Premises liability cases result from an injury sustained because of negligence on the property of a business or homeowner. A claim can be made when the negligence falls on the person who owns or operates the premises. Homeowners and business owners pay liability insurance to cover the possibility that they, their employees or contractors cause an accident or injury.
Examples of premises liability claims:
- Slip and Fall accidents
- Negligent Security
- Animal attacks (dog bites, jumping pets, horse and livestock, etc.)
- Injury from a dangerous obstruction: (unmarked construction, blocked walkways, etc.)
- Negligent repairs: (things falling apart or otherwise injure you)
- Negligent maintenance: (cleaning, waxing, preventing things from breaking)
What should you do if you have been hurt?
If you, your spouse, child or another person you care about is hurt or killed while on the property of a business or homeowner, you should take photos of the scene, get contact information for witnesses, report the accident to the property owner, take notes, and call a personal injury attorney to help you figure out if you have cause or a good reason to seek a recovery. Do not give recorded statements to an employee or an insurer until a personal injury attorney has been contacted so they can guide you.
This helps a ton in making your claim. Use your cell phone and do not be afraid to take lots of different angles and distances. Sometimes we have a hard time telling how big or small something so lay something next to the defective condition so we will be able to tell how big or small it is, like a ruler or even a dollar bill. This is especially important in puddles or cracks.
Get contact information for witnesses
Do not be afraid to ask them for their numbers. If they are driving off, snap a picture of the witnesses’ license plate with your phone. We may be able to track them down later.
Take notes about your accident
Take notes and photos of the place where the accident happened, the conditions, who may have witnessed it, distances, sizes, the time and date, the known severity of the injuries, identity of employees who may have spoken to you and what they said. You do not want to forget any details that may assist your case. Do not hesitate to write anything down or record things on your phone. If you or the injured party has already received medical attention, you should also include the details about the help you received. Proper documentation and pictures will go a long way in assisting us to recover for your claim.
Don’t give recorded statements before speaking to an attorney
Often times, a business or their insurance carrier of a business who has had someone hurt because of a defect in the property or negligent maintenance will want to get you to give a recorded statement right away before you speak to an attorney. I can remember numerous times when employees and insurance adjusters have lead people to believe they will pay for medical bills or a claim will go better if the injured person would give that statement. In my experience, they were empty promises. It is really important that you do not give a recorded statement before speaking to an attorney.
Claimants for injuries in premises liability claims such as a slip or trip and falls who give recorded statements often find their statements get dissected and find themselves getting cross-examined on every word in that statement. If a person uses any difference to describe something they get the, “Were you lying then or are you lying now?” line of question afterward. It is always better to hold off on those. Contact a personal injury attorney immediately to help guide you through the process and be there with you every step of the way.
What can you recover from a premises liability claim?
Whether you were attacked, suffered an injury due to a slippery surface, tripped on an unsafe surface, unlevel stair, unlit area or even a negligently built structure, there will likely be medical expenses as a result of the incident for the rest of your life. Hospital costs, such as x-rays, casts, and prescription medicine, therapy and future flare-ups will add up.
Pain and suffering, emotional trauma, stress, change in lifestyle, nuisance, frustration from being injured can cause lasting effects.
If the accident resulted in keeping you out of your job, you’ll also incur a loss of wages. These are tricky. It is important that you can show you tried to earn money if possible or else a jury likely will not be very sympathetic unless you have truly devastating injuries. That said, having to take time off for treatment or a lower-paying position is recoverable. You should not have to bear the loss for injuries caused by someone else’s property.
Other damages that were foreseeable and caused by the injury may be recovered too. Often, people are required to hire people to take care of lawns or even help clean their homes due to severe injuries.
You shouldn’t be responsible for the costs as a result of another’s neglect. Having a lawyer make a premises liability claim can help cover the costs suffered from your accident and ensure that others don’t suffer a similar fate.
Why do you need a personal injury attorney to handle a premises liability claim?
The law requires that businesses “maintain a reasonably safe condition and correct or warn of dangers that the defendant knew or should have known of, and which the plaintiff did not or should not have known of by the use of reasonable care.” Post v. Lunney, 261 So.2d 146 (Fla. 1972). But what is considered reasonable? That is where you start looking at industry standards and safety regulations when it comes to slip and fall injuries, which can be too much for a victim to handle. This is why it is so important that you get an experienced personal injury attorney to handle your case from the onset.
