When you are injured in another person's premises in Florida, you have an actionable premises liability claim against the person exercising control over the property or its owner. Premises liability is a personal injury claim that people assert against a property manager or owner. You need to prove some aspects as outlined by Florida laws to succeed in this kind of claim.
Elements That You Must Prove in a Premises Liability Claim in Florida
Like other forms of a negligence claim, you must prove four elements of negligence action to win a premises liability claim. These elements include:
- The property owner or manager owed a duty of care
- The property owner or manager breached their duty of care owed to you
- The breach resulted in your injuries
- You suffered actual damage as a result of the injury
You must prove all these four elements by a preponderance of the evidence to prevail on your liability claim. A preponderance of the evidence suffices when a plaintiff convinces the prosecution that there is more than a 50% chance of the claim being valid. Below is a breakdown of these elements:
Proving Duty of Care in Premises Liability
Florida laws don't owe anyone that enters into a property similar duty of care. Instead, these laws owe a duty of care based on why that particular person enters a property. People who enter a property are classified as licensees, invitees, or trespassers to determine the duty of care owed to them. Let's take a closer look at these people for a clear understanding.
An invitee refers to anyone invited to a property for business purposes. This includes a visit to a public place, social guests, and shoppers. Property owners or managers in these properties must keep them safe, and if they pose any form of danger to the invitees, they should warn them about them. According to Florida laws, property owners have the highest duty of care to invitees.
They must regularly inspect their properties to ascertain that they are safe to the invitees. For instance, a grocery store owner should periodically check the aisle for foreign substances that would cause slips and falls to the invitees.
Licensee refers to someone who's on a property that directly benefits them. According to Florida laws, licensees are owed the second highest duty of care. Property owners still must post warning signs for any risk that premises pose to a licensee or end up being held liable for the injuries incurred as a result of their negligence. A clear example of a licensee is someone who enters into a shop to seek change rather than shop.
It might seem odd, but property owners have a duty of care against trespassers. No matter their motive, trespassers are still entitled to some degree of protection from property owners or managers. Since trespassers have no reason to be on a property, they are owed the lowest duty of care. Under Florida laws, property owners and managers should exercise reasonable care to prevent intentional injury when someone is on their property. For instance, leaving an unmarked open hazard could create liability to a property owner.
Property owners and managers owe trespassers some form of responsibility such as:
- Property notice of any dangerous conditions that the property owner knows about
- Keeping the property reasonably safe
- Proper posting of "no trespassing" signs or warning or harmful conditions on the property
Since property owners and managers owe different forms of duty of care to individuals depending on their classification, you must prove that you fit into any of these categories.
To do so, you must testify why you entered into the property and present physical evidence like promotional flyers or invitations to show that you are an invitee or a licensee. You can also give testimonies of other people with you on the premises and were there for a particular purpose.
Please note, since trespassers are owed the lowest duty of care, you should try to establish that you were an invitee or a license when the injuries occurred to be in a better position of being compensated.
Proving Breach of the Duty of Care in Premises Liability
Failure to use reasonable care to protect someone who resides or travels through your property generally means that you have breached your duty of care. Property owners or managers do not safeguard others from their properties' dangers when they breach their necessary duty of care.
Therefore, plaintiffs should demonstrate and show the judge or jury that the property owner or manager was negligent through knowledge or foresight that the danger could injure or harm another person on the property.
In most cases, breach of duty in premises liability cases arise from maintenance oversights which include any of the following:
- Broken or missing barriers or rails
- Missing or fading signs
- Broken fences
- Sharp and broken counters
- Icy walkways
- Exposed wires
- Broken kennels and frayed leashes
Please note, Florida laws define a breach of duty differently from another state. According to the law enacted by the statute on 1st July 2010, anyone injured by a transitory foreign substance must prove that the property owner or manager had actual and constructive knowledge about the dangerous condition and should have taken immediate actions. A plaintiff can prove constructive knowledge through circumstantial evidence by showing that:
- The dangerous condition existed for quite a long time in that in the exercise of ordinary care, the business owner or management would have known about the condition
- The condition occurred regularly and was foreseeable
This approach is referred to as the "traditional" approach to premises liability. In this approach, an injured person must prove that the business owner or manager knew about the dangerous condition before the injury occurred. Therefore, the most important question that a plaintiff must answer is whether the danger was "foreseeable" to decide whether to seek compensation or not.
You should note that not all accidents that occur on properties are eligible for premises liability cases. For instance, when a grocery shopper spills water on the floor and seconds later another shopper walks in, slips, and injures himself, the property owner probably didn't know about the hazard and didn't have enough time to address it. Therefore, most likely, there's no settlement to be recovered.
