You may be entitled to compensation through a premises liability claim if you suffered injuries on someone else’s property as a result of a dangerous condition. In order to hold a property owner liable in a premises liability claim, you will have to prove that a property owner knew or should have known of a dangerous condition, the property owner either failed to correct or warn about the condition, and your injuries were the result of that dangerous condition.
If you have been hurt by a dangerous condition on someone else’s property in South Florida, let the attorneys at Englander Peebles review your situation and advise you about your options during a free consultation. Contact our Fort Lauderdale premises liability lawyers to find out more about how we can help.
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Premises Liability and Permission to Visit
Property owners owe a duty to people who are on their property with their permission. Trespassers usually can’t bring a premises liability claim. However, Florida has different obligations for property owners when the victims were children.
Under the “attractive nuisance” doctrine, a property owner has an obligation to either warn or protect children — even if the children are trespassers — from certain dangers that children are likely to be attracted to without a full understanding of the possible dangers. Swimming pools and trampolines are two examples of common household items that could fall under the attractive nuisance doctrine.
Common Types of Premises Liability Claims
Some common kinds of premises liability actions in Florida include:
Slip and Fall Accidents
One of the most common kinds of premises liability claims is slip-and-fall accidents. When a person slips and falls on a foreign substance on business premises and establishes that they fell because of that foreign substance, the defendant must produce evidence that they exercised reasonable care under the circumstances.
The Florida Legislature enacted Florida Statute § 768.0755 in 2010, establishing that a plaintiff in a slip and fall premises liability claim is required to prove that the business establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it.
It is more difficult to prove actual knowledge because a plaintiff must have some kind of evidence that the property owner actually knew about the dangerous condition, an aspect of most premises liability cases that defendants routinely deny.
Under Florida Statute § 768.0755, however, constructive knowledge can be proven by circumstantial evidence (evidence in which facts are proven through circumstances providing basis for the inference of a factual conclusion) showing that the dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that, in the exercise of ordinary care, the property owner should have known of the condition, or the condition occurred with regularity and was therefore foreseeable.
Under Florida Statute § 767.04, the owner of any dog that bites another person is liable for the injuries caused, regardless of whether the dog had a previous history of viciousness. This strict liability standard is much different from the “one bite rule” some other states use that makes dog owners immune from liability when they claim to have had no knowledge of prior dog attacks. While some dog bites occur in public parks, many such attacks occur in or near the homes of dog owners.
Swimming Pool Accidents
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 10 people die by drowning every day. Two of those 10 victims are children 14 years of age or younger. Swimming pool injuries can also include broken bones) because of falls or traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) caused by oxygen deprivation. Some causes of swimming pool accidents include lack of safety signs, inadequate supervision of children, or broken drain or filter systems.
People who are victims of violent crimes such as assault or sexual crimes such as rape may have premises liability claims against businesses for failure to provide adequate security measures. Even when a business does have security personnel, the establishment could still be liable if the security guards did not do enough to prevent a victim’s injuries. The business could be liable for not properly training security guards in how to properly handle emergency situations.
In addition to slip and fall accidents in retail premises, business patrons can suffer serious injuries in many other kinds of incidents. For example, defective sidewalks, loose handrails, or display collapses can all injure people, and businesses may be liable for those injuries.
Elevator and Escalator Accidents
Elevators and escalators are common in many large buildings, and both forms of transportation need to be regularly maintained in order to ensure the safety of all users. When an elevator or escalator malfunctions and causes people to suffer injuries, the property owner could be liable for failure to maintain the elevator or escalator, or the maintenance company could possibly be liable for improper repairs.
Amusement Park Accidents
Florida is home to numerous amusement parks, including Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and many others. These facilities welcome millions of visitors every year, and people can be injured in various scenarios at the parks. In some cases, rides may malfunction, people may fall in slippery areas, or ride operators may have caused accidents by working while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
While a fire may not have been the fault of a property owner, the property owner could be liable for injuries arising from the fire if the premises did not have adequate escape systems, working sprinklers, or functioning smoke detectors. Additionally, a property owner could also be liable for a fire arising from a condition the property owner knew or should have known was dangerous.
