Back to the Basics: What Is Premise Liability?

Many personal injury cases are based on premise liability, a legal concept that covers injuries or accidents that were caused by defective or unsafe conditions on someone’s property. Like all personal injuries, these types of cases are based on negligence — which in the case of premise liability means proving that the property owner did not use reasonable care in maintaining safe conditions.

In considering a premise liability lawsuit, it’s important to remember that being injured on someone else’s property doesn’t necessarily mean that the property owner was at fault, even if there are unsafe conditions present. The injured person must demonstrate that the property owner was aware of the issues, or should have been aware of them, but reasonable steps were still not taken to remedy the condition.

Different types of premise liability claims

There are several personal injury cases that are usually considered premise liability. Slip and fall cases are among the most common, and can be caused by a number of different conditions on the property. Other common types of premises liability injuries can occur due to:

  • Snow and ice or slippery conditions
  • Insufficient maintenance of the building or grounds
  • Defective conditions on the property or premises
  • Elevator or escalator accidents
  • Injury or assault due to poor lighting or inadequate building security
  • Amusement park injuries and accidents
  • Swimming pool accidents
  • Toxic fumes, chemicals, or fires
  • Dog bites
  • Flooding or water leaks

Property owners and the duty of care

In the state of Florida, there are three general duty of care levels that property owners owe to people who enter their property. They are business invitees, licensees, and trespassers.

Business invitees are people who enter a property for business reasons. This includes customers and staff who enter a store or other type of business, and repair people who are hired to work in a home or residence. Property owners owe the highest duty of care to business invitees.

The duty of care at this level includes:

  • Keeping the property in a safe condition
  • Either repair or provide notice of any potentially dangerous areas or circumstances on the property or grounds
  • Regularly inspect the property for dangerous conditions

With regard to business invitees, property owners can be held liable for injuries that occur due to poor conditions they should have reasonably known about, even if they weren’t actually aware of the issues.

Licensees are social guests, typically in a home. This category includes family members, friends, neighbors, and those who are attending a social gathering, like a birthday party. Property owners owe licensees a duty of care to maintain the property in reasonable safety, repair any dangerous condition, and warn of known dangers.

Trespassers include anyone who does not have permission to be on the property. Even though they were not invited, property owners still have a limited duty with regard to trespassers to prevent reckless or intentional injury. If a property owner discovers a trespasser, they are responsible for warning the trespasser of known dangers that are not directly observable.

Duty of care exceptions for children

If a child is injured on someone else’s property, the property owner can be held liable whether the child is invited or trespassing. This includes a Florida law called the “attractive nuisance doctrine,” which means that any structure on the property that is likely to attract children must be protected and secured to prevent injury to children—such as swimming pools, trampolines, and old appliances.

The Miami trial lawyers at Baron, Herskowitz, and Cohen have successfully represented many clients in premise liability lawsuits, including slips and falls. Contact us today to discuss the details of your premise injury case.

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