and sprains.
Frequently Asked Questions About Premises Liability
Q: I slipped and fell at a commercial business. What should I do now?
A: It is important that you contact the store manager as soon as possible to report the incident. Be sure to get the name and contact information of the person you spoke to and ask for a copy of your complaint. Additionally, collect the names and contact information of anyone who witnessed your accident and take photos of the accident scene. Seek medical treatment for your injuries. Contact an attorney with experience in premises liability cases.
Q: How long do I have to file a premises liability lawsuit?
A: In Florida, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury suit—including premises liability—is four years from the date of the accident.
Q: What if I am partially at fault for my accident?
A: Under Florida’s pure comparative negligence rule, an individual who is partly responsible for the accident that caused his or her injury may still be eligible for compensation. However, that compensation will be reduced by the amount of responsibility they bear for the accident. For example, if a person was found to be 20 percent responsible for their accident, the damage award they receive will be reduced by 20 percent.
Q: I was walking in my neighborhood and one of my neighbor’s dogs bit me. Do I still have a premises liability claim even if the dog has never bitten anyone before?
A: While we cannot definitively say whether or not you have a case without speaking to you, Florida has strict liability in dog bite cases. What this means is that the dog’s owner can be held liable the very first time it bites someone.
Q: I injured myself at a local store. The owner of the store said that he was unaware that the dangerous condition that caused my injury even existed. Do I still have a claim?
A: You might. If you were a customer at the store, then you would be considered a business invitee and the highest duty of care would be owed to you. This duty of care would require the store owner to ensure that his or her property was regularly inspected for hazardous conditions. The question in cases like these often becomes whether or not another reasonable person in the same set of circumstances would have known about the hazardous condition.
Q: I injured myself due to a broken sidewalk at a city park. Can I file a claim against a governmental entity?
A: Federal and state laws only allow individuals to sue the government in limited situations. However, injuries on public property that were caused by a hazardous condition may constitute a valid claim. It is important to note that actions against governmental entities require a more complex process, and it is strongly recommended that you seek guidance from an experienced personal injury attorney if you are planning to file such a claim.
Q: If I was injured due to a criminal attack at a nightclub, could the club owners be held liable for my injuries?
A: While the question of liability depends on the unique details of your case, in many cases the club owners could be found liable if there was a known security issue at the club and they did not resolve the manner in a way that would ensure the safety of their patrons.
Statistics About Premises Liability
- Falls are the leading cause of death and injury among adults aged 65 or over, according to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Each year, one in four older Americans will suffer a fall.
- About 10 people die each day in the U.S. from unintentional drowning that is not boating related, the CDC notes.
- One in five people who die from drowning are children under the age of 14. For every child who drowns, five more will seek emergency treatment for nonfatal submersion injuries.
- As reported by DogsBite, dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than a third of all homeowners liability claims filed in 2017.
- Approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur each year in the United States, and one in five of those bites will become infected.
- In 2015, around 28,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery to repair damage caused by being bitten by dogs.
- According to information from the National Floor Safety Institute, floors and flooring materials are to blame for more than 2 million fall injuries each year.
- 22 percent of all slip and fall injuries resulted in more than 31 missed days from work.
Premises Liability in the News
As reported by Fox35 in early January 2019, a two-year-old girl was transported to the hospital after she fell into a rhino exhibit at the Brevard Zoo. The zoo stated that the incident happened during a hands-on educational experience in which participants stood at ground level, separated from zoo animals by a series of metal poles. The child got into the exhibit by slipping through the poles, at which point at least one rhino made contact with the child with its snout. The zoo closed the rhino exhibit to the public until officials there could figure out how to prevent such an incident from ever happening again.
According to a July 2018 article from First Coast News, dog owners can be held liable if their dog bites someone even if they are nowhere near their dog at the time that the attack takes place. Further, the article notes, if a dog that is known to be dangerous bites and kills someone, the owner can be charged with a felony. Some exceptions apply, including if the dog bite occurred while the victim was committing a crime, such as burglary. Furthermore, many homeowners insurance policies exclude dog attacks from the coverage that is provided. Florida prohibits cities and municipalities from enacting breed specific laws and currently, only Miami-Dade County has a ban on pit bulls—a ban that was grandfathered into the rule that disallows breed-specific laws.
The family and friends of students injured or killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting expressed outrage in April 2018, after learning that the Broward School District’s insurance company was treating the shooting as one incident with many victims. According to an article from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, by treating the shooting this way instead of viewing each shooting as a separate incident, the district’s liability is capped at $300,000.
Seventeen students died in the February 2018 shooting, and another 17 were injured. Far more, the article notes, bear psychological scars due to what happened that day. The district has received a number of notices of their intent to file suit. Had the mass shooting been treated as multiple incidents, the cap would have applied to each case. Victims and their families had six months to file a notice of their intent to sue with the school district.
Call Sibley Dolman if You Were Injured on Someone Else’s Property
If you have been injured in an accident in Fort Lauderdale that was caused by an unsafe condition at a private residence, a place of business, or a public facility or park, you may be eligible to receive compensation. A skilled premises liability attorney from Sibley Dolman is looking forward to hearing the details of your case and advising you on what your legal options are. To schedule your free consultation and case review, contact Sibley Dolman online or by calling (754) 208-1130.
Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP
100 SE 3rd Ave
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33394
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