Under the legal doctrine of premises liability, property owners have a responsibility to take necessary precautions to keep their properties reasonably safe and free from dangerous conditions. For instance, an injury resulting from a slip and fall on another’s property that has not been maintained can cause serious and even fatal injuries. Also, a sexual assault and its associated post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious life-altering event that can be caused by a traumatic event on the property of another. A drowning in a pool that lacks proper barriers, or unsafe or illegal drain covers or pool pumps is yet another tragic accident that will impact a family forever.
These types of events might well have been avoided if the owner or manager of a property had maintained it in a reasonably safe manner. Many of these injuries will leave victims unable to work, care for their families, and may even leave permanent scars or disabilities. If you or your loved one has been injured on the premises of another, the attorneys at Brais Law Firm can help you recover maximum compensation for your injuries. Our firm operates from its main office in Miami, Florida with a satellite office in Boston, Massachusetts. We are committed to helping injured victims get the justice they deserve. Our Miami premises liability attorneys have decades of experience handling premises liability and negligent security cases and will put their skills and knowledge to work for you.
At Brais Law Firm, we understand that the laws and the legal process can be confusing; so, we want you to have the information you need to make the right choices for you and your family. Decisions on what to do and how best to protect yourself or a loved one after a tragic event become even more overwhelming after a trauma. While we encourage you to schedule a free consultation with our legal team to discuss your case, below is some general information that is meant to give you an overview of premises liability claims.
Premises Liability Injuries
Injuries suffered on another’s property, whether in a home, on a sidewalk, in a parking lot or in a commercial building or shop are often the result of:
- Improper or negligent maintenance of a building, store, sidewalk, parking lot, street, cruise ship or other private, public or commercial space.
- Unsafe conditions created by the property owner, operator or lessor, construction crews, landlords, tenants and even other guests on the property.
- Inadequate security including a broken lock, broken or unlocked window, unlit or low-lit stairwell or walking path or unclear or unmarked exit route are often the result of the owner’s failure to adhere to physical security standards and generally-accepted security practices.
Regardless of the cause or location, the injuries associated with a premises liability case can be serious and long-lasting. Some of the most common types of injuries seen in premises lability cases include:
- Traumatic brain injuries. Whether caused by a slip and fall, physical assault or other event, an injury to the brain is one of the worse types of injuries that a person can sustain. When a person suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI), they can experience very serious side effects, including prolonged confusion, paralysis, depression, loss of vision, seizures and even death.
- Spinal cord injuries. An injury to the spinal cord can change the course of your life forever. These injuries often require expensive long-term medical care and rehabilitation and can severely impact a person’s independence, earning potential and outlook on life.
- Neck and back injuries. An injury to the neck or back can be very painful and debilitating. Whether you have suffered a fractured vertebra, a herniated disc, whiplash or any other type of neck or back injury, you may find yourself unable to go to work and perform the duties of everyday life.
- Burns. Burn injuries can be caused by a variety of dangerous property conditions, ranging from improper storage of hazardous materials to fire alarms and sprinklers that were not properly maintained. These types of injuries are extraordinarily painful and can result in permanent skin and tissue damage.
- Broken bones and fractures. Broken bones and fractures are not only painful, they often result in steep medical bills and lost wages. Whether your fracture involves an arm, leg, wrist, hip, shoulder or any other part of the body, your recovery may be difficult and require multiple surgeries and ongoing medical care.
- Torn ligaments. A torn ligament can make it impossible to perform everyday regular activities such as walking, climbing stairs, driving to work and carrying groceries. These types of injuries are often caused by slip and fall accidents and may require ongoing physical therapy and multiple surgical procedures.
- Cuts and lacerations. Depending upon the severity, a cut or laceration injury may require extensive long-term medical care and even reconstructive surgery. These types of injuries can result in disfiguring scars and cause permanent damage to nerves and tendons.
- Drownings. A drowning accident can change a family’s life in an instant. Improperly maintained equipment, inadequate supervision of pool areas and ineffective barriers are just a few of the causes of drowning and near-drowning accidents.
Duty of Care in Premises Liability Actions
Depending upon the classification of the person on another’s property, a landowner will owe a different duty of care. The three main classifications of people are: invitees, licensees and trespassers.
