There are many ways you can suffer injuries on another person’s property. You might be struck by falling debris or fall down the stairs because of a loose handrail. You might be injured in a private home or at a retail store. Whatever the circumstances, it is important to consult with a Zephyrhills premises liability lawyer about your legal rights.
“Premises liability” is a legal rule that holds property owners responsible for injuries that occur because of their negligence. If the property owner is found liable, he or she is responsible for compensating you for your financial losses, pain and suffering, and the future losses you will suffer from your injuries.
This is why you need to consult an experienced Zephyrhills premises liability attorney at Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers about your legal right to compensation.
Learn more about premises liability claims and the compensation you may receive for your injuries below.
Different Types of Premises Liability Cases
Many different types of accidents can give rise to a premises liability claim. Whenever an accident occurs on someone else’s property, there is the possibility that it happened due to someone’s negligence. Property owners often have the legal obligation to compensate injury victims for their injuries resulting from negligence. For this reason, it is important to consult with a premises liability lawyer to know whether you have a claim for your injuries. Here are some of the common types of accidents that result in premises liability.
Slip and Fall
Slip and fall accidents are probably the most common type of premises liability claim. These accidents frequently occur at a retail store, as customers can slip and fall on many different types of obstructions. Perhaps there is a puddle that someone failed to promptly clean up. Maybe there is a leak, or ice, or a broken sandbag. Any of these hazards can cause a customer to slip, fall, and injure themself - sometimes severely.
Slip and fall accidents are especially common at grocery stores. Squished produce, broken freezers that leak, and many liquid products on the shelves create ample opportunities for grocery shoppers to slip and fall. Store owners have an obligation to make sure that their employees regularly inspect the store and make it safe for shoppers. If they do not, and a shopper falls and sustains injuries, the store can be held liable for these injuries and ordered to compensate the customer for them.
Swimming pools have been the source of many serious injuries over the years. The risk of drowning, hitting your head, or slipping on a wet pool deck all leads to a large number of homeowners insurance claims on properties that have swimming pools. This is why homeowners pay higher insurance premiums when there is a pool on their property. It is also why some swimming pool features have gone out of style entirely. Diving boards used to be a common sight - now, very few private pools have this feature. There is simply too much risk.
Here in Florida, swimming pools are almost a standard feature. Many, many homes have them, and these homeowners need to take steps to protect their guests from swimming pool injuries. Local building codes have regulations to protect children. You might have to surround your pool with a fence or have self-closing doors in the house to prevent children from getting out into the pool area.
Be sure that your home complies with all applicable housing regulations. Additional steps can also reduce the potential for injuries - and reduce your liability if pool injuries do occur. Warning signs, reflective tape, and other warning signals can help notify your guests of the risks associated with your pool.
If you are the victim of a mugging, assault, or other crime, you have legal rights in the criminal court. This includes the potential of restitution for your losses. But these criminals are not always caught - let alone prosecuted. Even if they are, the criminal might not have money to pay any restitution for your injuries. This is why you want to consult our premises liability lawyers about other potential sources of compensation.
In some cases, a property owner can be held liable for allowing dangerous conditions to exist on the property and disregarding the known risk that crimes will occur there. A common example is managers of apartment complexes. If residents report that the area is not well lit, or that security cameras are not working, or that other dangerous conditions exist on the property, the owner has an obligation to remedy these dangerous conditions. If the manager or owner fails to do so, they might be liable for injuries caused by crimes that occur from these conditions.
Another common example is college campuses. Schools often include lighting and security towers to reduce the risk that crimes will take place on their campuses. If they learn that these features are not working, or are inadequate to prevent crime, or that there are repeated problems in a specific area, the school could be held liable for violent crimes that occur in a known dangerous area.
How Your Status on the Property Affects Your Case
A property owner owes a “duty of care“ to those who legally enter onto their property. The nature of that duty depends on who, exactly, entered onto the property and suffered injuries. Here are some common scenarios:
Invited Guest of a Private Homeowner
When you are a guest in someone else’s home, they have a duty to warn you of dangers that they know about but are not obvious to you. Common examples are a loose floorboard, unstable stairs, a weak handrail, or other potential hazards that you might not see right away. If the homeowner has not been made aware of a danger, they have no duty to warn you about it. Homeowners also do not have an obligation to actually fix these hazards, and they must only warn guests that they exist.
