Recreational use means what it says—something or someplace used for recreational purposes. This can include land, water, and park areas, which cover activities from swimming to walking dogs. As you can imagine, the government doesn’t own all land used for recreational purposes, and we should encourage private benefactors of recreational areas, such as a church that opens a playground to the public, to promote the betterment of the community. To accomplish this, many states have turned to recreational use statutes, which offer an added layer of protection from personal injury liability to owners who open private property to use by the public for recreational purposes.
Overview of Florida Premises Liability Law
Setting aside the idea of recreational use for a moment, if you suffered personal injuries on a property, the owner generally faces liability as determined both by the circumstances of your injuries (for example, falling in a pothole verses being attacked), and your purpose on the premises. In general, you can fall into three categories (with an additional subcategory) if you are on someone else’s property:
Business or social invitees – An invitee comes on premises (such as a store or theme park) for the purpose of doing business, or was explicitly invited to come to the property at a specific time. If you are an invitee, your host owes you the highest duty of care. The owner must regularly monitor the property for danger and make the premises safe for you.
Licensee – Licensees are permitted on a property, but not for the sake of conducting business—rather, for example, to take a walk in a park. The owner must warn such people about known dangers on the property but does not have a duty to monitor and make the property safe. This tends to apply in public areas such as streets and walkways.
Trespassers – Trespassers are not permitted on a property, and owners owe them no duties. For example, if you jump your neighbor’s fence without permission to swim in a pool, you likely cannot sue for negligence if a floorboard in the deck fails and hurts you. Criminal intent is not necessary in the trespass (such as if you believe your neighbor will not mind). Furthermore, to trespass, you don’t even have to know that you are trespassing (such as if you a friend who did not have permission to invite you there asked you over).
Child Trespassers – Owners owe young children a certain duty of care if their properties contain what are known as attractive nuisances, such as swimming pools, and if property owners know they may attract young children. This is an important distinction in Florida, especially at amusement parks with decorations or attractions that may draw children to them. Property owners have a duty to block off any dangerous areas that may attract children who are too young to comprehend the potential dangers.
How you sustained your injury on the property can also play a role. For example, if a criminal attacks you on a public sidewalk, did the state have a duty to warn you about the potential for an attack? Probably not. On the other hand, if someone invites you to a dinner party and a known, unstable resident of the house harms you, the property owner may bear liability for your injuries. When it comes to premises liability, the case is in the details, and you should contact an experienced Tampa Bay property law and personal injury attorney to discuss your case.
Florida’s Recreational Use Statute
The need to constantly monitor, maintain, and make safe any premises opened to the public can deter most people from opening their properties at all, especially if they do so for free. Florida, therefore, instituted a recreational use statute. The statute limits the liability of any private owner of land, water areas, or parks who makes areas available for public use without charge, even if dangerous conditions or the actions of a third-party injure someone on the property. Under this statute, the property owner specifically does not need to keep that area safe for entry or use or warn persons entering about any hazardous conditions on the property. Furthermore, an owner:
- Is presumed not to extend the assurance that the property is safe—that is, you are assuming the risk of entry
- Does not have a duty of care toward a person who enters that property, and generally is not liable for negligence
- Is not responsible for injuries to people or property on the land.
Exceptions to Recreational Use
The recreational use statute contains two main exceptions through which you may hold someone liable for injuries you incurred on private recreational property. First, if the private property owner has a contract with the state of Florida to provide use of the area, the state may have agreed to accept liability for any injuries that take place. You will need a local premises liability attorney to determine whether such a contract exists.
The statute provides a second exception if the owner of the private property derives some kind of economic benefit from the use, even if the owner doesn’t charge admission. For example, if the owner doesn’t charge admission but sells food, souvenirs, and rides on the property, then the recreational use statute may not protect the owner of the property from personal injuries suffered there.
Contact a Clearwater Premises Liability and Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you incurred injuries on what you believed was privately owned land open to the public, contact a local Tampa Bay premises liability and personal injury attorney to determine whether the recreational use statute protects the landowner, or if an exception applies. The Dolman Law Group has the Clearwater premises liability and personal injury attorneys you need to analyze the facts of your case and get you the compensation you deserve. Call them today at (727) 451-6900 or contact them online for a free, no-risk consultation.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765