Property Owner Liability for Personal Injury in Florida
If you’ve been injured on the property of a business or on another person’s property, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost past and future wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. Under Florida premises liability laws, the landowner or property owner may be legally responsible for injuries from accidents that occur on their property.
Even though the landowner may be liable for your injuries, you (the plaintiff or claimant) will have the burden of proving negligence as it relates to the premises liability claim you’re bringing. Whether you’re justifying your demand to an insurance adjuster or property owner prior to filing a lawsuit, or if you’re trying to prove your case in front of a jury at trial, a Florida premises liability attorney from our firm will help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
What Types of Accidents and Injuries Are Covered by Florida Premises Liability Laws?
Premises liability covers a number of different types of accidents and injuries. Basically, a premises liability claim is typically brought when someone dies or suffers injuries because of an unreasonably dangerous condition or hazard on the premises of a business or on another person’s property. Some of the more common types of injuries that occur on another person’s property or on the property of a business include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Slip and fall on a slippery substance or a transitory foreign substance;
- Slip and fall on stairs at an apartment complex or business;
- Trip and fall over uneven pavement or sidewalk maintained by a homeowner’s association (HOA);
- Negligent security or faulty security cameras at a business with prior criminal attacks;
- Inadequate security personnel at dangerous hotels, motels, clubs, or other businesses;
- Accidents at amusement parks (i.e., accidents at Disney World, Universal Studios Florida, Six Flags, etc…);
- Elevator and escalator accidents at businesses, airports, or apartment complexes in Florida;
- Exposure to mold, lead, or other chemicals in a building or an apartment complex;
- Animal attacks and dog attacks (i.e., Pitbull attacks at apartment complexes);
- Accidents at swimming pools located at resorts and apartment complexes; and
- Daycare injuries, playground accidents, and school accidents.
The most common type of premises liability accident listed above is a slip and fall accident, and that’s followed by trip and fall accidents. These accidents typically occur at big businesses with a lot of foot traffic. For example, slip and fall accidents at Walmart, convenience stores, gas stations, and grocery stores are some of the most common slip and fall accident claims.
What is a Property Owner’s Duty of Care?
The duty a property owner owes to a person on the premises depends upon that person’s classification under Florida law. The relevant classifications are (1) Invitees, (2) Licensees, and (3) Trespassers. Let’s talk about each of these classifications below.
What is an Invitee in Florida?
In Florida, an invitee is a person that is coming onto the landowner’s property for the landowner’s benefit. Florida makes the distinction between business invitees and public invitees.
An example of a business invitee is a person that goes into a convenience store to purchase a drink and a candy bar. They’re on the property to purchase something to the benefit of the landowner.
A public invitee would be a person that goes to a public park or visits a hospital or goes to some other public attraction.
Duty Owed to Invitees
A landowner has a duty to fix known hazardous conditions or warn invitees about hazardous conditions that the landowner knows about or should know about through the exercise of reasonable care.
What is a Licensee in Florida?
The general description of a licensee is a person that enters the landowner’s property for the licensee’s benefit. Florida law, however, complicates this a bit because Florida law makes a distinction between invited licensees and uninvited licensees.
An example of an invited licensee is a social guest. This is a person that comes to your party or some other social event.
An example of an uninvited licensee would be a person that stops by your house unannounced to try and sell you a security system.
Duty Owed to Licensees
A landowner owes a duty to an invited licensee that is very similar to the duty owed to invitees above. However, a landowner owes a lesser duty to uninvited licensees. Basically, the landowner owes the uninvited licensee a duty to refrain from willfully or recklessly injuring the uninvited licensee.
What is a Trespasser in Florida?
A trespasser is a person that is wrongfully on the landowner’s property without the landowner’s permission.
Duty Owed to Trespassers
Under Florida law, landowners don’t really owe any duty to a trespasser, other than to refrain from intentionally, willfully, or recklessly injuring the trespasser.
Duty Owed to Child Trespassers (Attractive Nuisance Doctrine)
The exception to this rule is where the trespasser is a child, and the landowner knew children were likely to trespass on the landowner’s property. In this circumstance, the landowner owes the child or children a duty to warn of known or existing dangers and to prevent children from being exposed to hazardous condition. This is sometimes referred to as the “Attractive Nuisance Doctrine.”
