In Florida, a property owner is assumed to be the party responsible for keeping the premises in a safe condition. Their duty of care to you, however, depends on the reason why you came onto the premises. For liability assessment purposes, visitors are divided into three categories.
If you have been invited to enter the property, Florida premises liability law grants you the most protection. There are two types of invitees:
Property owners must maintain their premises in reasonably safe condition, and if there are places that are potentially dangerous, such as a leaking refrigerator or slippery surfaces, the owner has a duty to protect invitees by warning them of the hazard and correcting it in a timely manner.
If you enter a property for social reasons, you are legally a licensee, or social guest who visits at the actual or implied invitation of the owner. Examples include party guests or friends who have extended an open invitation for you to come by at any time. Like invitees, the owner is legally required to warn you about unsafe conditions and correct them in a reasonably efficient manner.
Licensee status does not apply if, for example, your friend tells you not to go in a certain room of the house because the floor is being worked on and you do so anyway, injuring yourself in the process. When you entered an area of the house that you did not have permission to access, legally you became a trespasser.
Florida premises liability law accords very little protection to trespassers, who enter a property without invitation. Whether you were simply taking a shortcut to your destination or actively intending to break into a building, you are legally a trespasser if you are on private property without the owner’s permission. If you hurt yourself, you generally have no legal recourse unless you were injured by a trap that the owner deliberately set to harm intruders.
A different rule applies if the trespassers are children, who are assumed to lack an adult’s ability to judge situations and understand boundaries. Under the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine, a property owner is liable if there is something on the premises that would attract a child, like a swimming pool or a broken see-saw, and their failure to secure it causes a child to be injured. This rule does not, however, apply to natural hazards like trees, rocks, or a river.
If you have been injured on public or private property and are unsure of your ability to hold the owner responsible, contact McKinnon Legal. We offer complimentary consultations to personal injury claimants, and will advise you on the best course of action for your situation.