Premises Liability and Personal Injury
In Florida, property owners have a duty of care to protect visitors from the dangers that lurk on their properties. The extent to which an owner is liable for a visitor’s personal injury, depends on a number of factors.
These factors combined to create a spectrum of liability ranging from 100% liability in the most extreme case all the way to low or no liability at the other end of the spectrum.
Factor #1 Status of the Visitor
Visitors that you accept on your property typically fall into two categories invitees and licensees. The difference between an invitee and a licensee is that invitees or specifically invited to a property to benefit the owner of the property. Licensees on the other hand are people who visit the property, are allowed to be on the property, but are specifically there for their own purposes and not to the benefit of the owner. Licensees maybe people who are visiting your store or your house in order to entertain themselves at a party or perhaps to use the bathroom but not to purchase any of the items in your store. the difference between an invite tea and a license see if that invite he’s are specifically invited to a property to benefit the owner of the property. License he’s on the other hand or people who visit the property, are allowed to be on the property, but are specifically there for their own purposes and not to the benefit of the owner. Licenses maybe people who are visiting your store or your house in order to entertain themselves at a party or perhaps to use the bathroom but not to purchase any of the items in your store. The law treats invitees and licensees slightly differently when it comes to premises liability. As a property owner you have a duty to protect invitees from known and unknown dangers that may be lurking on your property. This means that you have a duty to seek out potentially dangerous areas and ensure that those areas are remediated so that your invitees are safe. In general terms, property owners have a lower duty of care to protect licensees who are visiting their property. This means that taking a less proactive approach to protecting licensees may be acceptable in many cases. Still, property owners are required to make sure that all known dangers are remediated before people visit their property.
Factor #2 Assumed Risks
Some risks are considered to be inherent and are expected to be known to all visitors to a property. For example, a visitor to the Everglades can assume that they will be exposed to alligators while visiting a property with a swamp. If the owner prominently displays a sign that says beware alligators are present and an individual is subsequently bitten by an alligator then the argument can be made that by visiting the Everglades and walking into the swamp they assumed the risk of being exposed to alligators.
Likewise, a skateboarder at a public skatepark may be presumed to have assumed the risk of being injured simply by skating at the park.
Factor #3 Open and Obvious Risks
Other risks, while not necessarily knowable before visiting a property, become very clear once they are seen on the property itself. For example if you walk onto a field and notice that there are large fluorescent orange metal clamps in the middle of the field, if you injure yourself by tripping over the high visibility metal clamps then it is likely that a case can be made that they were in plain view and that you should have seen them.
“… a skateboarder at a public skatepark may be presumed to have assumed the risk of being injured simply by skating at the park.”
Factor #4 Comparative Fault
Florida is a “comparative fault” state, meaning that if someone is injured on your property it is possible that you could share the fault of the personal injury if the injured party is partially at fault for the accident. This means that a court would take into consideration the degree to which an owner of a property and the injured party may be responsible each for any open and obvious risks or assumed risks involved with the case. So in the case of the metal clamps mentioned above it could be said that the visitor to the property may be responsible for 50% of the injuries to themselves. The owner would therefore only be required to pay 50% of the damages.
What about Trespassers?
If a trespasser enters your property you may be liable for personal injury caused during their visit. As a property owner, you do not have an extensive duty of care to protect trespassers on your property. However there are exceptions. One such exception includes that of having an attack dog on the premises specifically for the purpose of Defending Your property. In such a case, Florida law stipulates that a sign is posted prominently stating “bad dog”. in this case the trespasser will be presumed to be assuming the risk of being on a property with a bad dog and the property owner may not be liable for damages in the case of a dog attack.
What Should to do if Injured on Someone’s Premises?
Because of the intersectionality of all of the factors involved, personal injury cases involving premises liability can be complex.
If you are in an accident on someone’s property, the first step is to make sure that you were safe and that the injury is not life-threatening. In the case of an emergency, call 911 immediately. Then, if possible, make sure that you take pictures and get the contact details for any witnesses that would have seen the accident happen.
On-the-scene evidence will be very helpful when building your case with a personal injury attorney.
The next step is to call the attorneys of South Florida Law on (954) 900-8885. We are available 24/7 to handle your claim and get you the settlement or court award you deserve.
Jared Newman, Esq. is a seasoned attorney at South Florida Law, with an emphasis in Personal Injury Law. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology from the University of Florida. Mr. Newman attended and received his Juris Doctorate from the South Houston College of Law.
Mr. Newman understands insurance companies tactics and has the experience to counter them. This background allows South Florida law to fight smart against the Big Insurance Companies. If necessary, we are prepared to meet insurance companies in court and recover the compensation you deserve.