Accidents happen both at home and when you are out and about. If an accident happens in a store, movie theater, mall, business, or another public place, you may be able to recover for damages if the owner of the establishment could have prevented it. Proving liability for accidents occurring in a public venue is complicated. That’s why you need the experienced personal injury law firm of Staples, Ellis + Associates, on your side. Our experienced attorneys understand premises liability law and how to make sure you receive all the damages you are entitled to under the law.
What is Premises Liability?
Premises liability is a theory that property or business owners are responsible for accidents or injuries that occur on their property if they could have been prevented. One common example of an accident covered by premises liability is a slip and fall case. If a dangerous condition, such as a slippery floor, exists in a public place, the proprietor owed you a duty of care, the proprietor had knowledge of the slippery floor and failed to remedy it, under Florida law, you may recover for damages if the floor caused an injury.
Florida statute outlines the requirements for proving liability in a slip and fall case. Under the statute to be liable in a slip and fall case, the owner or proprietor must (1) owe the injured party a duty of care, (2) have had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition, and (3) have been able to eliminate the risk by taking action.
What is the Duty of Care?
The duty of care is a legal term referring to the general level of precaution or safety a property owner or proprietor must extend to those visiting the property. It is a minimal standard requiring owners or proprietors to keep property reasonably safe. Examples include simple things, like making sure there is no broken glass or sharp objects that could cut a visitor or preventing ice from forming on a sidewalk on a cold day. These are things that a reasonable person would do to make sure someone is not accidentally injured when visiting an establishment.
When is the Duty of Care Owed?
The duty of care is owed to all visitors who have permission to be on a property. These people are known as invitees. Property owners also owe a duty of care to people who do not have a specific invitation to be on a property but may have implied permission to be there.
Property owners owe the highest duty of care to invitees. In the example of a store, an invitee is a shopper visiting the store during the open hours. The shopper is the type of person the store owner expects or invites into the store. The store owner must keep the store safe and inspect the store regularly and immediately repair any dangerous conditions.
A lesser duty of care is owed to those who are not expressly invited onto a property or do not have permission to be on a property at all. These people are known as licensees or trespassers. Although licensees don’t have an invitation, they are not forbidden from entering a property. In the example of a store, someone who walks in seeking change for a $20 bill is a licensee because he or she is not there to shop but still may be allowed in. Trespassers are people who do not have any express or implied permission to visit a property. Property owners must only warn licensees and trespassers of known hazardous conditions.
Proving Breach of the Duty of Care
Breach of Duty
Proving a breach of the duty of care requires showing the property owner could have taken action to eliminate a dangerous condition but did not. This requires proving that the store owner knew of the dangerous condition or should have known of the condition through inspection. In the store example, a store owner knew of a dangerous condition such as a wet floor if he or she saw it. The store owner should have known about the wet floor if reasonable inspection, such as walking past it, would have alerted him or her to the condition.
To prove a property owner is liable for damages suffered on a property, a plaintiff must also show the injuries suffered directly due to the breach of duty. For example, a broken bone is the result of slipping on a wet floor. Direct causation is simple to prove in some cases, for instance, if there is a witness to the accident or a video recording. Other causes may be more difficult to prove, especially if a pre-existing injury could also be the cause of your damages.
Determining Damages in a Premises Liability Claim
Damages are the most important part of a premises liability case because they are how the court determines what amount you are entitled to recover. In most cases, you may be awarded actual or compensatory damages to make you whole for any harm suffered. Actual or compensatory damages include repayment of medical bills but can also include lost wages and pain and suffering resulting from the injury.
Additionally, if a situation is particularly egregious, you may be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages punish a property owner for failing to maintain a property to discourage bad behavior in the future.
Determining damages can be difficult because you may not fully understand the extent of your injuries right away. Some injuries may not present until months or years after the accident. It is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney when considering your damages to make sure you are considering all potential damages from your injury.
If You are Injured on Someone Else’s Property in South Florida, Contact Our Pensacola Premises Liability Attorney
We all go to public places regularly, and we expect those places to be relatively safe. To make sure unwarranted dangers do not exist, Florida law requires property owners to inspect and maintain the property. If you are injured as a result of a business owner’s failure to keep a property safe, you are entitled to recovery for your damages. Reach out to the personal injury attorneys at Staples, Ellis + Associates, P.A. to get the experience of a trial-tested premises liability attorney on your side.