What is Premises Liability in Personal Injury?

Consider all of the different places you may travel to in a day. You may go to work, school, the gas station, the grocery store, and a friend’s house all in one day. When visiting these different places, you depend on property owners to keep their property safe, but this isn’t always the case.

When a property owner fails to keep their property safe, they may be liable to you if you get hurt. This is a concept known as premises liability. Understanding the specifics of premises liability can ensure you are protected in the event of an injury after an accident on someone else’s property.

What Is Premises Liability?

Premises liability is the legal term for a property owner’s duty to keep people from getting hurt on their property. A property owner must keep their property safe for the people who come on the property. When an injury occurs, the legal liability that may attach to the property owner is called premises liability.

Three Types of People Who Enter Property

To determine whether a property owner is liable, the law looks at why the person enters the property. For example, when a property owner invites other people on their property to conduct business, the property owner has a very high duty to keep their property safe from dangers that may cause injuries.

On the other hand, a property owner has very little duty to a trespasser. For determining premises liability, Florida law divides people who enter onto a property into three categories — business invitees, licensees, and trespassers.

Business Invitees

A business invitee is a person who enters someone else’s property to do business with the property owner. For example, a person who goes to an amusement park, purchases a ticket, and enters the park is a business invitee. Likewise, a person who goes to a convenience store and pumps gas is a business invitee.

Florida law protects business invitees by requiring property owners to inspect their property regularly. A business owner is liable for dangers they know about and dangers they should know about. When a business owner discovers a danger, they must either fix it or warn customers.

Slip and Fall Accidents at a Business

Florida has a unique law that applies to slip and fall accidents at a business. Florida law 768.0755 covers what happens when water or another substance causes an injury at a business.

The law says that to recover under premises liability, the victim must show that the business owner or their agent had actual or constructive knowledge of the spill. To recover, the victim must show that the business could have cleaned up the substance or that the spill was a regular occurrence that the business owner should have prevented.

Licensees

A licensee is a person who is allowed on someone else’s property. However, unlike a business invitee, a licensee isn’t on the property for the benefit of a property owner conducting business. Instead, a licensee is allowed on the property with permission for the licensee’s own benefit. An example of a licensee is a person who goes to a friend’s house for dinner.

An Example — Stewart v. Texas Co

One Florida Supreme Court case that talks about premises liability in the case of a licensee is Stewart v. Texas Co. In the Stewart case, a woman entered onto the property of a gas station and vehicle repair shop. The woman was there to get change for a $10 bill so that she could pay her housekeeper. While on the property, the woman slipped and fell on a greasy surface.

The court said that the woman was a licensee because she wasn’t on the property to buy anything. Instead, she was there for only her own benefit. Even though the court dismissed the woman’s claim for recovery, the outcome could have been very different if the woman entered the property to buy something.

In the case of licensees, the property owner doesn’t have to inspect the property regularly. That means the property owner doesn’t need to look for dangers. Instead, the property owner must take steps to avoid willful and wanton dangers. They may not set traps, and they still may be liable to a victim for reckless dangers.

Special Considerations for Children

A property owner should take extra care to address conditions on their property that might be attractive to children. Examples of engaging conditions on a property are a swimming pool, a trampoline or a pile of gravel.

The property owner must take reasonable steps to protect children that might want to come onto the property to play. Reasonable steps for safety might be putting up a fence or locking the attraction behind a gate.

Trespassers

Trespassers have the least amount of protection under Florida law. Property owners can’t purposefully or recklessly injure trespassers. If a property owner notices a trespasser, they must warn the trespasser about dangers that aren’t obvious.

Premises Liability May Include Liability for Crimes

In some cases, a property owner may be liable for crimes that occur on their property. Even if the person who commits the crime isn’t an agent of the property owner, the property owner may be liable for third-party crimes. A property owner must have adequate security to prevent crimes that are foreseeable.

Special Rules for Crimes at Convenience Stores

Florida law has a special rule for crimes that occur at convenience stores. A convenience store can avoid liability if they take prescribed security measures. These requirements include putting up security cameras, keeping cash in a safe, putting up a sign that the cashier has $50 or less, and maintaining adequate lighting.

They must train employees appropriately for how to handle an attempted robbery and other safety threats. If the convenience store owners do all of these things, there’s a presumption that they did everything they could to prevent a criminal act from happening on their property.

How an Attorney Can Help

If you have sustained injuries on someone else’s property, it’s essential to contact an experienced Sarasota personal injury lawyer immediately. Your attorney can consider all of the facts of your case to determine the duty the property owner had at the time of the accident.

They can help you understand how Florida’s premises liability laws may allow you to recover compensation for your injuries. An attorney can help build your case, contact witnesses, and gather the evidence needed to prove your side of the story.

Contact Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys

For over three decades, the skilled legal team at Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys have handled a variety of unique premises liability cases successfully. Our team has the knowledge and expertise needed to determine whether a property owner was negligent and to get the compensation our clients deserve.

Call our office at (941) 822-2222 or fill out our contact form to schedule your free case evaluation. There is no fee unless we win.

About the Author

Jack G. Bernstein, ESQ.

For more than 35 years, personal injury lawyer Jack G. Bernstein has protected the rights of individuals who have been injured in a variety of circumstances. Mr. Bernstein is a member of the Florida State Bar Association, the Hillsborough Bar Association and the Clearwater Bar Association.

The information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.