Were You Injured on a Neighbor’s Property after a Hurricane?
Even relatively minor hurricanes can cause extensive property damage. A roof might have been blown off or a tree could have fallen. Even well-kept property could suddenly become littered with debris, making it hazardous for any visitors.
One question we receive involves someone being injured on a neighbor’s property after a hurricane or other storm (like a tornado) has struck. Often, people want to know whether they have a valid legal claim they can bring. Below, one of our Daytona Beach personal injury attorneys runs through the legal considerations.
Was the Debris Obvious?
You probably won’t be successful in a premises liability claim if you were injured by debris that is obviously dangerous. For example, you might see a shed or even house reduced to a pile of rubble. If you decide to try and scale the rubble, you really can’t blame anyone if you fall and hurt yourself. These are “open and obvious” hazards which, as a rule, you are expected to avoid.
The same is true if you see a tree branch laying over the driveway. If you try to jump over it but end up getting hurt, then you probably can’t sue your neighbor for your injuries.
Has the Owner Had a Chance to Clean Up Debris?
If you head next door immediately after a hurricane, then it is unlikely you can claim your neighbor should have cleaned up the debris that injured you. Florida law imposes a duty on landowners to keep their premises reasonably safe. However, this requires that the premises owner has some time to actually assess damage and repair it.
If weeks have passed, however, then your claim is much stronger. At some point, a careful owner will clean up his property, especially if he invites you over to visit.
Why Were You on the Property?
This is a key consideration in Florida premises liability law. If you are a business customer, then the owner owes you the highest duty of care. This makes sense. If a business opens its doors after a hurricane, then the owners should be confident they have addressed all hazards that could endanger customers.
However, if you are making a social visit to a neighbor, he or she owes you a reduced duty of care. In particular, the property owner should avoid willfully or wantonly injuring you. As the Florida Supreme Court has stated, “active vigilance” is not required in the case of licensees, which is what most social guests qualify as. The same is true if you trespass without any permission. If the owner expressly invites you over after the hurricane, however, then they probably need to be more careful.
Injured after a Hurricane? Give Us a Call
Personal injury claims are fact-specific and require expert knowledge of the law. At Bundza & Rodriguez, our team has helped many people after a hurricane recover compensation for personal injuries and other losses. For more information about your possible legal claims, call us at 386-252-5170 or submit our online contact form.