What is a Winnable Premises Liability Claim in Florida?
A premises liability claim typically involves proving the four elements of negligence: Duty, Breach, Causation, and Damages. Put simply, an injured person has the burden of proving (1) that the landowner had a duty to do something or not do something; that (2) the landowner breached that duty by no doing (or by doing) something; that (3) the breach of duty caused injury to the victim; and (4) that the victim suffered some type of damage, like medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages.
Premises Liability Hypothetical
Premises liability claims can be framed more specifically than the elements of duty, breach, causation, and damages. Thus, the elements of a premises liability claim may look more like this: (1) there was a dangerous condition; (2) the landowner knew or should have known about the condition; (3) the landowner failed to fix the condition or warn of the condition; and (4) the victim suffered injuries as a result. Let’s walk through a quick hypothetical using these elements.
Element 1: Dangerous Condition on the Landowner’s Property
Let’s say the landowner here is a 7-Eleven gas station, and the condition at issue is a lip of concrete on the sidewalk in front of the store. There is an old tree that has been in front of the store for years. Over time, the roots of the big tree have grown under the sidewalk and caused one of the portions of the sidewalk to rise about 2 inches higher than the adjoining pieces of the sidewalk. Therefore, there’s a trip hazard on the property of the 7-Eleven.
Element 2: Landowner’s Reasonable Knowledge About the Dangerous Condition
Let’s say the tree has been on the property for the past 30 years. Over the past 5 years, the roots have caused the sidewalk to rise in one area, which has created the trip hazard at the entrance of the gas station. Because this condition has grown worse every year, the landowner clearly has knowledge about the condition, or it should have, at the very least, noticed the trip hazard over the past year or so.
Element 3: Landowner’s Failure to Fix or Warn Visitors About the Dangerous Condition
In this hypothetical, let’s say nobody had taken steps to grind down the elevated edge of concrete that created the trip hazard. Additionally, let’s say there were no signs on the day the victim fell. Therefore, the landowner has not fixed the condition, nor has the landowner made any effort to warn of the condition.
Element 4: The Victim Suffered Injuries as a Result of a Slip, Trip and Fall
As a result of tripping over the risen edge of concrete, the victim suffered a broken knee that required surgery. In addition to medical bills and pain and suffering, the victim was forced to miss months of work. Therefore, the victim has damages.
What People and Entities Could be Liable for a Premises Liability Accident?
Although we’ve been talking about the property owner in this article, there may be other people who are liable for a premises liability accident. For example, in a premises liability case involving negligent security and a shooting at an apartment complex, the security company may be partially at fault for the victim’s injuries. Another example is a slip and fall in a parking lot. In those situations, a painting company or maintenance company may also be liable for damages suffered in the parking lot.
To achieve the best result for your case, it’s critical that you uncover all the possible defendants. Thus, the investigation could be key to maximizing the value of your case. For example, the obvious defendant may not have much insurance available to cover your damages. However, a hidden defendant may have a big insurance policy. Overall, the best way to achieve a good result is to name all the possible defendants in your case. That’s where your Florida premises liability lawyer can help you.
What Steps Should I Take After Suffering Injuries at a Business Property in Florida?
In some businesses, you may be able to contact a property owner, property manager, or business manager to let them know you were injured. They may have you fill out an incident report, which documents when and how you were hurt. If possible, let the proper folks know about your fall so that someone can fill out an incident report and document what happened on the day you were injured.
Additionally, you should take pictures and video of the scene of the accident. Soon after your accident, the business or company will likely clean up the area and fix the problems that caused you to suffer injuries. Therefore, if you can get pictures and video soon after the accident, that evidence could be very helpful to your case down the road.
Sometimes, however, your injuries may be so severe that you need to get to the hospital. In these scenarios, it’s aways best to dial 911 before you do anything else. That way, you can get medical attention as soon as possible.
Get Your FREE Legal Consultation with an Orlando, Florida Premises Liability Attorney
We offer free legal consultations with a Florida premises liability attorney. In other words, after you schedule your free consultation, you’re going to speak with a lawyer, not an intake specialist or customer service representative. All you have to do is contact us on or website, or you can call us at (321) 352-7588.