However, in another situation where the city knows about a sidewalk that becomes dangerously icy every winter and doesn't repair it or put up a sign warning people about this, any slip or injury associated with it might hold them liable for the injuries incurred.
The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine in Premises Liability
In Florida, special laws are created in terms of premises liability due to children's curious nature. It's a body of law that establishes special legal duties to property owners towards children. The court can impose this doctrine if there's something in a property that children see as attractive and would implore their curious nature like construction equipment and a swimming pool that's left unattended. Other things include hot tubs, septic tanks, gravel pits, or anything that seems "fun" to children.
Generally, landowners must be responsible for child trespassers if:
- They know or have a reason to know that the place where's there a hazard is where a child may trespass
- The hazard is known to and should be known to cause unreasonable risk to a child
- Children couldn't realize the risk involved with the hazard
- The burden of eliminating the danger is less than the risk that it poses to the child
- The property owner didn't act reasonably to remove the danger and protect the child from the risks that it poses
Therefore, failure to maintain reasonable caution or safety to things regarded as attractive nuisances puts a landowner or manager liable for the injuries sustained by a child trespasser.
Proving Causation in Premises Liability
Causation means that you incurred injuries due to a property owner or manager's breach of duty. Therefore, if a plaintiff doesn't incur injuries due to an instance of breach of duty, the claim becomes invalid.
It can be challenging to prove causation in a premises liability case. A plaintiff must demonstrate a tangible link or nexus between a breach of duty of care and the injury. Therefore, the plaintiff must prove that the breach of duty is the "proximate cause" of the injury.
Proximate cause refers to a reason which naturally and continuously caused an event. An event becomes a proximate cause if it's foreseeable and is the cause in fact of the injuries sustained by the plaintiff.
Please note, plaintiffs are usually put in a conundrum when testifying that they directly observed what led to their injury. This usually works as a defense argument, and if the plaintiff saw the danger, failure to avoid it is regarded as an assumption to the risk. The ideal way to put this is by claiming that you came to know about the condition when you had already incurred an injury and turned around and saw the hazard.
Often, personal injury attorneys use circumstantial evidence to prove that a hazardous condition caused the plaintiff's injury. Circumstantial evidence proves a fact indirectly, meaning that the jury can accept or deny any argument based on this type of evidence.
Proving Damages in Premises Liability
Finally, you must prove that you incurred some expenses due to the injuries sustained from the property in question. There are different forms of damages in a premises liability claim. Damages that might be available in premises liability are as follows:
Short Term Medical Expenses
A victim that suffers significant injuries would likely incur several medical bills. Some of these bills might be immediate, like ambulance rides, surgeries, emergency room expenses, and medication. Other costs include hospital care and nursing care.
Long Term Medical Expenses
Long-term medical bills are also regarded as damages that arise in a premises liability claim. They include any form of medical intervention that you might need in the future. It can be challenging to project the cost of future medical care, but it's essential to work on their appropriate value to include it in your claim.
Not all injuries incurred on-premises are physical. Victims can claim expenses to treat psychological injuries like PTSD, depression, altered mood, and anxiety.
Plaintiffs can seek compensation for any damages to their property due to a property owner's negligence. They must prove that the particular items were damaged and their appropriate value.
Lost income refers to the immediate inability to work after an injury and long-term loss of the ability to work. You must prepare to explain how the injuries sustained from a particular property changed your ability to work both in the short and long term while seeking compensation.
Premises liability injuries can affect your household expenses in several ways. You should seek compensation for your household expenses if the injury affected your ability to provide an optimal level of care to your family.
Pain and Suffering
Physical injuries usually result in pain. If you endure this sort of pain due to a premises liability injury, you deserve to seek compensation. You can seek damages for pain and suffering in proportion to the severity of your injury and its associated pain.
You can seek compensation through a premises liability claim if you incur an injury that causes physical disfigurement.
If a loved one dies due to premises liability injuries, you can seek a range of damages associated with this. You can seek compensation for your burial expenses, outstanding medical bills, loss of family support, and emotional distress.
Punitive damages are available in cases where there's gross or egregious negligence on the property owner's part or damages. Usually, plaintiffs seek punitive damages when the defendant's actions are exceptionally deliberately and willfully reckless to allow a premises accident to occur.
Find a Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
It's crucial to understand the elements associated with a premises liability to receive your rightful compensation. Remember, the defendant's insurance company and defense attorneys will be working hard to deny or reduce your compensation claim.
Working with a skilled personal injury attorney is the best way to maximize your chances for fair compensation. At the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney, we are ready to offer professional legal services to anyone filing a premises liability claim in Jacksonville, FL. If you have any questions about your legal options, feel free to call us at 904-800-7557 and schedule a consultation.