Florida Premises Liability Attorneys
Our Florida Premises Liability Attorneys Put You on Your Feet after an Accident in Florida
Property owners have a responsibility to maintain their premises safely, to remove hazards that could injure guests, and to post warnings of potential dangers. Many premises liability cases are of the slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall variety, when an unsuspecting visitor has slipped in water or on ice, or fallen over construction debris or a tree felled by a storm. When this happens, both the victim and the property owner will find that the laws governing premises liability are complex and some may vary from state to state. The Florida premises liability attorneys at Searcy Denney have more than 40 years’ experience representing victims who have been injured due to hazardous property conditions. We can help you understand the laws and assess your claim.
Property Owners Have a Duty to Keep Their Premises Reasonably Hazard-Free
While property owners are responsible for keeping their facilities free of hazards, some types of hazards are inevitable. For example, weather can create significant risks due to high water, ice, fallen tree branches, and acts of Mother Nature. A property owner has a responsibility to remove these hazards or, at a minimum, to put up a clear warning for guests to stay away from the danger and avoid an accident.
No matter how obvious fault may appear to those untrained in the law, the issues of premises liability are complicated and sometimes overlapping. Government agencies have established standards, laws, and ordinances to define levels of safety that property owners must meet. Determining which of these standards, laws, or ordinances applies to a particular case is the job of attorneys experienced in sorting them out and identifying legal responsibility. Our Florida premises liability lawyers have more than 40 years’ experience handling these kinds of cases and will help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
Slip and Fall Accidents in Florida
People have a reasonable expectation of safety when they visit a business or residence, because facility owners have a responsibility to maintain their property in a safe condition. However, sometimes accidents happen and a person can be injured or killed due to unforeseeable circumstances.
Maybe you or someone you love stumbles in a warehouse, trips in vacant lot or slips and falls at a grocery store, where someone else’s negligence in observing safety standards has put you at risk. If the accident was indeed related to the property owner’s negligence in maintaining the property in a safe manner, you may have grounds to file a premises liability lawsuit.
Other Common Types of Premises Liability Accidents
Thousands of people are injured every year on unsafe, unkept or poorly secured properties. When an accident occurs, victims may have a viable premises liability claim and may be able to recover compensation. Below are some of the most common types of property-related accidents:
- Trip and Falls
- Falls From Heights
- Broken or Uneven Sidewalks
- Inadequate Lighting
- Fallen Debris/Objects
- Uneven Flooring
- Elevator or Escalator Malfunctions
- Missing or Broken Handrails on Stairways
- Malfunctioning Doors/Windows
- Negligently or Dangerously Displayed Merchandise
- Toxic Chemical or Fume Exposure
- Assault or Theft Due to Negligent Security
- Construction Site Dangers (Including Faulty Equipment and Debris)
- Animal Attacks
Common Locations for Property-Related Accidents
Premises liability accidents can occur anywhere – be it on the sidewalk, someone’s private home or even at school. However, all can be attributed to the failure of the property owner or property manager to keep the grounds safe. Below are some of the most common places where premise liability accidents may occur:
- Private Homes
- Apartment Complexes
- Retirement Communities
- Schools and College Campuses
- Shopping Centers
- Amusement Parks and Fairgrounds
- Construction Sites
- Piers and Boardwalks
- Arenas, Stadiums and Other Entertainment Venues
- Government Buildings and Facilities
- Office Buildings
- Factories and Warehouses
- Junk Yards
- Golf Courses
- Public Parks
- Swimming Pools (Public or Private)
Facing the “Open and Obvious” Defense
Under Florida law, defendants can avoid liability for premises-related hazards through the “open and obvious” defense. The defense is rather simple: a defendant cannot be held liable if the hazard at-issue (which caused the plaintiff’s injuries) was open and obvious, and therefore avoidable through the exercise of reasonable care on the part of the plaintiff.
The central point of contention in a premises liability case involving the open and obvious defense will generally be whether the hazard is actually open and obvious. This will depend primarily on the unique circumstances surrounding the accident.
For example, a hole in the defendant’s yard might be obvious from one angle, but not from another. As such, the court would evaluate the direction from which you approached, the lighting conditions, and other factors, and determine whether the hazard was in fact obvious under the circumstances.
How the Defendant’s Awareness of a Hazard Impacts Premises Liability
In Florida, defendants have a responsibility to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition, and as we have noted throughout, the application of this duty is rather broad. For example, it might require that the defendant invest time, resources and attention towards protecting premises entrants against third-party crimes, or the duty may require the defendant to shut down a portion of their property and perform repairs before opening it up to the public.
This broad duty does not “activate,” however, if the defendant does not know (or could not have reasonably known) about the hazard at issue. As the plaintiff, you might find that the defendant raises a defense in which they claim to have been unaware of the property hazard that caused your injury. If you have concerns or questions about your incident, contact a Florida premises liability lawyer to discuss the specifics of your case.
For example, imagine that you trip down a set of stairs at an antique store. The stairs broke under your feet, causing the tripping injury. The defendant might attempt to avoid liability by arguing that they were unaware of the issue (wood rot). As such, they claim they cannot be held responsible, as they did not have the information necessary to either “correct” the wood rot or warn visitors of the danger.
This may seem like a strong defense, but you can overcome it if you can show that the defendant “should have known” about the hazard. In the above example, you might introduce evidence about how often stores typically inspect their stairs for defects and show that the defendant did not inspect the stairs properly (and with sufficient frequency) to detect the wood rot issue. Had they done so, they would have discovered the hazard and had an opportunity to correct it. As such, you may be able to hold them liable under Florida law.
Premises Liability in Cases Involving Third-Party Criminal Activity
Though it might not seem like a situation that gives rise to premises liability, if you are injured by a third-party criminal act on the defendant’s property, you may be entitled to sue and recover damages from the defendant (in addition to the third-party responsible for the act itself).
Remember, retail store owners have a responsibility to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition, which includes the requirement to provide adequate security for premises entrants. If the owner knows that there have been a string of attacks outside of their store recently (particularly if the store is located in a rough neighborhood), then they have a legal responsibility to take action on behalf of premises entrants. There are a number of steps they can take to minimize the risk of third-party criminal activity, such as installing surveillance cameras, hiring security guards and setting up additional lights to discourage criminal activity, among various other options.
Given the complexity of such cases, it is critical that you consult with experienced Florida premises liability attorneys for guidance on how to proceed. Here at Searcy Denney, we provide free consultations to help prospective plaintiffs understand their claims and what steps they’ll need to take to secure compensation.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Florida Premises Liability Attorneys
We understand that accidents can have a profound impact not only on the injured person, but also on family members. Medical treatments are expensive, especially when extensive rehabilitation or ongoing treatment is needed. Expenses can be monumental at a time when income may be diminished by a victim’s inability to work.
After an accident on private or commercial property caused by unsafe grounds, survivors and family members often struggle to find a way to right the wrong that has been done. Searcy Denney has helped victims and their families in similar circumstances, so we recognize your physical, financial and emotional pain and loss. Most important, we understand your desire for justice . . . because that’s our goal too.
If you or a family member has been injured premises liability accident in Florida, one of our attorneys would be happy to speak with you. Please fill out our Contact Form, or call us at 1-800-780-8607 to learn more and arrange for a confidential free consultation.