Premises liability falls under the umbrella of personal injury law and is concerned with determining responsibility and damages for an accident that occurs on someone else’s property. Slips and falls are among the most common accidents that raise premises liability claims, although any injuries sustained on someone else’s property may be just as actionable.
Generally speaking, successful premises liability lawsuits must prove four things:
- The landowner/property manager owed a duty of care to the injured party
- The landowner/property manager breached that duty of care
- The breach caused injuries
- The injuries caused actual damages
Let’s discuss these factors in a little more detail.
What Is a Property Owner’s Duty of Care in Florida?
In Florida, property owners owe what’s known as a “duty of care” to most people who come onto their premises. Duty of care, though, is not uniform for everyone.
Depending upon whether one is considered an invitee, licensee, or trespasser, a property owner’s responsibility for an accident scales from high to low.
Invitees are owed the highest duty of care. These individuals are usually those who come onto another person’s property for business-related reasons, like customers in a store or a plumber coming into someone’s home. For invitees, property owners must ensure their property is in a safe condition by regularly inspecting it, making repairs, and/or adequately warning invitees of these hazards. Property owners are not only responsible for the hazards that knew about, but also those that they should have known about.
Licensees are owned the second-highest duty of care. These are people who enter a property with the permission of the property owner, typically for a social purpose like attending a barbecue or birthday party. Property owners only owe licensees a duty of care when they actually know about dangerous conditions on their premises, in which case the property owner must make repairs or provide warning. If a property owner wasn’t aware of a dangerous condition, they may not be liable for a licensee’s injuries.
Trespassers in Florida are owed the lowest duty of care. These are individuals who are on someone else’s property without permission. The only duty of care a property owner owes to trespassers is to prevent reckless or intentional injury to them. This means that if a property owner intentionally leaves their property in a condition intended to harm trespassers, they may be liable to some extent for the trespasser’s injuries.
How to Prove a Breach of the Duty of Care
After proving that a plaintiff was owed a duty of care, they must then prove that a breach of that duty of care occurred. This can be done in all sorts of ways and can involve a lot of investigation and evidence.
As an example, a plaintiff who was injured at a theme park can demonstrate a breach of the duty of care by proving that the park didn’t adhere to its maintenance policies and procedures. This may involve gathering such documents from the theme park in addition to maintenance records, video surveillance, and testimony from employees or witnesses.
A licensee might prove a breach in the duty of care owed to them by documenting the accident scene and the conditions that caused the accident. Testimony from other guests and the property owner can reveal that the latter was aware of the hazard that caused the accident.
Even a trespasser can hold a property owner liable for their injuries if, for example, they can demonstrate that the property owner booby-trapped the premises or left dangerous conditions in place specifically to harm trespassers.
Proving Injuries & Damages
If a breach of a duty of care resulted in a plaintiff’s injuries, they must then prove that those injuries resulted in actual damages. These damages can be evidenced with photographs of the injuries, medical documentation of the injuries, and medical bills that were incurred as a result of the injuries. Testimony from the plaintiff as well as their physician and other medical experts can also help to establish damages.
Other factors that ripple out from the accident can also be taken into account. These include the plaintiff’s lost wages because of missing work during recovery, loss of earning capacity if their injury prevented them from working in any way, pain and suffering if the injury was particularly severe, and other such damages.
If a plaintiff is successful, monetary values are attached to these damages, particularly those like medical bills that have a discrete and easily discernable value attached to them. Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life, are assigned a value as determined by a judge or jury.
Get Experienced Legal Counsel on Your Side
If you were injured on someone else’s property, proving your premises liability claim is a delicate and serious matter. Hubbs Law, P.A. can help you fight for the maximum possible compensation by taking a personalized approach to proving your case.