In a perfect world, property owners would not be mandated by governments to keep their premises safe for people who have no business being there. But as more and more people are becoming homeless and trespassing on private property while intoxicated, some lawmakers sensed the urge to protect these people too if they run the risk of being injured while trespassing. So, even in a less liberal state like Florida, if a trespasser gets injured on your premises, they might be able to sue you.
When Can I be Held Liable as a Property Owner?
In Florida, if a visitor or customer gets injured on your property, you could be held liable and forced to pay monetary compensation for their injuries and pain if a court finds that you were negligent in keeping your premises safe.
The most common types of accidents on private property are slips and falls, falling from heights or unstable surfaces, dog bites, and pool drownings. Fortunately, a property owner is not liable by default if someone is injured on their premises.
The injured individual must prove that:
· The safety hazard was known by the property owner, but the owner failed to remove it from their premises;
· The safety hazard has been around for some time, so the property owner had the time to address it (this means that business owners are not liable for spills that happened 5 – 10 minutes ago, and the staff had no time to mop up the place before someone slipped and fell)
· The safety hazard was not open and obvious for everyone to see, but the property owner was aware of it (if the unsafe condition was open and obvious for the injured individual, the accident is only their fault.)
Under premises liability laws, all property owners have a standard duty of care toward all business visitors (such as construction contractors, handymen, delivery company employees, customers, etc.) and social guests (such as family members and friends).
What About Trespassers?
Trespassers are a group of people that end up on someone else’s private property without being invited there. In Florida, although trespasser does not enjoy the same level of legal protection as business visitors and social guests do, they should not be intentionally harmed either.
Unlike California and a handful of other blue states, in Florida, a property owner cannot be held liable for a trespasser’s injuries or death if the trespasser was drunk or under the influence of a controlled substance under state law. Also, the property owner cannot be held accountable for the injuries and death of a trespasser who trespassed to commit a felony.
But the property owner is not immune from liability if a trespasser is hurt due to their negligence while on their property. There are at least three scenarios when trespassers or their families can sue property owners if the trespassing individuals got injured on their premises:
· If the trespasser had had the wrong impression that they were welcomed on the private property at the time of the accident;
· If the property owner had known about the trespasser’s presence on their premises at least 24 hours in advance but failed to warn the trespasser of potential safety hazards or to address those hazards;
· If the property owner had no idea that someone was trespassing but acted in a way that would intentionally harm any potential trespasser.
When the Trespasser is a Child
While Florida law minimally protects trespassers, children are a huge exception. Under the Sunshine State’s Attractive Nuisance Doctrine, property owners can be sued for the injuries or death caused to trespassing children if they had an “attractive nuisance” on their premises, such as a swimming pool, fish pond, swing set, and so on.
Florida property owners are mandated to keep their premises safe for any children trying to access an attractive nuisance. They would be responsible for all the injuries or death of children trying to get to or use an attractive nuisance if they failed to child-proof their premises for such a scenario.
Will I Need a Lawyer If a Trespasser Gets Injured on My Property?
With very few exceptions, Florida premises liability rules are not very lenient when it comes to trespassers, but these rules are constantly changing due to new court law or legal statutes. So, if an injured trespasser decides to bring a premises liability case against you, it is best to talk to an experienced attorney like this personal injury lawyer in Tampa to see what your next steps should be. Usually, Florida personal injury attorneys work on a no-win-no-fee basis, and the case evaluation is completely free, so their clients have nothing to lose.
With a BA in communications and paralegal experience, Irma C. Dengler decided to combine her skills. In the past, when she was involved in proceedings of her own, she witnessed firsthand the weight of legal language. A convoluted terminology can easily disarm the average American. Therefore, she set off to empower her readers by making the law more accessible to them. Although she has covered all areas of civil and criminal law, insurance-related issues, and her area of specialty are personal injury cases.