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Premises liability laws protect victims that are injured on the property of another. Property owners, managers, and business operators that are in possession of property have a legal obligation to maintain a safe premises.
If the property is unsafe and someone is injured because of it, then the property owner may be responsible. Whether it is a slip and fall or inadequate security, if your injuries occurred due to a landowner’s negligence, you may have a claim for damages.
Any property owner such as a landowner, operator, property manager, or even a homeowner could potentially be liable to you for injuries on their property. These property owners would be responsible for paying out money damages for the harm caused by their negligence.
The property owner may be liable for injuries if an unsafe condition was created and someone was injured on the premises as a result. Alternatively, a property owner may be liable if there was an unknown unsafe condition on the property that existed long enough that it should have been discovered and made safe. Property owners of stores or places where the public may enter have a duty to maintain a safe premises and routinely inspect the premises to ensure it remains safe to the public. At a minimum, the property owner should warn of any dangerous conditions.
Some of the most common premises liability cases involve:
- Dog bites
- Inadequate security
- Trip and falls
- Slippery floors
- Improper upkeep of common areas
- Broken handrails
- Crumbling or uneven stairs
- Inadequate lighting
- Defective conditions on the premises
- Potholes in the road
- Elevator accidents
- Swimming pool accidents
- Falling objects
- Water leaks
- Lack of guard rails or gates
- Exposed electrical wiring
- Obstructed walkways
- Construction site hazards
- Unsafe working environments
- Broken locks or windows
- Building code violations
- Assaults on private property
- Wrongful death
Depending on the type of property and what the owner uses it for, there may be a duty to inspect, make safe, or warn about dangerous conditions. This may include putting out a wet floor sign after mopping, a caution sign for tripping hazards, or ensuring adequate lighting in dark parking lots. Property owners might not be directly liable for crimes that take place on their property, but they may be held partially liable if they knew of a safety and security risk and failed to prevent a foreseeable crime.
What Locations Can a Premises Liability Claim Arise?
Any property that is owned by another, who implicitly or explicitly invites members of the public onto the property, may be liable to you if you are injured. Some common locations may include:
- Grocery stores
- Gas stations
- Hotels and casinos
- Shopping malls
- Amusement parks
- Cruise ships
- Residential buildings
- Parking lots
- Nightclubs and bars
- College campuses or public schools
Classifications of People for Purposes of Premises Liability
There are three main classifications of people when it comes to determining premises liability. Each classification will require the landowner to exercise a different duty of care. The three main types are invitees, licensees, and trespassers.
Invitees are those that are invited onto the premises for a business purpose at a benefit to the property owner. These include shoppers at a grocery store, clients in an office building, tenants entering the lobby of their apartment building, or diners in a restaurant. Invitees are owed the highest degree of care.
Licensees are those that enter onto the premises for other reasons that are not business or commercial related. Licensees are social guests. These include friends and family members attending a social gathering such as a birthday party or door-to-door salespeople. Licenses are owed the second highest degree of care.
A trespasser is a person who is not authorized to be on the property. In Florida, there is generally no duty owed to a trespasser. This means that a property owner will not need to warn or make the property safe for those not authorized to be on the property. Sometimes a trespasser becomes known and, in these cases, the property owner may owe a minimal degree of care.
The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine
A trespassing child who enters the property will be analyzed under the attractive nuisance doctrine. This doctrine provides that property owners have a duty to make their premises safe if it is reasonably foreseeable that children might be drawn to an unsafe condition on their land.
The features that might seem attractive to a child and make them enter the property could include a swimming pool, playground equipment, or construction equipment that looks like it could be played with. Even objects such as iceboxes, refrigerators, lockers, and clothing washers or dryers have been labeled as attractive nuisances. Not removing the doors to these appliances is considered an attractive nuisance to children because they may become airtight and pose a health and safety risk.
Do I Have a Claim for Premises Liability?
Most claims for premises liability will have to show negligence on the part of the property owner. Landowners owe a duty of care to the public who enters their premises for the purpose of conducting business. This means that grocery stores, shopping malls, and other retail stores have the highest duty of care to shoppers on their property. This is because property owners are legally obligated to protect the innocent shopper who is invited onto the property for the landowner’s benefit.
Landowners must warn of known or hidden dangers. If you were injured due to an unsafe condition or a failure to warn and the danger was not obvious, then you may have a claim for premises liability.
There are factors to consider that a Miami premises liability injury attorney may ask about when evaluating your case. The answers to these questions could determine whether you have a claim for damages. These include questions such as:
- Did the property manager know or should they have known of the dangerous condition?
- Could they have made it safer?
- Has this type of injury or accident occurred before and, if so, how many times?
- Were the dangerous foreseeable or preventable?
What Damages May Be Recoverable?
Dangerous conditions on a property may result in severe injuries. Victims injured on the property of another due to the owner’s negligence or the foreseeable criminal acts of a third party may be entitled to money damages. Damages may include compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Prescription medication
- Ongoing medical treatment
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Permanent disabilities
Read More: How to Calculate the Value of a Case
Do I Need a Premises Liability Lawyer?
Quick action by an experienced premises liability lawyer may help preserve evidence for trial. This may include taking pictures of the unsafe area or condition, collecting security footage, public records, or other evidence.
Florida limits personal injury damages to $200,000. This applies to injuries that occur on government-owned property. Florida law also requires victims injured on local, state, or government property to provide written notice of their claims before a suit can be filed. A Miami premises liability injury attorney may be able to help you as they will be well versed in these laws.
Property owners should act quickly to resolve a dangerous condition after an accident so that no one else can be harmed from it. However, property owners may attempt to remove incriminating evidence or fire employees who witnessed an accident to avoid liability. An experienced lawyer will be able to investigate the accident and is aware of these tactics.
What Should I Do After a Premises Liability Injury?
Report the accident as soon as possible and fill out an incident report. This may include notifying the store owner and following their protocol for injuries occurring on their property. Be sure to keep copies of all reports. Obtain the names of employees or managers on duty if possible. Take pictures of the accident scene. Seek medical attention and document your injuries with a medical professional.
Remember that property owners have a duty to keep storefronts and business establishments safe for the general public. It is a public safety issue and property owners should be held responsible for any harm caused.
Get Help from Miami Premises Liability Injury Lawyers
At Zinda Law Group, our Miami personal injury lawyers are experienced and have handled many cases involving premises liability. We have the knowledge and resources necessary to help you determine what to do next and to help recover the best possible outcome for your case.