Injured at Someone’s Home – Is the Homeowner Liable?
Typically, when people about think sustaining injuries on someone else’s property, they picture some type of consumer business open to the public, like a grocery store or gas station. However, while businesses certainly owe a duty of care to customers, homeowners also have a responsibility to keep the people on their property free from harm. This area of the law is known as premises liability, which establishes the level of responsibility all property owners have for the safety of others on their land. While it is easy to understand why a homeowner would be responsible for guests and workers invited into a home, there is also a lesser duty owed to trespassers that is worth exploring. An overview of the responsibility owed to the three categories of visitors mentioned above will follow below, with a focus on the special rules for the potential of liability for injury to a trespasser.
Business Invitees and Licensees
The highest level of care is owed to the class of people referred to as business invitees. These are people on the property in order to conduct business, which can include repairmen and construction workers. For these people, a homeowner must inspect the premises and correct any hazards that could pose a threat to someone’s safety. At the very least, they must provide notice about potentially dangerous conditions. Importantly, an owner can be held liable for injuries to a business invitee from a condition he/she should have known existed.
Licensees are owed the next level of care, and include friends and family on the property for social purposes. For this class, homeowners must keep the premises reasonably safe and repair known problems. They are only liable for injuries that stem from known conditions.
In addition to these general duties of care, Florida law specifically enhances potential liability for injuries sustained by an open pit that is two feet or larger across and deep. Such holes must be enclosed by a fence, and if the owner neglects this requirement, the injured party is entitled to recover double the damage amount.
Because trespassers do not have permission to be on the property, the homeowner’s baseline duty is to refrain from reckless behavior that could cause injury, like setting a trap, but there is no duty to warn of impending dangers. However, once the trespasser is discovered, the homeowner’s duty increases and requires the homeowner to warn the trespasser about dangers not perceivable through ordinary observation. A person is considered an “undiscovered trespasser” if his/her presence was not detected by the owner within 24 hours of the occurrence of the injury, and a “discovered trespasser” is a person detected within 24 hours of the accident. Liability for trespassers under the influence of illegal drugs and/or alcohol is severely limited, and applies to those considered legally intoxicated and also to anyone who ingested enough of either substance to impair normal faculties. Such liability will only be found if the owner engaged in grossly negligent or intentionally reckless conduct, like installing and activating electrified wire under the grounds of the property.
Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer
Visiting someone’s home is usually an enjoyable experience and thoughts of injury are completely absent. However, if an injury does occur that requires medical treatment, it is important to speak to a personal injury lawyer to find out if the homeowner may be responsible for your medical bills and lost wages. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado works with clients on a wide variety of personal injury issues, including premises liability, and can help you decide the best course of action. Contact us to schedule your free consultation.