What Are Florida Premises Liability Laws?

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Florida premises liability laws require business and property owners to ensure the premises or property they manage is safe for others. Property or business owners can be held financially accountable for resulting losses if someone sustains injuries on their property due to a condition that the owner knew or should have known about. The statute of limitations for pursuing such a case in Clearwater, Florida, is two years from when the accident occurred.

Common premises liability claims in Florida include slip and fall accidents, inadequate security, and dog bites. The burden of proof in a premises liability case lies on the plaintiff. You must demonstrate the existence of the duty of care, the breach of duty, a foreseeable hazard, injury, and financial loss to recover compensation.

What Is Premises Liability?

Premises liability is the legal responsibility occupiers or landowners have for torts happening on their property or land. It may cover injuries that someone sustained due to hazardous conditions like wet floors, uneven pavement, open excavations, uncleared snow, and inadequate security. The following conditions must exist for your premises liability claim to be valid:

  • The defendant controls the premises or land.
  • You were an invitee or licensee.
  • There’s a wrongful act, such as a breach of the duty of care.

Premises liability largely involves negligence, as it falls under personal injury. It is based on the principle that business or property owners have a duty to ensure properties they control or manage are safe for others. Under premises liability Florida statute, visitors entering a property can be invitees, licensees, or trespassers.

Statute of Limitations for Florida Premises Liability Claims

The statute of limitations sets the maximum time limit for parties in a civil dispute to pursue damages through a legal action. It takes effect on the date the alleged offense occurred. Expect it to vary depending on the nature of the wrongdoing and the jurisdiction. In Florida, premises liability claims have a statute of limitations of two years. The time limit for pursuing such claims starts from the date the victim was involved in an accident.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations

Your premises liability claim may get dismissed if you fail to file it within the statute of limitations. However, the court may exempt you under certain circumstances. As such, the clock may be stopped or paused.

One of the most common exceptions to the statute of limitations is the discovery phase, where the victim has no initial symptoms of injuries. The discovery rule will stop the clock and only start counting when the accident victim discovers the injury.

It’s also possible for the statute of limitations to be tolled if the defendant is not in Florida. The statute may also be tolled if the injured victim is a minor at the time of the accident. Minors cannot bring their own premises liability claim in Florida. A legal guardian or parent can pursue the claim on his or her behalf.

Types of Premises Liability Claims to Pursue in Clearwater, Florida

You may have legal grounds to pursue a premises liability claim when injured due to someone else’s negligence at a business premises, amusement park, or swimming pool. As such, most common premises liability cases revolve around slips, trips, and falls, elevator/escalator accidents, inadequate safety/security measures, and fires.

Slip and Fall Accidents

A slip-and-fall accident involves an individual slipping or tripping on someone else’s property and sustaining an injury. It can occur in a private or public space. Common causes of slips and falls in buildings are wet floors, loose mats or rugs, potholes or cracks, uneven sidewalks or flooring, or exposed wiring.

Injuries sustained in a slip-and-fall accident may include severe cuts, jaw fractures, and nose fractures. The accident victim may also suffer traumatic brain injury or a concussion in serious cases. Some injuries are noticeable immediately after the accident, while others may take a while to show.

Inadequate Security

Also known as negligent security, inadequate security is a legal cause of action that an accident victim can bring against a property owner when the victim gets injured due to a lack of security on the property. Most inadequate security actions revolve around a lack of security equipment, lack of security personnel, and poor lighting.

Other examples of negligent security include broken gates or fences, unlockable doors, untrained or unqualified security guards, and malfunctioning camera or alarm systems. Injuries in a negligent security claim may arise from battery, assault, rape, or robbery. The victim may suffer soft tissue injuries, broken bones, psychological injuries, spinal cord injuries, or traumatic brain injuries, depending on the cause of the injury.

Dog Bites

A dog bite often results in an open, jagged wound that can get infected and require urgent medical attention. A dog may bite you if it has been startled, scared, or threatened.

Common injuries victims of dog bites suffer include scarring, nerve damage, tissue damage, and facial injuries. It’s important to seek medical attention after the incident to protect yourself against life-threatening infections such as rabies. You may be able to sue the property owner where the dog bite took place. The person who had the animal may be liable for the accident if the dog was off-leash.

Other Injury Cases

Other premises liability accidents include ceiling collapses, defective stairways, fires, and swimming pool accidents. Your premises liability lawyer can help determine whether you have grounds for a premises liability claim.

Burden of Proof in Florida Premises Liability Cases

Premises liability cases in Clearwater, Florida, follow a legal standard known as the burden of proof. Under this legal standard, a case must have a required amount and quality of evidence to be proven in court. In a civil case, the plaintiff should provide evidence proving his or her version of events.

Defendants may provide the court with evidence to challenge the allegations they’re facing, but they don’t have to meet the burden of proof standard. The burden of proof plaintiffs should meet depends on the lawsuit or claim and the court handling the case.

Steps to Prove Negligence

Proving negligence in your premises liability case in Florida begins with the element of duty of care. In this case, you will need to prove that the occupier or owner of the property owed you the duty of care, depending on your legal status on the property. Your legal status on the property may include invitee, licensee, or trespasser.

Once you show a duty of care, you must prove the owner or occupier breached that duty. You must also show the existence of a direct link between the injuries and the breach of duty. Finally, you need to demonstrate that you incurred damages or losses, whether financial or non-economic, from the incident.

Evidence Needed to Prove Premises Liability

Photos and videos can help establish the dangerous condition that might have caused your injury. They can capture the accident scene and portray a lack of safety measures. If taken before the property owner makes any changes to the property, they can help strengthen your case.

Accident reports can also form part of evidence in your premises liability case. That is, if you reported the incident to the management, local authorities, or the property owner. The reports provide details about the accident, your injury, and whether the owner or management knew about the dangerous condition.

You may count on witnesses to corroborate your account of the events that led to the accident, if any were present at the scene. Detailed medical records, including but not limited to the diagnosis report, treatment plan, medical bills, and recovery prognosis, can also help you demonstrate your injuries and their consequences to your life. If the property had previous complaints or incidents, you can use them to suggest a pattern of neglect on the property owner’s side.

Damages in Premises Liability Cases

Medical expenses are one of the most common damages you can recover from a premises liability claim. The reason is most premises liability accidents result in injuries that need urgent and ongoing treatment.

Your medical expenses include doctor’s visits, hospital stays, prescriptions, assistive devices, and physical therapy. A lawyer can help you identify these damages and determine if you can be compensated under Florida premises liability law.

If you had a source of income at the time of the accident, you may also pursue lost wages as damages. Your previous pay stubs may help estimate the income lost when you were not working due to the injuries. They can also help estimate future lost income and earning capacity.

In a typical premises liability claim, you can recover psychological and emotional losses arising from your injury. These losses include loss of enjoyment of activities, emotional anguish, pain, and grief. Other non-economic damages are emotional distress, anxiety, inconvenience, impairment, and disfigurement.

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James (Jim) Magazine is a Florida Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer who has spent his career helping injured victims. Jim is licensed to practice law in the State of Florida since 1990 and is also admitted to practice at the Appellate level and admitted to the United States Supreme Court.