Have you obtained an injury due to an unsafe condition on private, commercial, or public property in North Miami Beach? Do you feel that the owner or manager of the property was negligent in allowing the condition to exist on that property? If so, you should speak to an experienced premises liability lawyer, because you may be eligible for compensation.
What Is Premises Liability?
Property owners have a duty to make their property safe for visitors. Premises liability is a form of negligence in which a property owner is held liable for an injury that someone receives on their property due to an unsafe condition. The specific duty owed to visitors depends on the type of visitors they are. Florida recognizes three categories of visitors:
- Invitees: Invitees are individuals that are either invited to the property by express or implied invitation or who are there to transact business that both parties are mutually interested in. This type of visitor can include visitors who enter a store to buy merchandise or repairmen who enter the home to fix something. Invitees require the highest amount of care and property owners must either keep their property safe for them, repair unsafe features, or provide notice of the condition. Property owners are required to regularly inspect their property for hazards, as they are responsible for injuries to visitors even if they are not aware of the dangerous condition, but should have been.
- Licensees: A licensee is a person who enters and stays on the property with the owner’s consent. Licensees include social guests such as friends or family members. This type of visitor affords the second-highest level of care, requiring property owners to keep their property safe, fix known hazards, or warn their visitors of them if they know about them.
- Trespassers: Trespassers are visitors who enter a property without the owner’s consent or knowledge. Even though they don’t have permission to be there, trespassers are still owed a duty of care by property owners to keep the property clear of conditions that would cause reckless or intentional injury.
Property owners bear special legal responsibilities if their visitor is a child, even if the child entered the property without consent. This is called the attractive nuisance doctrine, and it requires property owners to safeguard any potentially dangerous feature on their property that may attract a child’s natural curiosity. Such features include swimming pools, abandoned cars or refrigerators, construction equipment, or other items that a child might find fun to play in or around.
Some of the dangerous or hazardous conditions that may lead to a premises liability case include an accumulation of water, ice, or snow or other liquids on the floor; raised or cracked sidewalks; potholes in parking lots; stairs with unsafe or missing handrails or uneven steps; uneven or cracked sidewalks; torn or raised flooring; exposed electrical wiring; debris on the floor; or improperly placed fixtures.
The most common type of premises liability case is a slip and fall. Slip and fall cases are just as the name suggests: a visitor to the property slipped or tripped on an unsafe condition there and fell. Other types of premises liability claims include inadequate building security, defective conditions, inadequate maintenance, dog bites, swimming pool accidents, fires, and amusement park accidents.
The damages that one may be eligible to receive in a premises liability case include:
The injuries that are suffered because of premises liability can potentially be severe enough to warrant the need for extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation. Severe injuries like internal injuries and anything that can cause permanent damage or disability will typically require extensive treatment that can include surgery, drugs, extensive testing/medical imaging, doctor consultation, and hospital stay that can run up a medical bill quite a bit. Even less severe injuries accumulate costs for ambulance travel, prescriptions, and simply being admitted to an emergency room. Severe injuries also have long term recurring costs in the form of checkups on the injury, physical therapy, medical devices for disabilities, as well as recurring prescriptions.
The time that a person spends having their injury treated and the time they spend recovering from that injury can typically meantime not spent at work earning wages needed to live let alone pay for their medical expenses. Lost wages can be part of the compensation sought through a premises liability claim and is typically calculated by multiplying the hourly pay of a premises liability accident claimant by the amount of potential hours they missed when they were recovering from an injury. However, in cases where people do not work via hourly pay and are freelance or something similar then an economist may be required to calculate damages accurately.
Lost Earning Capacity
Severe premises liability injuries that cause the reduced use or total loss of use of an organ can reduce a person’s potential earning capacity. Disability can affect a person’s ability to work their job or even cause them to lose a career path entirely. An economist is used to calculate the loss of potential earning capacity as a damage caused by an accident injury. They do this by collecting data on a person’s career so far and making projections based on comparison to similar career paths based on this data.
The general pain and suffering caused by an accident injury can be considered as a non-economic injury that can be part of a premises liability claim. Non-economic damages like pain and suffering can be much more difficult to calculate since they are not as tangible as financial losses. In the case of non-economic damages, the matter of how much is owed for this damage to be appropriately compensated can vary wildly depending on the circumstances of the accident and injury. Usually, comparison to other examples of compensation for pain and suffering in similar cases is used to determine a fair amount but this all comes with a fair amount of negotiation.
Unlike other damages in a premises liability claim, punitive damages are not awarded because of a need for compensation of losses caused by an accident injury. Punitive damages exist to punish the party responsible for a premises liability injury because of their gross negligence and to set an example.
Injuries Suffered in Premises Liability Cases
A wide variety of injuries can be suffered when one slips and falls or trips and falls. However, some injuries are more common than others, and include:
- Bruises, cuts, and scrapes: These are the most common injuries suffered in premises liability cases, and are often the least serious.
- Sprains and fractures: Muscles, ligaments, and bones are often the source of injury in premises liability cases as they absorb most of the impact in a fall. Common fractures from accidents that involve falling include hand, wrist, forearm, spine, hip, pelvis, leg, and ankle fractures. Hip fractures can be particularly dangerous to elderly people, with one in five hip fracture patients dying within a year of injury. While other fractures may not be quite as serious, recovering from a broken bone often takes a lot of time and may result in lost time from work.
- Head and brain injuries: Falls are the second-most common cause of traumatic brain injuries, coming only behind car accidents. Brain injuries can cause lifetime consequences.
