The holiday season is a time of year when families, offices, and even stores put up Christmas trees and other festive decorations. While this can be great fun, the sad reality is that Christmas trees are often the cause of injuries to people across Florida and the United States.
The American Red Cross reports that approximately 47,000 fires take place during winter holidays throughout the country. The National Fire Protection Association has found that Christmas tree fires start up in an average of 230 homes every year and are responsible for $17.3 million in property damage each holiday season. Aside from the extensive property damage that these fires cause, they kill an average of four people every year and injure another 21.
In cases in which people are hurt or killed by holiday fires, they may have legal recourse. Your ability to file a premises liability claim will depend on where the holiday fire took place. Premises liability laws consist of a set of laws that govern injuries caused by defective property conditions. These claims are rooted in the theory of negligence. Negligence is a failure to exercise reasonable care in one’s actions that causes an injury to someone else. In Florida, property owners must keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition for those who are on the land.
Liability in premises liability cases depends on the status of the visitor on the land. In Florida, property owner-visitor relationships fall into one of three categories: 1) invitees, 2) licensees, or 3) trespassers.
An invitee is a person who enters the property for a business reason, such as a customer in a store. Invitees are owed the highest duty of care. In fact, the property owner has a duty to keep the premises safe as well as warn invitees of any dangers of which the property owner knows or should have known. Thus, malls and stores that display large Christmas trees have an obligation to make sure the tree does not pose a hazard to customers. If a tree catches fire or falls on a customer, the store would be liable.
A licensee is a social guest and is owed a slightly lower duty of care than invitees. Landowners owe licensees a duty not to intentionally harm them, as well as to fix known dangers or sufficiently warn them of their existence. If you are visiting friends or relatives, you are considered a licensee. As a result, if candles are left too close to the tree, and the tree catches fire, causing harm to you, the homeowner would likely be liable. This is because a reasonable or prudent homeowner would understand the risk of leaving candles too close to the tree.
If you or someone close to you has been injured in a Christmas tree accident, it is important to consult a skilled Miami premises liability attorney who can assess the details of your case. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, we are committed to pursuing the compensation that victims deserve for their harm. To discuss your case in more detail, do not hesitate to call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or reach out to us online today.
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