If you trip and fall on someone else’s property because a dangerous condition existed, such as, for example, a wet substance, the property owner should be liable for your injuries. At least, that’s the basic idea behind premises liability. But the ability to show a business owner is liable for your injuries may actually hinge on where the dangerous condition was, and whether you had permission to be in the area you fell. Our Miami premises liability attorneys are prepared to help you recover compensation for your injuries.
Premises Liability and Trespassing
We’ve all been in the situation where we are in a store, hospital, or someone’s house, and had full permission to be there. But that doesn’t mean you have permission to be just anywhere on on the premises. What if you are in, for example, a grocery store, and you fall and injure yourself in the stockroom? Were you allowed to be there? What if the door to the stock room is open? What if an employee expressly tells you to go into the stockroom to find an item? What if you go into the stockroom and then venture into the employee lounge and fall there?
These seemingly silly questions get to the heart of what your status is on someone’s premises. Being somewhere you don’t have permission to be makes you a trespasser, even if you have permission to be in the store itself. Florida law does not require a business owner to warn trespassers of anything other than known, concealed dangers. That’s a high standard—recovering damages as a trespasser is a very difficult threshold. In fact, many states have enacted laws making it almost impossible to sue if you’re injured as a trespasser.
You can go from being an invited customer to a trespasser simply by walking from an area you are allowed to be (the food aisles) into an area you are not supposed to be (the stockroom). Making matters more difficult, as illustrated by our hypothetical questions, sometimes it isn’t so easy to tell where you’re allowed to be.
This was the situation in one Florida case, Denniser v. Columbia Hosp. Corp. of South Broward. In Denniser, a relative was staying with a sick family member in the hospital. The relative was there for many hours, and wandered into an unlocked employee break room, where she fell on a wet substance. The court held that although she had a right to be in the hospital, she had no right to be in the break room. Just like that, she had gone from a guest owed a duty of care by the hospital, to a simple trespasser, with a burden at trial which will be very difficult to prove.
Be Careful and Contact an Attorney
Always be careful when venturing “off the beaten path” when you are in a business. Don’t assume that there will be signs or barriers preventing you from walking in areas you aren’t allowed to walk. Asking permission from an employee to walk somewhere you are unsure of can help you avoid being considered a trespasser.
If you have suffered an injury due to a fall, don’t wonder about your rights or what burden will have to be proven to find liability. Talk to the Miami personal injury attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. for a free consultation to discuss your case.