Customer in a Business
Retail stores invite the public onto their property for their own financial benefit. This is why they are held to a stricter standard when it comes to maintaining their land. Business owners must actively inspect and make the premises safe for all the customers invited onto their property. A common example occurs in the produce department of grocery stores. Fruit and vegetables are routinely dropped and smashed on the floor. This creates a slipping hazard for customers in that area. The store must regularly inspect and clean the area. If it does not, and a customer slips, the store can be liable for that customer’s injuries.
Some businesses have even higher obligations to actively protect you from harm. Imagine, for example, that a person is recovering from knee surgery in a rehabilitation facility. The facility gets hired to care for this person while they are under physical limitations. The patient probably cannot get around on her own, so the staff should always help to transport the patient.
In these circumstances, the facility has a heightened duty of care when transporting the patient. The patient cannot avoid dangerous conditions - such as a puddle - when being transported by the facility staff. This makes it even more likely that the facility will be liable for injuries that the patient suffers because of conditions on its premises. The key fact in this example is that the business gets paid to safely transport a patient who can’t do so herself.
When a person trespasses on your property, you have virtually no obligation to protect them from injuries. Your only legal obligation is to avoid intentionally harming them. This works in conjunction with your legal right to “stand your ground.” You have the right to defend yourself against imminent threats, but you cannot intentionally injure a trespasser who poses no risk to you, your family, or your property.
Property owners have a special duty of care toward children because children can’t understand danger as well as adults do. In some cases, they cannot even read warning signs. For this reason, homeowners must take extra precautions to protect children that are on their property - in some cases, even if the child is a trespasser.
The “attractive nuisance“ doctrine holds property owners liable for injuries that occur due to a dangerous condition on their property that “lured” a child to it. Common examples include trampolines and swimming pools. When property owners have these “attractive nuisances,” they must take reasonable precautions to protect children from them. Locking the property, fencing off a pool, or taking other steps can reduce the risk that a property owner will face liability for a nuisance that attracted a child onto the property to be injured.
Defenses That Can Stop a Premises Liability Claim
Even if an injury occurs, certain legal defenses can protect the property owner from liability. Property owners may deny that the injuries even occurred on their property. This is especially common when you do not have symptoms right away or wait to see a doctor about your injuries.
The property owner might argue that the hazardous condition was open and obvious and that you knowingly assumed the risk of entering onto the property anyway. The insurance company might say that there was no notice or reasonable opportunity for the property owner to discover and fix the problem. They might even try to blame the victim and say that the injury occurred due to the victim’s own negligence or reckless actions.
The experienced Zephyrhills premises liability lawyers at the Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers know how to defend your claim from these accusations to best protect your legal rights. If the insurance company persists in this defense and continues to deny your claim, you have the right to take your case to a jury and let your peers decide who was at fault for causing your injuries.
Zephyrhills Premises Liability FAQs
If you suffered injuries because of a dangerous condition on someone else’s property, you could have the legal right to receive compensation for your losses. It is important to consult with an experienced Zephyrhills premises liability lawyer to determine if you have a claim - and what your legal rights are.
The skilled injury attorneys at the Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers are here to help. We have developed this guide to answer some of the most common questions we receive about premises liability claims. We hope this information helps you understand your legal rights. It is, however, important to meet with one of our attorneys to discuss your unique case. Be sure to contact our office to schedule your free consultation.
What is premises liability?
Premises liability is a rule of law that requires property owners to keep their land safe to prevent injuries. This is known as a “duty of care.” The care that is due depends on who suffered injuries on the property.
If, for example, a trespasser sustained harm while going on the property without permission, the owner’s only legal obligation is to avoid intentionally hurting him. But invited guests must receive warnings of hazards that the property owner knows about but would not be obvious to guests.
