Injuries Caused by Hurricane Debris
Hurricane season is underway, and while there have not been any hurricanes yet this year, tropical storm Cindy recently made landfall before weakening into a tropical depression, dumping rain on the Florida panhandle, downing trees and causing other types of rain and wind damage along the Gulf Coast. In fact, a 10-year-old boy was killed on an Alabama beach after being struck by a log washed ashore during a storm surge.
The hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, and forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict that the 2017 hurricane season will be more active than normal. An active hurricane system means more property damage and more personal injuries. It also means more opportunities for property owner negligence and the filing of personal injury lawsuits.
Who Is Responsible For Cleaning Up Hurricane Debris?
According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, there are several different entities responsible for cleaning up debris after a hurricane. For example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for removing debris from federally designated bodies of water. But private property owners are responsible for removing debris from their own property, whether that debris is on land, water or wetland.
For example, a restaurant owner whose outdoor seating area is littered with fallen tree branches is responsible for removing that debris. If you are a patron at a restaurant who has neglected to remove those branches and you fall over one while walking to your table, you might have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.
A Business Owner’s Duty of Care
Property owners have certain responsibilities under Florida law. If you are a business patron and you injure yourself on the owner’s property, the owner might be liable for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages. What the property owner owes to an injured person depends on how the victim is legally classified. There are three different legal classifications: trespasser, licensee and invitee:
- Trespassers are people who aren’t allowed to be on the property, at least at the moment when they were injured (one example is a burglar). While trespassers receive little protection under Florida law, there are some exceptions. Consult with an experienced attorney to determine if you have a valid claim.
- A licensee is someone who enters a person’s property with the owner’s permission, either express or implied. Owners have a duty not to intentionally harm licensees and must fix known dangers or at least provide sufficient warning. This classification can be confusing, which is why you should always consult with an experienced attorney.
- An invitee is someone who was invited onto the property. The person might be a public invitee or a business invitee. Property owners owe the highest duty of care to people they invite onto their property (for business or personal reasons). Owners must protect invitees against known and reasonably ascertainable dangers. Hurricane debris is an obvious example of a known and reasonably ascertainable danger.
Let Us Help You with Your Case
If you or a loved has been injured because of someone’s negligence during or after a tropical depression, tropical storm, hurricane or other weather event, contact a Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney at The Pendas Law Firm today for a free consultation. We will help you determine your best course of action.
The Pendas Law Firm also represents clients in the Miami, West Palm Beach, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando, Daytona Beach and Bradenton areas.