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A Summer Guide to Premises Liability

by Robert Padgett Cooper, posted in Premises Liability Blog

Florida property owners have a legal duty to keep their premises in reasonably safe condition to prevent accidents. Before you invite guests over this summer for a cookout, pool party or dinner party, you should inspect your property and be alert for potential hazards such as a loose railing, torn carpet or other hazards that could cause an injury.

Backyard swimming pools are inherently dangerous, especially to young children. Florida property owners must take special care to address potential swimming pool accident liability. If property owners do not take steps to ensure that their pool is secured and legally compliant, they could be held legally responsible for any injuries that occur.

If you or your loved one has been injured because of dangerous conditions on another person’s property in the north Tampa area, please contact the experienced Florida premises liability attorneys at Holliday Karatinos Law Firm, PLLC today.  We will answer your questions and review the circumstances of your injury to determine if you have a valid personal injury claim. Our team serves clients throughout the north Tampa, including Lutz and Brooksville.

Property Defects that Can Cause Swimming Pool Accidents

There are many different safety hazards that can cause serious accidents. Property owners should take steps to repair any safety hazards, or post a warning if the unsafe condition cannot be corrected promptly. Some examples include:

  • Loose stairs and stair railings
  • Torn carpeting
  • Damaged decks;
  • Broken diving boards;
  • Defective pool equipment;
  • Broken pool fences; and
  • Lack of adequate pool fencing.

Swimming pool injuries can vary widely in severity, though there is no question that accidents have the potential to be extremely dangerous. Pool accidents can lead to broken bones, concussions, spinal cord injuries and tragically, drowning deaths.

Florida Premises Liability Law and the Florida Invitee Statute

Florida property owners, including private pool owners, owe a duty of care to their invited guests. Under Chapter 768.075 of the Florida state statutes, invited guests are granted the highest level of legal protection in premises liability cases.

Florida law defines an invited guest as a person who has a reasonable belief that they are allowed on the property. Under this standard, a property owner does not need to expressly invite each guest each time they come for them to qualify as an invited guest. For example, if a property owner simply lets the neighbors use the swimming pool or hot tub without objection, the neighbors may become invited guests under the law even if there was no specific verbal invitation given before each visit.

Florida’s residential swimming pool act requires that all new residential pools have at least one of the following safety features: an enclosure that separates a pool from a home, a pool cover, a swimming pool alarm or alarms on all windows and doors that provide direct access to the pool.

Florida Swimming Pool Injuries and Trespassers: The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine

Under Florida law, a private swimming pool owner could also potentially be held liable for a person’s injuries even if that individual was trespassing on their property. Most notably, this is an issue for injury claims involving children who may not be old enough to understand the danger.

Swimming pools are likely to attract children. Therefore, pool owners are held to heightened obligations to keep children away from their pool, when unsupervised, and prevent accidental drownings. Drowning is a leading cause of death of young children in Florida.

Under the Florida’s Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act, all new private pools and hot tubs should be equipped with security features, such as fencing, a pool cover or a secure gate to prevent a child from getting into a pool without supervision. If a pool owner fails to properly secure their pool, and a child is attracted to it and hurt or killed in the process, the pool owner may be held civilly and criminally liable for the accident.

Florida allows juries to weigh how much fault a property owner should bear for an accident and how much the individual who was injured contributed to his or her own injury.

The bottom line for Tampa-area swimming pool owners: If you let people swim in your pool, you are legally responsible for providing safe conditions. Pool owners should consider having guests sign a private swimming pool waiver.

 

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