Business owners owe an even higher duty of care. Because they invite the public onto their property for their own financial benefit, they must actively inspect their premises and remedy any dangerous conditions to make the property safe for customers. Property owners who fail to meet the applicable standard of care can be financially responsible for compensating the victim for his or her injuries and financial losses.
Who can be liable for Zephyrhills premises liability injuries?
Any property owner can be liable for injuries that occur on their property if they neglected the applicable duty of care. Some premises liability claims are relatively straightforward: a patron slips and falls in a store, and the company that owns the property is held liable for failing to inspect the area and make it safe. But it is not always so clear who, exactly, is at fault for your injuries.
Many other circumstances lead to premises liability claims. Here are some of the circumstances our attorneys encounter in their premises liability cases:
Landlords. Landlords do owe a duty of care to their tenants. They must take reasonable steps to ensure that they maintain common areas in a safe condition. This means quickly fixing loose walkways, lighting in stairwells, and other dangerous conditions. Landlords must respond to tenant complaints about dangerous conditions in their homes.
The duty of care can, however, be a little more complicated when it comes to the inside of your home. This is because your landlord cannot enter it without your permission (unless they provide you with the appropriate notice). So if, for example, your landlord tried to fix a dangerous condition but couldn’t access your home, this could prevent the landlord from being liable for your injuries.
Many legal issues arise with tenant injuries on leased property. Were the landlord’s actions reasonable? Was the timeframe for response reasonable? Did the tenant contribute to his or her own injuries? Were the injuries caused by circumstances outside of the landlord’s control? All of these issues can determine whether or not you have a viable claim against your landlord. This is why you need to consult our Zephyrhills premises liability lawyers about your particular case.
Friends or family members. One of the most difficult situations that arises in a premises liability claim is injuries that occur at a friend or family member’s home. In this case, the injury victim often has a premises liability claim against the homeowner but might be hesitant to pursue the claim against a loved one. This is understandable. It is, however, important to consult with an attorney and understand your legal rights before you make any decisions about your claim.
First, your medical bills could become a huge financial burden. You should not jeopardize your own financial future out of politeness - even to someone with whom you are close. Second, the homeowner is likely to carry insurance for just this reason. Injuries to visitors are one of the major areas of coverage of homeowner insurance policies.
You can discuss the situation with your friend or family member before filing a claim with their insurance company. Often, homeowners are understanding of the situation and happy to provide their coverage information when they know what is going on.
It is also important to understand that just because you filed a claim against a homeowners insurance policy does not mean that you have to sue your friend or family member. Your Zephyrhills premises liability will work to negotiate a fair settlement without going to court. If the insurance company denies your claim or refuses to make a fair settlement offer, the next step would be to file a lawsuit and take the case to trial.
But you will have ample opportunity to discuss this step with your lawyer before they file a lawsuit. Your lawyer will help explain your legal rights, what fair compensation should be in your case, and what the pros and cons of filing a lawsuit will be. You will not have to make an instant decision or surprise your loved ones with an unexpected lawsuit. Take the time to understand your legal rights and make the best decision for your unique circumstances.
What if I get attacked on campus?
Another common premises liability case involves attacks on college campuses. Unfortunately, large campuses have many spaces where crimes can occur. If you are attacked, mugged, or sexually assaulted on campus, the school could be liable for your injuries. Universities and colleges are property owners. This means that they, too, have an obligation to correct dangerous conditions that are known to exist on their properties.
If, for example, there is a poorly lit garage where several assaults have already happened, the school will likely have an obligation to take corrective measures. This is why many college campuses have emergency call boxes, light towers, security patrols, and other safety measures in place to protect students from further harm.
What if I suffer injuries on Zephyrhills city property?
Many cities, towns, park districts, and other municipal entities own land. The city might own its office buildings, have investment properties in the area, or manage various street projects. This makes them a landowner with certain legal obligations toward safety. However, the law protects these municipal entities with sovereign immunity, which prevents them from facing lawsuits without their consent.
Here in Florida, state law waives sovereign immunity for state government agencies, but the rules can differ for towns and cities. If you suffered injuries on any type of government property, it is important to consult with a premises liability owner to see whether you have a claim and whether sovereign immunity could block you from suing the property owner for your injuries.
