I Was Hurt on Someone Else’s Property, What Are My Options?
At times, accidents occur when you are on the property of another party. This may happen when you are at a restaurant or retail establishment, visiting friends, or vacationing at a hotel or Airbnb. Some of these accidents are minor and do not result in any significant injuries. Others can result in more severe injuries, seriously disrupting your life as well as those closest to you.
When you are hurt on someone else’s property, the owner can be held liable for the injury. This falls under the legal doctrine of premises liability. Basically, this means that the injury is the result of some type of unsafe or hazardous condition on the premises.
To be successful in a premises liability case, you must demonstrate the following:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care to keep the property safe and free of hazards;
- The defendant breached this duty;
- Your injury occurred as a direct result of that breach;
- Your injury resulted in compensable damages.
Did You Have a Right to Be on the Property?
The duty of care owed by a property owner varies depending on the type of visitor that enters the premises. There are three general categories of visitors:
- Invitees: This is someone who has an explicit or implied invitation to be on the property. This category would include employees, customers, and tenants. The owner or manager owes the highest duty of care to invitees and is responsible to exercise reasonable care to keep the premises safe for those invited onto the property.
- Licensees: A licensee also has explicit or implied permission to enter the property, but they are usually doing so for their own purposes or for leisure. Examples of licensees include salespeople, mail carriers, and social guests. Property owners and managers generally owe a lesser duty of care to licensees, and licensees are usually required to prove that their injury was caused by a specific hazardous condition or defect, the owner or manager was aware (or should have been aware) of the dangerous condition or defect, and that the condition or defect was concealed and not obvious to the accident victim.
- Trespassers: A trespasser is someone who is not authorized to be on the property and enters illegally. Since they have no legal right to be on the property, owners/occupants owe no duty of care to trespassers, except to refrain from willful or wanton misconduct or entrapment.
If you were hurt on someone else’s property as an invitee, bringing a premises liability action against the owner or occupant may be a viable option. This may also be true if you were a licensee, though your chances of success if you are in this category is reduced. If you were hurt while trespassing on another person’s property, then your legal options are very limited. Essentially, you will need to prove that the owner or occupant willfully intended to do you harm.
Were You Partially at Fault for your Injury?
Another important question to ask if you were hurt on the property of another party is what responsibility you may have for the incident. The property owner may claim that you are partially or totally at fault in an attempt to avoid responsibility for your injuries.
Some arguments the owner/occupant might make include:
- You were not paying attention to where you were going (e.g., you were distracted by your cell phone);
- You were in a part of the property where visitors are not authorized or do not usually go;
- You were not wearing the proper attire for the situation (e.g., you were not wearing the right shoes for walking in a slippery, muddy, or hilly area);
- The dangerous or hazardous condition was clearly marked:
- The dangerous or hazardous condition was open and obvious to a reasonable person.
If you were hurt on a property in Florida and you take it to court, the state’s pure comparative negligence law is used to determine your percentage of the blame and how much compensation you are entitled to. Using the pure comparative negligence standard, the damages are reduced by the percentage of fault the victim shares in the accident.
For example, if the court decides that you suffered a total of $15,000 in damages and you were 20% at fault, the amount of damages you receive is reduced by 20% or $3,000, leaving you a total damage award of $12,000.
If you are considering filing a premises liability claim for the injuries you suffered on someone else’s property, it is important to retain as much documentation as possible regarding the incident. Take multiple photographs of the area in which the injury occurred showing the defect or hazardous condition that caused the injury, obtain the contact information for anyone who witnessed the incident (preferably witnesses who are not associated with or employed by the property owner), and keep extensive medical records. The more documentation you have, the better you will be able to rebut any arguments the defense makes about responsibility.
Speak with an Experienced Pensacola Premises Liability Attorney
If you were hurt on someone else’s property, you may have a premises liability case. These cases can be complicated and difficult to pursue, however, and it is best to work with a seasoned personal injury lawyer. At Whibbs Stone & Barnett, we have over 60 years of combined experience, and we have a successful track record securing damages in even the most complex injury cases. For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, contact our office today at 1-888-219-4561.