Toxic Chemical Exposure
Not all injuries in premises liability claims are immediately apparent. A toxic tort involves people being exposed to dangerous chemicals that can cause health problems later on. Pregnant women and the children they are carrying are especially susceptible to these kinds of issues.
Compensation in a Premises Liability Claim
Florida uses a pure comparative fault system for damage awards. This means that a victim will not be prohibited from recovering damages if their negligence contributed to the cause of the accident. Rather, their final award will be proportionately reduced by their percentage of negligence.
Under this system, a person who is awarded $10,000 but found to be 10 percent at fault would have their award reduced by $1,000 and ultimately receive $9,000. The defendants in many premises liability claims will routinely argue that an accident was entirely the fault of the victim’s own negligence.
When a person seeks damages for a premises liability claim, they may be awarded compensatory damages that are usually some combination of economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are typically the types of harm that can be calculated with a specific dollar amount, while non-economic damages are types of harm that are subjective.
Economic damages frequently include medical expenses, lost wages, and costs of future rehabilitation. Noneconomic damages include a victim’s pain and suffering, disfigurement, or loss of enjoyment of life.
Florida also allows awards for punitive damages, but such damages are rarely awarded in premises liability cases. In order for a victim to be entitled to punitive damages, a property owner must have acted with willful or wanton conduct or egregious negligence. Under Florida Statute § 768.73, punitive damages are limited to three times the compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.
What to Do If You’ve Been Hurt on Someone Else’s Property
If you are injured on another person’s property, you should take certain steps to preserve your injury claim. The best actions to take are generally as follows:
Seek Medical Attention
Some people may believe at first that they were not hurt, but it is always recommended that you have your condition evaluated by a medical professional. Some injuries are not immediately apparent because of delayed symptoms. Insurers for property owners may claim that a delay in treatment is evidence that a victim’s injuries are not as serious as they claim.
File a Report
Make sure to document your incident with a manager if you were injured in a place of business. Explain what happened and be sure to ask for a copy of the report.
Get Contact Information from Witnesses
If anybody saw your accident, they could provide valuable independent opinions in a court case since the victim and negligent party are likely to dispute what actually occurred. Try to get people’s names and phone numbers or email addresses. The goal is to have a way for your attorney to contact these people if necessary.
When a person is injured because of a dangerous condition, that problem is likely to change relatively quickly — especially if the accident occurred in a business. You will want to make sure to take pictures to have proof of the condition that caused your injuries. If you are unable to do this because of the need for medical care, try to have friends or family members do it for you.
Do Not Speak to Insurance Companies
Possibly before you even file a claim, you may hear from the negligent party’s insurer. Make no mistake, an insurance company’s main goal is to protect its bottom line, and this is achieved by paying as little as possible to resolve personal injury claims.
Insurers often try to pressure victims into accepting settlements that are rarely enough to cover the full extent of losses. Some adjusters will even discourage victims from “bringing attorneys into this.” Simply put, you should avoid making any kind of recorded statement to an insurance company representative without advice from your attorney.
Call a Personal Injury Attorney
You will want capable legal assistance for help proving your premises liability claim and obtaining every last dollar of compensation you need and deserve. The lawyers at Englander Peebles are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer your legal questions and help you understand all of your rights.
Florida’s Statute of Limitations on Premises Liability Claims
The statute of limitations is the time limit that a person has to file a legal claim. With a premises liability claim, Florida Statute § 95.11(3) establishes that a person has four years from the date of an accident to file a lawsuit. Only very narrow exceptions apply in rare situations.
Most insurance companies would prefer to settle these legal actions rather than having to pay the costs of defending themselves against the claims in a civil trial. Englander Peebles can represent you in negotiations with insurers to pursue all of the compensation you are entitled to. Our firm will not hesitate to file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires if the insurance company is unwilling to provide a satisfactory settlement.
Get Help Now From Our Fort Lauderdale Premises Liability Lawyers
Were you seriously injured or was a loved one killed in an accident caused by a property owner’s negligence in Fort Lauderdale, Plantation, or elsewhere in South Florida? Do not delay in contacting Englander Peebles for a free claim review and advice about your legal options for financial recovery.
Our premises liability attorneys are committed to helping you get justice. They can provide a complete evaluation of your case during a free consultation when you call us or fill out an online contact form today.