Liability And Waivers In Florida
The National Electronic Surveillance System estimates that in 2008 there were 18,868 emergency room visits from injuries suffered on amusement park and carnival rides. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that Florida and California have the highest fatality rates from amusement rides, with six fatalities each from 1987 to 2000.
In 2008 in Kirton v. Fields, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that pre-injury liability waivers signed by parents on behalf of their children are unenforceable. The Court reasoned that if pre-injury releases were permitted for commercial establishments, their incentive to take reasonable precautions to protect the safety of minor children would be removed. Their opinion went on to state that while the business can take precautions to ensure the child’s safety and insure itself, the minor child cannot insure himself or herself against the risks involved and may not fully understand the potential harm he or she faces.
Changes in Florida’s Liability Laws
Florida recently adopted amendments to its statutes governing liability waivers. The legislation allows the use of pre-injury releases to shield businesses from claims based on injuries caused by an “inherent risk” of an activity. The liability of amusement parks and other businesses that is based on negligence is not affected.
Effective October 1, 2011, the limitations on damage awards against the state and its agencies or subdivisions will be increased. These amendments not only affect compensation for amusement park injuries, but for all personal injury cases. Previously limited to $100,000 in damages per person or $200,000 in damages per incident, under the new law injured parties would be able to recover up to $200,000 per person or $300,000 per incident.
In 2009, slip and fall legislation was rewritten to require actual or constructive notice of a foreign transitory substance – an object or spill that causes a fall before personal injury claims could proceed. Constructive notice may, however, be shown with circumstantial evidence that the dangerous condition lasted so long that in the exercise of ordinary care the business should have known of the condition or the condition occurred with enough regularity that it was foreseeable.
People with questions about these changes to the law, or those who feel they are owed compensation for an injury they have suffered, should contact a knowledgeable attorney in their area to learn about their options and available remedies.