The Frights of Premises Liability: Boo!

Oct. 20th, 2014   /   , ,

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Here we are again – it’s the time of year when children dress up as ghosts and other frightful characters and make their way around the neighborhood to collect candy from each home. At first glance, the only truly scary thing about children collecting candy all night is the prospect of cavities. As our personal injury lawyers know, however, when hordes of children zigzag through neighborhoods, crossing lawns, walkways and driveways, there is another scary implication: premises liability issues.

According to Florida law, homeowners – just like store owners, commercial property owners/managers, etc. – are required to maintain safe conditions on their property, such that those who enter can do so safely. (While property owners are required to provide social guests with clearly safe conditions, there are circumstances under which even trespassers can sue for injuries they incur on someone’s property).

The duty of care that a property owner has is understandably higher when it comes to social guests, especially those who have been invited (as opposed to those who have stopped by unexpectedly to say “hello,” for example). On Halloween, if you put a bowl of candy out by your front door, you are (albeit indirectly) inviting people onto your property.

So, what kinds of things should you make sure are in a safe condition before Halloween, as to ensure that you don’t end up the defendant in a personal injury lawsuit stemming from a preventable injury that occurred because of negligent oversight or indifference? We’ll look into a few examples below.

  • Make sure that there are no dangerous obstacles sitting on or protruding from your lawn. If there is, for example, a cinder block, a crate, a large branch or even a misplaced pumpkin on your property, children walking across the property might very well trip. When it is dark out, which it will be on the night of Halloween, children will be even less able to see obstacles on your lawn, especially when all they’ll be focused on is the candy by the door.
  • Ensure that your walkways and driveways are flat and free from protruding unruly bricks, rocks, etc. If there is an unsettled brick in your walkway, that is stick out in a manner it shouldn’t be, and a child trips over said brick and injures themself, you’ll likely be on the hook for associated damages.
  • Install, or make sure you already have, proper lighting on your property. If you are inviting people onto your property, you need to be sure that they will be able to see where they’re walking. When it’s dark out, and children are walking around in long capes and ghost costumes, it’s easy to slip and fall – the more lighting you have, the smaller the chance of a slip and fall accident.
  • Make reasonable decisions. If you get the sense that something is unsafe, fix it and, especially if you are unable to do so, warn those coming onto your property about the potential hazard by placing a clearly visible sign.

In a premises liability lawsuit, under Florida law, there are generally three things that a plaintiff must prove in order to be able to recover damages from the negligent party owner. 1) that the property owner knew or should have known about the hazard, 2) that the property owner failed to fix and/or give warning about the hazard, and 3) that the plaintiff was injured as a result of numbers 1 and 2.

This Halloween, make sure that the only scary thing you have to face are frightful costumes and the idea of spending hours in a dentists’ office. For more information on premises liability and/or any other personal injury issue, please contact our personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Aronberg, Aronberg & Green by calling 561-266-9191 or by e-mailing us at daronberg@aronberglaw.com. We look forward to speaking with you. 

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