Premises liability cases are personal injury tort cases that are brought against a property owner or tenant, when someone is injured on their property. This is a fascinating area of the law that is very complex, but protects you wherever you are; at school, the store, a friend’s house, or even driving on a highway. These cases are all determined by the degree of legal responsibility a particular property owner or the occupier of the property had, during the course of a person being injured on their property. Two of the most commonly litigated examples of a premises liability claim are slip and fall injuries and negligent security injuries, at a business or on a property.If you or a loved one has been seriously injured while on someone else’s property, through no fault of your own, we strongly urge you to get proper medical attention immediately, then get qualified legal representation immediately. We can’t stress this word enough in any personal injury case, immediately! You must make sure your
injuries are properly treated and documented from the moment you first receive medical attention.Just as important, you have to make sure any evidence is preserved, photographed or secured, so it is not destroyed or deliberately eliminated. This is where hiring a qualified personal injury and premises liability attorney is so important.
In Florida, when filing a claim against the state or a local government, the sovereign immunity cap is currently set at $200,000. This means that the maximum amount the state can be held liable for in a public property or government facility is $200,000 which includes attorney fees and costs. In extremely rare circumstances, a bill of attainder may be sought with the State’s legislature which requests the State’s legislature to voluntarily waive their sovereign cap because the circumstances are such that not to do so would shock the conscience.
Primary Elements of a Successful Premises Liability Claim – Attorney View
In a premises liability action there are three main areas of consideration for a successful claim. You have to establish who the defendant is, you must next prove that either the defendant was negligent in some degree, there was a known hazard, or there was misconduct of some degree and you must also establish the status of the person or persons injured on the property. A qualified Florida premises liability attorney will know if you have a case and will know exactly what to do.
To summarize; in order to file a successful premises liability case or lawsuit, you must first have significant enough cause and your case must able to do the following:
- Establish who was in possession or control of the property when the injury occurred
- Establish that the responsible party in possession or control of the property was negligent, at fault, or did not act reasonably to prevent the injury from being able to occur
- Establish the status of the injured party and that they were not being exceedingly careless
Unfortunately, like other personal injury cases, premises liability cases can be some of the hardest cases to get satisfactory settlements in, because there are many variables in the law that come into play. There are different types and degrees of negligence and misconduct as well as different factors related to a hazard. There are different types of premises and different legal distinctions between guest, invitee and trespasser. Finally, there are different factors related to the actual injury itself, in determining damages and a settlement amount.
Determining the Defendant(s)
You must establish who was legally considered “in possession” or “in control” of the premises at the time of the injury. This is sometimes the easiest part of the case and sometimes the most difficult. Liability will usually be with whomever is in actual control of the property at the time of the injury. In the case of a business, if it is leased property this will usually be the lessee. In the case of a corporation-owned building such as Walmart, it would be the corporation. In the case of a home, if it is rented it will typically be the renter or if it is owned it will be the owner. In the case of public property, it will be the government entity that created the property and in the case of private property it is generally the owner. There are a lot of determining factors and the defendant will always vary from case to case.
Determining the Defendant(s) Degree of Negligence
There are numerous factors that go into establishing the degree to which a defendant is liable for the injuries, the degree of negligence or misconduct exhibited and exactly what kind it was. Was it gross negligence or was it carelessness? Was it misconduct and if so, was it knowledgeable or just poor judgement? Were there any building code violations involved, such as a broken sidewalk? Was the plaintiff careless or negligent, and therefore partially responsible and if so, to what degree? As you can begin to see, it is very complicated. The bottom line, is that the defendant must have done something wrong, intentionally or unintentionally, that directly led to the injury.
All property owners, of any type of property, are legally expected to keep their property safe at all times, which means they must remove, repair, secure or prevent any known hazard with reasonable diligence. As an example, if an employee causes or sees a spill or hazard, or sees or is notified of a spill or hazard; their responsibility is to clean the spill or secure, remove or repair the hazard immediately, because they are aware of it. However, if the business was not aware of a spill or hazard, it makes for a more complicated case. An example of prevention would be making sure the pallets at a huge bulk-type club department store, are not stacked too high, making it possible to fall and hurt or even kill someone.
Here are just a few of the most typical causes for a premises liability action:
- Slip and fall
- Falling object
- Dog or animal bite
- Physical assault
- Wrongful death
Status of the Plaintiff
The status of the plaintiff must be determined and will fall into one of three different categories: invitee, licensee or trespasser:
- Invitee – An invitee is anyone who is invited to enter or remain on a premises for the commercial benefit of the owner or possessor of the premises. A department store, restaurant or other commercial establishment are examples of a plaintiff being an invitee.
- Licensee – A licensee is anyone who is invited to enter or remain on a premises for anything other than commercial or business purposes. This would be a guest to a house or to a club or game or any event that is not commercial in nature or business related.
- Trespasser – A trespasser is anyone who does not have express or implied permission to be on the property. If a trespasser is unknown, the owner or possessor of the property has no responsibility to, or liability if, the trespasser is injured. It is interesting to note here that once a trespasser is known, ordinary care must be exercised by the property owner or possessor in order to avoid possible liability in case of injury. An example would be warning or restraint of a dangerous dog.
Types of Premises
There are several different types of premises in a premises liability case: public, private, houses, businesses and government facilities. Public premises are typically government owned and fall under statute. Private premises are usually clubs, private communities and developments or organizations. Houses are either landlord owned or leased premises. Businesses are either corporate owned or leased premises. Government facilities are government owned and fall under statute.
How Much Will I Get Awarded?
This part is complicated, mainly because of the tricky process of determining how much any particular injury is worth. Injury damages are based on the actual type of physical damage done to the person, the severity of the injury and many other variables that will factor into negotiating or being awarded a monetary amount for the damage. Pain and suffering, medical costs, loss of work income and even clothing will all be factored into a settlement demand.
In Florida, when filing a claim against the state, a new statute has put a $200,000 cap of sovereign immunity in claims against the state. This means that the maximum amount the state can be held liable for in a public property or government facility is $200,000.
To summarize; there is no set amount or limit to what you may be awarded in Florida, except in cases against the state. One last point is that in cases of extreme or callous negligence, punitive damages may be awarded, however these are rare and extreme cases.
Arcadier, Biggie & Wood, PLLC, is a premises liability law firm serving Palm Bay, Melbourne, Cocoa Beach, Viera and Brevard Counties and all of Central Florida. We will be glad to help and advise you every step of the way, from initial consultation, to going to trial if that is where your case ends up. If you or someone in your family have suffered any type of injury at a public or private premises due to the negligence or misconduct of another party or parties, call us today to set up your free consultation so we can discuss your case and your options.