How can I prove that the defendant is liable for my Zephyrhills premises liability injuries?
Many different types of evidence can prove fault in a premises liability case, such as physical evidence from the scene, like a loose handrail or falling debris, or photos or videos of the accident that show what happened.
One of the most important pieces of evidence your attorney can find is prior notice of the hazard. If, for example, an apartment complex received fifty complaints from tenants about a broken step before you suffered injuries on that step, this would be very persuasive to a jury. It would show that the property owner was repeatedly made aware of the hazard and given ample opportunity to fix it but refused to do so.
Your attorney can obtain such evidence through the discovery process. It might come through maintenance records, or photos showing the problem left uncorrected over time, or even testimony from other residents who reported the problem to the property owner.
What hazardous conditions can establish liability in Zephyrhills premises liability claims?
There are many different conditions on a property that can lead to injuries.
Here are some of the most common hazards that lead to a property owner liability:
- Loose handrails in stairwells (or no handrails at all)
- Animals not properly restrained
- Inadequate lighting
- Inadequate security
- Swimming pools without fencing or adequate barriers
- Spills or debris in walkways
- Faulty electrical systems
What if I saw the hazard before I suffered injuries?
In some cases, a property owner can use the defense that the hazard was “open and obvious.” This means that the injury victim saw - or should have seen - the hazard and should have avoided it. This defense could allow the property owner to avoid liability altogether, or the injury victim could be partly at fault.
It is important to consult your own lawyer about whether the “open and obvious” defense applies to your case or whether you might be accused of being partly at fault for your own injuries. Remember that the insurance company is not on your side. They are trying to pay as little as possible on your claim. Just because they tell you that you don’t have a claim does not make it true. You need to get independent advice from your Zephyrhills premises liability attorney.
What insurance policies are available to cover injuries in a Zephyrhills premises liability claim?
A homeowner insurance or property insurance policy is the most common source of compensation for a premises liability claim, but many different insurance policies might apply to injuries caused by premises liability.
If, for example, you sustain injuries on the job, you will likely file a claim with your employer’s workers’ compensation policy. Most Florida employers must carry these policies to pay for injuries suffered by employees while on the job. You do not have to prove liability to make a workers’ compensation claim. So long as the injury occurred while on the job, you have the right to compensation for your medical bills (as well as a set portion of your lost wages).
If the accident occurs due to hazards near a construction worksite, the company will likely have a business policy that covers such injuries. There are many different types of property, casualty, and liability coverages on many different insurance policies. It is important to work with an experienced Zephyrhills premises liability lawyer to know that you do not miss out on any potential compensation that is available.
What if this accident made a previous injury worse?
If you have an old injury and the accident aggravates it, you still might seek and obtain compensation. The property owner’s insurance company might try to claim that they are not liable for old injuries or that they aren’t responsible for paying you more compensation than someone else would get. This is not the law.
The law says that the person who is liable for your accident must pay for any pain and suffering you suffer because of their negligence—even if it triggered an old injury, or even if it is worse than another person’s injuries would have been in the same situation. Your Zephyrhills premises liability lawyer will prove the value of these new injuries.
You might have added medical bills or lost wages when you have to take time off work. You can also seek compensation for the added pain and suffering you are now enduring. You need a personal injury lawyer who will fight to get you fair compensation for these new losses. Old injuries can give insurance companies an excuse to try to get out of paying, so you need your own Zephyrhills premises liability lawyer to fight for your right to receive fair compensation for all your losses.
Experienced Premises Liability Lawyers For All Zephyrhills Accident Cases
If you sustained injuries due to the negligence of any property owner, you could receive compensation for all of your financial and emotional losses. Consult our experienced Zephyrhills premises liability lawyers to protect your legal rights throughout the claims process. The right representation can often be the difference between full compensation and needing to pay for losses you did not cause.
For years, injury victims have trusted our skilled legal team at Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers to get the compensation they deserve. We represent clients on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay nothing upfront and pay us nothing if we do not win your case.
Contact us online or call (727) 845-5972 for your free consultation. The sooner you have an experienced lawyer fighting on your side, the better we can protect your legal rights.
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