Wrongful Death Premises Liability
Premises liability is an area of law that involves accountability for property owners who fail to ensure their site is in reasonably safe condition for lawful guests. There is a broad range of duties a property owner might have, depending on the type of facility and the purpose of the guest’s visit. For instance, a person invited into a store or hotel for the financial benefit of the property owner enjoys a higher expectation of reasonable safety than someone who is on site for their own financial benefit – and especially more so than someone trespassing.
When someone dies of injuries sustained in whole or in part because of an unsafe condition on another’s property, that may be cause for a wrongful death lawsuit.
At The Ansara Law Firm, our wrongful death premises liability attorneys can help you explore the viability of your case against a property owner or others. We know most dangerous conditions on site are either preventable or can be swiftly eliminated when property owners develop thorough policies and procedures and provide adequate supervision to ensure those standards are met.Unsafe Conditions on Property
Some of the unsafe conditions on site that may give rise to a premises liability wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Slip-and-fall hazards. This could be anything from a spilled drink to an oil slick to loose gravel to a non-stick rug in an entrance hall. F.S. 768.0755 requires anyone filing a claim regarding a slip-and-fall on a transitory foreign substance in a business establishment needs to show the establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the condition and should have taken action to remedy it. Constructive knowledge can be proven via circumstantial evidence that shows the hazard existed for such a length of time it should have been discovered in the course of ordinary care or that occurred with such regularity that it was foreseeable.
- Inadequate security. This could be in the form of a hotel with non-functioning locks or a nightclub without enough security detail. There is no hard-and-fast line to what constitutes as “inadequate,” but courts often consider the site’s proximity to similar violent crimes either at that location or nearby that would have put the property owner on notice that more security is necessary. In a 2015 Florida Supreme Court ruling, justices upheld a $4.5 million premises liability wrongful death verdict involving the murder of two siblings, 17 and 20, in a gated apartment complex wherein the front gate had been broken for three years, despite more than 20 violent criminal incidents on site during that time.
- Swimming pool hazards. Unsafe swimming pools are a serious threat in Florida, particularly to young children. The state’s Department of Children and Families reports Florida loses more children under 5 to drowning than any other state, with Florida children accounting for 16 percent of all those who die in such incidents. Children under 3 account for 70 percent of those. Nearly children 500 die of drowning in the state each year. Apartment complexes, amusement parks, hotels, condo associations and private property owners have a responsibility to ensure pools are clearly marked and adequately secured (functioning gates, locks, etc.).
- Dog bites. These incidents typically occur at private residences. The Insurance Information Institute reports fully one-third of all homeowner insurance liability claims involve dog bites. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year, with most of the victims being between the ages of 5 and 9. Somewhere between two and three dozen of those are fatal. Annual liability claims paid out for dog bites are more than $600 million. F.S. 767.04 spells out dog owner liability damages to those bitten.
- Amusement park hazards. Amusement parks can be liable if someone is injured or killed due to a mechanical ride failure, improper operation of a ride, ride defects, inadequate security, improper fencing, failure to ensure safe walking surfaces or failure to set/ impose proper height and weight restrictions. Amusement parks in Florida draw in huge crowds, but with that comes significant responsibility to ensure patrons are reasonably safe.
- Construction site hazards. Although employees who are injured or killed on-the-job are typically compensated via workers’ compensation from their own employer, this isn’t likely to cover all losses (i.e., pain and suffering, loss of consortium, full lost wages, etc.). That’s why it’s often worthwhile to explore third-party liability. If there is evidence the property owner (if different from the employer) was somehow negligent in failing to maintain the site in a reasonably safe condition, there may be grounds for a premises liability wrongful death claim.
- Building/ structure defects or collapse. We’ve seen this type of hazard occur in many cases with older structures that aren’t properly designed or constructed according to accepted standards. Balcony collapses, crumbling steps, unstable support systems, wobbly railings are just a few examples of possible construction defects.
This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives you a sense of the ways in which a negligent property owner can be liable for injuries resulting in death.Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Claims
Although there are numerous differences between wrongful death claims and those for personal injury, one of the most important to note is the statute of limitations. While personal injury lawsuits must be filed within four years, wrongful death lawsuits usually must be filed within two years of decedent’s death. There may be a few exceptions, but in most cases, courts will take that deadline seriously.
The statute outlining these deadlines is F.S. 95.11.
If someone you loved died as a result of injuries sustained on someone else’s property, it may be worth considering a wrongful death lawsuit.
If your loved one was killed at work in Fort Lauderdale, contact the wrongful death attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011 or toll-free at (888) ANSARA-8.