Why Visitor Status Matters in Premises Liability Cases
You may have heard the story about the burglar who fell through the skylight of a home, suffered an injury, and sued the homeowner for damages. Fortunately, such a lawsuit would have little to no chance of success in the state of Florida due to the burglar’s visitor status.
When a person enters someone else’s property, that individual is categorized as a public invitee, business invitee, invited licensee, uninvited licensee, or trespasser. These categories determine the duty of care the property owner or possessor owes to the individual. Invitees are owed the highest duty of care while trespassers are owed the lowest duty of care.
During your free initial consultation, one of our Port Salerno premises liability lawyers can assess your situation to determine your visitor status at the time of your injury. Read on to learn more about these categories:
- Invitees: Most premises liability claims are filed by invitees. You would be considered a public invitee if you were invited to enter a public property for a non-business related purpose—for instance, if you were at a public hospital or park. You would be considered a business invitee if you were on a commercial property for business dealings with the property owner or possessor—for example, if you were a patron at a restaurant or a customer at a supermarket. If you were a public or private invitee when your injury occurred, the property owner or possessor would have had a duty to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition. They would also have had a duty to warn you about dangerous conditions that were known or should have been known through the exercise of reasonable diligence, and which you couldn’t our shouldn’t have known about in the course of using reasonable care. Under some circumstances, sovereign immunity protects government agencies against lawsuits filed by public invitees; however, if you can prove that your injury occurred due to the negligence of a government employee who was acting within the scope of his or her employment, sovereign immunity might be waived.
- Licensees: The duty of care owed to licensees depends on whether they’re an invited licensee or uninvited licensee. Invited licensees were invited on the property, usually as a social guest of the property owner or possessor. The duty of care owed to invited licensees is the same that’s owed to invitees. If a licensee is uninvited—for example, a door-to-door salesperson—the property owner only has a duty not to cause willful or wanton injury.
- Trespassers: If you had no invitation, license, or other right to be on the property where your injury occurred, you would most likely have been considered a trespasser. Although property owners cannot willfully or wantonly injure a trespasser, they typically don’t have to post warnings about dangerous conditions or keep their premises reasonably safe. An exception, however, applies to some cases involving child trespassers. If the property owner is aware that children are likely to trespass, the property owner must exercise reasonable care and warn children of known dangers on the premises and prevent children from being exposed to those dangers. Under some circumstances, property owners are held to a higher degree of care if an attractive nuisance is present on the premises that would draw young kids onto the site.
Our Port Salerno premises liability lawyers have an in-depth knowledge of the laws and statutes pertaining to these cases. We can determine if you have grounds for a claim and how best to proceed.