- Back and spine injuries: Because the spinal cord is required for nearly every movement a person makes, the spine is often injured when a person falls. Back injuries suffered in premises liability accidents may include strained ligaments, fractured vertebrae, bulging or herniated discs, or even injuries to the spinal cord itself. Spinal cord injuries can result in partial or complete paralysis of the limbs and a loss of sensory function.
- Neck injuries: Similar to back injuries, neck injuries can include strained ligaments, whiplash from a jarring back-and-forth motion of the head in a fall, fractured vertebrae, or damage to the spinal discs in the neck. Neck injuries can also result in permanent disability, particularly when they involve the upper portion of the spinal cord.
As you can see, slip and fall or other premises liability situations can result in serious injuries that may require a tremendous amount of expense, and in some cases may even create permanent health issues.
What Does Florida Law Say About Premises Liability?
The following are aspects of the Florida law that pertains to premises liability:
- The statute of limitations for premises liability cases in Florida is four years from the time of the injury.
- To prove premises liability, you must show that the defendant owned, managed, or leased the property where your injury took place; that the defendant had a dangerous condition on his or her property that he or she knew about (or should have reasonably known about) and failed to either repair that condition or warn you about it, also known as “failing to use reasonable care”; and that, due to this condition, you were injured on the defendant’s property.
- Because the federal, state, and local governments have waived immunity in certain cases, it is often possible for you to sue following an injury on government property.
- Florida is a strict liability state when it comes to dog bites. What this means is that the owner of a dog is liable if that dog bites someone who is either on public property or private property by invitation, whether the owner knew that the dog might bite or not.
- Florida has a comparative negligence rule with premises liability cases, meaning that you have the ability to file a claim against someone even if you are partially responsible for your own injury. However, any award you receive from your claim will be reduced by the percentage that the court determines you liable.
- In 2010, a portion of Florida’s limited liability statute was repealed and replaced with a provision stating that, in order to prove liability, the injured party must show that the property owner had constructive knowledge of the hazardous condition. Constructive knowledge can be shown circumstantially through proof that the condition was present for longer than the time it would take a reasonable property owner to correct it, or the condition occurs often but has not been repaired.
Newsworthy Examples of Premises Liability
According to an article from the Florida Record, a Pinellas County woman filed a premises liability suit against a Gulfport restaurant in December, 2018, alleging that the defendant failed to inspect and properly maintain the entrance and exit to the restaurant or to warn invitees of the possible danger there. The suit stems from a situation last February in which the woman tripped and fell on an uneven and broken sidewalk at the doorway of the restaurant. She suffered injuries which caused physical and mental pain, the lost ability to earn future wages, and the lost ability to enjoy life.
Theme Park Premises Liability
It was announced in December, 2018, that the family of a Guatemalan man is suing Universal Orlando following the death of the 38-year-old father after he rode on a ride at the theme park. USA Today reported that the man was unable to read warning signs posted at the ride’s entrance because the signs were in English and he is only able to read information written in Spanish. The family is stating that, in light of the many visitors to Universal Orlando who come from outside of the United States, it is reasonable that warning signs there be posted in more than one language. The man suffered a fatal heart attack while still at the theme park, after taking the ride in 2016. The English-only warning stated that the ride featured “sudden accelerations, dramatic tilting, and jarring actions,” and that patrons with heart conditions shouldn’t go on the ride. The man had a history of heart problems.
State and Municipal Premises Liability
As reported in May 2018, the collapse of a newly constructed, $14.2 million pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in Miami left a number of people asking why the bridge failed and who is liable. Six people were killed in the collapse due to the cars that they were riding in being trapped underneath. Days before the collapse, an engineer working on the bridge detected cracks in the concrete and notified officials. However, it was determined that those cracks were not a safety concern. Other possible reasons for the collapse included stressed cables and landing supports that were not completely level.
Florida’s Department of Transportation could have closed the road underneath so that the cables could be tested, but they were never notified of the need to do so. The architect who designed the bridge has been cited in the past due to a previous bridge project that also collapsed. An unapproved firm was hired to do a second safety check of the work. The builder of the bridge also has had safety issues in previous projects and had a pending lawsuit over work done at an apartment complex. A forensic investigation was ordered to determine what caused the Miami bridge collapse.
What to Do if You Are Injured on Someone Else’s Property
If you were injured on someone else’s property, you can help your case:
- Seek medical treatment for your injuries. Be sure to get copies of any documents regarding your diagnosis and treatment.
- Take pictures of the unsafe condition that caused your injury, as well as any posted warning signs of the condition.
- Get the names and contact information of any witnesses.
- If the injury took place at a business or government property, file a complaint with the manager or supervisor of that property. Be sure to get the name and contact information of that individual. Additionally, file a written complaint so that you have a copy of it.
- Contact a personal injury attorney who is experienced with premises liability cases.
Filing a Premises Liability Claim in North Miami Beach
Premises liability cases can crop up anywhere, and North Miami Beach is no exception. Whether your injury took place at one of the many businesses here, at a private home, or a public park or building, an attorney experienced with premises liability can help navigate your case through the often difficult and confusing legal process. The attorneys at Sibley Dolman are eager to help you pursue the maximum compensation you can receive for your injuries.
Some of the services we provide to our premises liability clients include:
- Settlement negotiations with the property owner’s insurance company
- Drafting and filing petitions
- Discovery and the gathering of evidence
- Attending court hearings on your behalf
- Litigating the case before a jury
- Post-trial issues, including ensuring payment of your settlement and continuing to represent you if the defendant opts to file an appeal
Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP
1820 NE 163rd St #306,
North Miami Beach, FL 33162