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I Was Injured on Public Property; Do I Have a Premises Liability Case?

Property owners have a responsibility to ensure that their property is safe for visitors. This means that the property should be well-maintained and reasonably free of safety hazards. When dangerous conditions are present, property owners have an obligation to adequately warn visitors of the potential dangers.

Common conditions that can lead to injury include:

  • Broken sidewalks and pathways
  • Broken or damaged playground equipment
  • Debris in walkways
  • Missing or broken handrails
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Improper, inadequate, or no warning of hazards

Public property (property owned by the government) is not immune to hazardous conditions. If the property is not being well-maintained by the government entity responsible for it, accidents and injuries can happen. The government has similar responsibilities regarding the maintenance and condition of public property.

Examples of government-owned property include:

  • City sidewalks
  • Community centers
  • Court facilities
  • Libraries
  • Municipal buildings
  • Parking lots
  • Playgrounds
  • Public parks and beaches
  • Public schools
  • Streets and roads
  • Veterans services buildings

If you were injured on public property, you might have grounds to seek compensation for your injuries. However, these cases are more complicated than traditional premises liability cases. You should seek counsel from an experienced lawyer familiar with handling these types of cases.

How Government Premises Liability Cases Are Different

Florida Statute 768.28 acts as a waiver of sovereign immunity in tort actions and also outlines recovery limits, attorney fee limitations, the statute of limitations, exclusions, indemnification, and risk management programs. Under the abovementioned statute, citizens can sue the government over a personal injury accident. However, while the state and its agencies and subdivisions are liable for tort claims, their liability does “not include punitive damages or interest for the period before judgment.”

Government Waiver of Sovereign Immunity in Tort Actions

A tort is defined as an act or omission that results in injury to another and in which the courts impose liability as a civil wrong. Tort law is designed to aid injured parties and “shift the burden of loss” to the party responsible for the injury or harm. When it comes to premises liability cases, the government waives its sovereign immunity for liability for torts under the circumstances outlined by the statute.

In situations where injury, loss of property, or death is caused by a wrongful or negligent act on the part of a government employee acting within the scope of their duties as an employee, the injured person may be able to bring an action against the government entity. According to the statute, if the government agency or subdivision would be deemed liable under general state laws if they were a private person, they may be prosecuted.

The following government bodies are included in the statute’s definition of “state agencies or subdivisions”:

  • Executive departments
  • The Legislature
  • Judicial branch
  • Public defenders
  • Independent establishments of the state
  • State University board of trustees
  • Counties
  • Municipalities

Also included are corporations that are “primarily acting as instrumentalities or agencies of the state, counties, or municipalities. An example of this would be the Florida Space Authority.

Always Work with a Lawyer

Even traditional premises liability cases are notoriously difficult. A key element to these cases is proving that the property owner is truly responsible for your injuries. When proving fault in these cases, your attorney will need to demonstrate that the property owner or manager was aware of the dangerous conditions that led to the injury, that they did not take action to either remedy the situation or warn visitors, and that your injuries were a direct result of the dangerous conditions.

When pursuing a premises liability case against a government entity, these cases become even more complicated. You must work with a qualified lawyer experienced in these types of cases and who has the resources to help you put your best foot forward in court.