Park and Nature Preserve Injuries

The public parks and nature preserves are one of the many draws to South Florida. Here in Southeast Florida, we have the Sawgrass Recreation Park, the Everglades Holiday Park, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park and many others.

Liability for park and nature preserve injuries in Florida will depend heavily on the classification of the land (is it public or private?), whether you paid to be there and whether your injuries occurred in the course of some organized/ guided tour.

At The Ansara Law Firm, our Fort Lauderdale park injury lawyers are committed to helping you formulate an effective strategy for obtaining compensation for your injuries. Not all injuries that occur in parks or nature preserves are compensable. In fact, these cases may be more challenging than most due to the fact that common law and statute protects those who offer up use of their land for free to the public for recreation. Additionally, government landowners may be shielded by sovereign immunity laws.

However, there may be numerous circumstances wherein you could still collect damages. Careful investigation, planning and pursuit of these claims with the help of an experienced attorney is required.

Injuries at Privately-Owned Parks and Preserves

If you are injured on private land, the land owner may be liable for injuries under a legal theory known as premises liability. This theory holds that land owners have varying degrees of responsibility for dangerous conditions on site, depending on the legal status of the person who enters.

Your legal status will be one of the following:

  • Invitee. This is if you pay to gain access to a private park. This is the best possible scenario because it means the owner has an implied duty of care to ensure the property is in reasonably safe condition, to regularly check it for hazards and to warn about any dangers that aren’t obvious or immediately apparent.
  • Licensee. This status would apply if you are a guest on private land. In these cases, the landowner still owes you a duty of reasonable care with regard to dangerous conditions.
  • Trespasser. If you are not invited to enter or remain after you are asked to leave and are then injured, you would be considered a trespasser. In this case, the landowner is typically only liable for intentional traps. The one exception would be when it comes to children and attractive nuisance.

In these scenarios, you can generally sue the owner of a private park or nature preserve just like any other private property owner.

However, if the private property owner allows entrance onto their grounds for free to the public for recreational purposes, beware that Florida’s Recreational Use Statute may apply. As our park injury attorneys in Fort Lauderdale can explain, F.S. 375.251 shields private property owners who make land, water areas and public parks available to the public for outdoor recreational purposes. It limits their liability by establishing that these areas are not presumed to be safe for any purpose and that the property owner owes no duty of care to those who enter. The statute also says the owner is not liable for injury to persons or property caused by the act or omission of one who enters.

The language of that statute is clear. However, if you paid to enter, then it’s a different story.

Similarly, if you were on site as part of a guided tour that you paid for and something goes wrong, you may have a case against the tour company. Signed waivers of liability could complicate this, but it won’t necessarily eliminate your claim.

Injuries at Public Parks

Federal, local and state government entities are often the owners of parks. These entities shield themselves with something called sovereign immunity. The common law rule, dating back centuries ago in Great Britain, is that government can’t be liable for injuries on public property.

However, our Fort Lauderdale park injury attorneys know that sovereign immunity in Florida is not without exception. F.S. 768.28 outlines the state’s waiver of sovereign immunity in tort actions. This waiver allows that a person injured by the negligence of the government or government employee may file a claim if:

  • Injuries were caused by negligence or wrongful act or omission;
  • Losses of claimant can be compensated with money damages;
  • Circumstances are such that negligent party would be liable if it had been a private party.

That said, the law does stipulate that government employees can’t be held personally liable for harm, unless it was intentional. Further, damages against the state government are limited to a maximum of $300,000. Additionally, one cannot obtain punitive damages or interest in claims against government agencies.

Because these cases are inherently more complex than those that occur on regular business properties, we encourage claimants to seek immediate legal counsel from a park injury lawyer in the Fort Lauderdale area for more information on their rights and the viability of their claim.

Contact the personal injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011 or (954) 761-3641.

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