Unfortunately, insurance companies will give you a hard time. They often intentionally lead people on delaying treatment and loss of witnesses until it is nearly impossible to make a claim even if you do hire a lawyer. They know that people who hire personal injury attorneys will recover many times more money than those who try to handle their case on their own. A good attorney will fight to help your cause and recover the money that you deserve.
Different areas (districts) of Florida have different standards for when the owner of the property can be held responsible, so the location of the incident could determine whether you have a claim or not. As a result, not just any personal injury attorney can handle the case. They must have special knowledge about each district of Florida. Herman & Wells practices all over the state and we know the differences between the different districts.
What determines if I have a claim or not?
Whether or not you have a claim stems from whether or not someone else did something wrong. Determining if they did, depends largely on your “class” on the property. Property owners only owe certain duties to protect certain people. For instance, there is no duty owed to trespassers other than not to intentionally harm them, (unlike what you have heard on the internet). But if you have been invited to the property for business you are called a “Business Invitee.” Businesses and people have a lot of responsibilities to people they have invited in to do business. They have to “maintain it in a reasonably safe condition and correct or warn of dangers that the defendant knew or should have known of, and which the plaintiff did not or should not have known of by the use of reasonable care.” Post v. Lunney, 261 So.2d 146 (Fla. 1972).
There are some people who are allowed to come on a businesses’ property solely for that persons’ own convenience but no benefit of the business. Those people are called Uninvited Licensees. A company has no duty to those people other than not to expose them to danger recklessly or wantonly. Stewart v. Texas Co, 67 So.2d 653 (Fla. 1953).
What if it was all my fault?
There is a lingering misconception that when you are on someone else’s property the owner is always responsible for your injuries. People think that the business has become your health insurer for injuries on that property. That is not true. With very few exceptions, to make a claim against injuries on someone else’s property, you have to show they were negligent somehow.
While you usually cannot make a claim for something that was all your fault, that line can sometimes become blurred when your mistake was caused by someone else. Human factors and engineers will sometimes be able to show that the mistake you made was inevitable or that the property owner was in the best position to avoid your injury. An example of an argument that we have made in the past is when companies spend mountains of money to get people to walk down aisles while looking at flashing advertisements, then claim it is that persons’ fault for not seeing an obstruction that company left in that same aisle. Another is when a fall happens in a parking lot over a parking block. While you usually cannot make a claim for parking blocks or curbs, because they are “open and obvious” conditions, if that same accident happens in a parking garage with terrible lighting you may still have a claim for the negligent lighting.
In Florida, your verdict on a premises liability claim where you contributed to the fall will be reduced by the amount of fault which the jury allocates to you. This is called Comparative Fault or Comparative Negligence. What that means is that if your case goes all the way to trial, the jury will probably be asked how much negligent conduct on the part of the defendant caused the fall and how much negligence yours. They will be told that the two percentages must add up to equal 100%. Then the total of your damages will be reduced by the percentage of fault which was yours. What this rule means during settlement is that if you bear some responsibility for your injuries, the insurance carrier will often demand a discount.
What if I was hurt off the property?
There are times when someone is not even on the property but gets hurt because of negligent maintenance on that property. Cranes falling, explosions, car accidents because of overgrown shrubs are all examples. In theory, if you can show that the owner of the property acted below the standard of care and they owed you a duty, a claim may be made against that owner’s insurance.
What if the business owner was the government?
This is pretty frustrating, but the government enjoys sovereign immunity for negligent injuries they cause. This caps your damages to $200,000. While this may seem like a lot, when you factor a lifetime of care, pain and suffering it causes problems. Moreover, because the government knows this is the most they can ever lose, they rarely ever offer it. They already have lawyers on staff that can defend property/premises claims against them so why ever offer anything close? There are also caps on attorneys’ fees, which prevents many of the more qualified attorneys from even taking those cases unless the case is a slam dunk. This harms a lot of people, but it is the law.
Do you have a premises liability claim?
If you have suffered an injury on someone else’s property, and you think they caused it or contributed to it, you may have a claim. We have satellite offices all around the state of Florida and help clients nationwide. Tell us about the issue or call us at (727) 821-3195 for a free case evaluation, and we’ll quickly let you know if you have a case. There is no risk; you only pay if we win.