- Invitee is any person who is invited onto a premise for business reasons or commercial benefit to the property owner. Invitees are owed the highest degree of care and property owners are required to make sure they are safe from known dangers, as well as dangers that a property owner could reasonable have discovered. Examples of invitees include shoppers in a grocery store, diners in a restaurant, clients in an office building, delivery and mailpersons and people hired to work on the owner’s premises.
- Licensee is any person invited onto the premises for reasons other than business or commercial, such as social guest. Licensees are owed a degree of care slightly lower than the duty owed to invitees. Here, the property owner is only required to take reasonable steps to warn or correct of known hazardous conditions but, unlike the case of invitees, there is no duty for a property owner to inspect for and discover unknown dangers. Examples of licensees include friends and family members, neighbors and unsolicited door-to-door salespeople.
- Trespasser is any person who is not authorized to be on the property of another. If a property owner is unaware of a trespasser, there is generally no duty to warn the trespasser of an existing danger or make the property safe. In certain circumstances, however, if a property owner becomes aware of a trespasser, the property owner may be obliged to exercise a minimal degree of care so as to not willfully injure the trespasser. However, the obligation owed by a property owner to a trespassing child is governed by the “attractive nuisances” doctrine. Under this doctrine, property owners have a duty to make their premises reasonably safe for children that might be drawn to attractive or interesting objects on their property, such as a swimming pool.
Elements of a Premises Liability Claim
Premises liability cases can be complicated and difficult to prove. While the liability of the property owner will depend upon the legal status of the plaintiff – invitee, licensee or trespasser – under Florida law, the plaintiff in a premises liability action must prove the following elements in order to establish a successful claim:
- The property owner owed a legal duty to the plaintiff
- The property owner breached the legal duty
- The breach of the legal duty either directly caused or substantially contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries
- The plaintiff must demonstrate proof of the nature and extent of the injuries
It is important to recognize that property owners cannot generally be held liable for injuries that were caused by conditions on the property of which they were unaware or had no reason to know about, with one exception being if the dangerous, defective or unsafe condition was created by the property owner. Moreover, in most cases, individuals have a responsibility to exercise reasonable care for their own safety. For example, it’s generally accepted that there exists no duty to warn of the condition if it is one that is “open & obvious”, meaning something readily apparent by the use of one’s ordinary senses – sight, for example. If they fail to do so, their recovery may be limited or reduced by their own percentage of negligence. For example, if a jury finds that the plaintiff was 25% responsible for his or her own injuries and awards the plaintiff $200,000 in damages, the damage award will be reduced by $50,000 (25% of $200,000). The above example illustrates the rule of “pure comparative negligence” and applies regardless of the percentage of fault on the plaintiff’s part. Other states apply a rule referred to as “modified comparative negligence” which operates the same as long as the plaintiff can prove he or she is 50 percent or less at fault. Still other states operate under “contributory negligence” rules (meaning, the plaintiff cannot recover any money if they were at all liable for their own injuries). It is important to consult with skilled Miami premises liability attorneys who can explain how the law will apply in your case.
Compensation in Premises Liability Cases
If you bring a premises liability action against a property owner in Florida, there are generally three categories of damages for which you may be able to seek recovery: (1) economic damages, (2) non-economic damages; and (3) punitive damages.
Economic damages (sometimes referred to as “special” damages) are meant to compensate victims for the actual financial losses they have suffered because of an accident. If your premises liability claim falls under Florida law, you will be able to recover the following types of economic damages:
- Medical expenses (past and future)
- Lost wages or income (past and future)
- Future loss of earning capacity
- Damage to a person’s property (real and personal property)
- Expenses incurred for household services
- Funeral expenses
Economic damages are generally easier to prove, because they can be calculated from documents and records, such as medical bills, repair costs and other out of pocket costs.
Non-economic damages (sometimes referred to as “general” damages) are subjective. In Florida, non-economic damages generally include:
- Pain and suffering
- Physical impairment
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress
- Worsening of prior injuries
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium (loss of comfort and services of spouse)
Unlike economic damages, there are no documents and records that can be used to quantify the monetary value of the losses. As a result, calculating non-economic damages in a premises liability case can be complicated and many factors will necessarily come into play.
Unlike economic and non-economic damages that are compensatory in nature, punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant. While punitive damages are uncommon in premises liability claims, they may be awarded in situations where the plaintiff proves that the property owner’s conduct was especially egregious or outrageous. Additionally, Florida law places certain caps or limits on how much money a jury can award a plaintiff in punitive damages. When you work with our firm, our Miami premises liability attorneys will carefully review your case to identify all categories of compensation that may be available to you, including punitive damages.
Why You May Need Our Miami Premises Liability Attorneys to Represent You and Your Loved Ones
Premises liability claims generally arise when an individual has been injured on someone else’s property due to a dangerous condition, improper maintenance or negligent security. Whether you suffered injuries in a slip and fall, worksite accident or as a result of a violent attack, these types of claims can get complicated very quickly. Therefore, it is always best to have an experienced premises liability attorney on your side as early as possible in the process.
When you work with the legal team at Brais Law Firm, you can be confident in knowing that we have the knowledge, skills and resources to handle your premises liability claim no matter how complex it may be. Our lawyers have a solid understanding of what Florida law demands in these cases and we will work to develop a legal strategy focused on maximizing your financial recovery. From investigating the site of the accident/injury, to interviewing eye-witnesses and gathering critical medical documents and other evidence, our team will do everything we can to build a powerful and persuasive case. We know that you are trying to make it through a very difficult situation and you can count on us to help you every step of the way.
The Miami premises liability attorneys at our firm offer decades of collective experience handling a wide range of personal injury cases, including premises liability claims. We are committed to helping clients who have been injured in shopping centers, grocery stores, hotels, condominiums, worksites and other properties recover the full financial compensation they deserve. Our team is equipped to handle all types of premises liability claims, including cases involving:
- Swimming pool accidents. Property owners have a duty to take reasonable precautions to ensure that their swimming pools are safe. Drownings and near drownings occur far too often and may be caused by improper maintenance, inadequate fencing/barriers, negligent supervision, lack of warning signs and other unsafe conditions.
- Slip, trip and falls. Slip and falls and trip and falls can occur because of a wide variety of unsafe property conditions. Some of the most common conditions include wet or greasy floors, spilled liquids, uneven walking surfaces, loose or missing floor tiles, freshly waxed or mopped floors, and potholes in parking lots.
- Rape and sexual assaults. When a person suffers a rape or sexual assault on another’s property due to the property owner’s failure to provide adequate security, the property owner can be held liable for the injuries sustained by the victim.
- Physical Assaults. Business owners, such as bar and nightclub owners, generally have a legal duty to provide a safe environment for their customers. Because it is well known that fights and altercations commonly occur in drinking establishments, owners should take reasonable steps to protect patrons from foreseeable harms.
- Fires. Fires can result from a wide variety of unsafe conditions, including faulty wiring, malfunctioning outlets, gas leaks, and failure to ensure that smoke detectors, sprinklers and other fire suppression equipment are kept in proper working order.
- Exposure to hazardous/toxic materials. Individuals can sustain serious injuries when they are exposed to toxic materials. Whether you were exposed to a hazardous chemical at work, a dangerous pesticide while staying at a hotel or condominium complex or any other environment, our attorneys will work to get you the compensation to which you are entitled.
- Inadequate elevator or escalator maintenance. While elevators and escalators make it easier to get from one floor to another in a building, thousands of people are injured in elevator and escalator accidents each year. Common causes of elevator/escalator incidents include elevator door malfunctions, faulty wiring, loose or missing parts and inadequate maintenance and repair.
Contact the Miami Premises Liability Attorneys at Brais Law Firm Today
If you or someone you love has been injured in a grocery store, shopping center, hotel, condominium or any other type of commercial or private property, Brais Law Firm is committed to helping you recover the monetary damages you need to recover and move forward with your life. When you schedule a consultation with our firm, a Miami-area attorney skilled in handling premises liability claims will carefully review your case and discuss all legal avenues that may be available to you. Our legal team can be reached by calling 800-499-0551 or completing our online contact form. You can also email our firm.