A Florida condominium or apartment building’s carelessness may cause someone’s injury. If so, the victim may have a personal injury case to recover damages.
This article general talks about injury claims at Florida condominiums and apartment buildings. I wrote a separate article on slip and fall claims against condominium buildings.
Damages generally include:
- Medical expenses (e.g. ambulance bills, hospital bills, doctors’ bills, etc.)
- Future Medical Expenses
- Lost Wages
- Future lost wage-earning capacity
- Pain and Suffering
- Future physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Property Damage
Name and Address of the Residential Building
The injured victim should know the name and address of the apartment complex. Some apartment complexes are small.
They may not have an on-site office. If you know the name or the address of the apartment complex, you can go to the county property appraiser website and find out who the legal owner of the apartment building is.
You want to send your request for insurance disclosure information and preservation of evidence letter to the apartment building owner.
You can also see an aerial view of the apartment building or residential condominium on the property appraiser website. Unfortunately, these images are poor quality.
However, it may still help refresh your memory of the building’s layout. You should have a good understanding of the building layout.
You want to be prepared when the adjuster or defense attorney asks you about your path of travel from the moment you entered the building until you left.
Color Photos or Video
You should take color photos of the building and area where you were hurt. Be sure to date and time stamp the photos.
This will make it easier when the defense attorney asks you when you took the photo.
Condominium or Apartment Building Website
Go the condominium or apartment building website. It may have pictures and/or video of the building(s) and/or area where you were hurt.
It may also contain other valuable information that may help your case.
You should get a plot plan of the condominium or apartment building where you were hurt. A plot plan is an architecture, engineering, and/or landscape architecture plan drawing—diagram which shows the buildings, equipment layout, the position of roads, and other constructions.
It will help you understand the area where you were injured. Draw your path of travel on it before you forget it.
Contact Information of Resident
If you were a guest, be sure to get the contact information of the resident that you were visiting. Get their email address, phone number, and address.
They may be an important witness to prove that you were an invitee to the condominium or apartment building. You want to get their statement as soon as possible.
They may be less willing to help as time passes. They may move residences after your accident.
You want to be able to track them down. You want to do it as least expensively as possible. Case costs can add up quickly.
General Liability Insurance
One nice thing about an injury claim against a condominium or apartment building is that there is a 99.9% chance that they have general liability insurance. Most condominiums and apartment buildings have at least a $1,000,000/$2,000,000 general liability limits.
This is called split limit coverage. “Split limit” coverage has two different limits, one for individual claims and the other for the total of all claims.
For example, Philadelphia Insurance Company is Florida’s largest condominium and apartment building general liability insurer. The smallest general liability policy that they offer has $1,000,000/$2,000,000 limits.
I believe that $1,000,000/$2,000,000 general liability coverage is more than enough insurance to pay personal injury claims 99.9% of the time.
Other condominium or apartment buildings have $1,000,000/$3,000,000 or $2,000,000/$4,000,000.
Some condominiums or apartment buildings have a deductible on their general liability insurance. However, the deductible is usually anywhere from $500 to $5,000. It generally has no effect on a serious injury case.
Some condominiums and apartment buildings have umbrella coverage. This provides an additional layer of coverage above their liability limits.
Condo and apartment building umbrella coverage is a single limit. It usually is an amount between $1,000,000 and $25,000,000.
This coverage is almost always of little relevance to an injured claimant. This is because most personal injury claims are worth less than $1,000,000.
Generally speaking, only a catastrophic injury triggers umbrella coverage. Catastrophic injuries include:
a. Spinal cord injury involving severe paralysis of an arm, a leg, or the trunk;
b Amputation of an arm, a hand, a foot, or a leg involving the effective loss of use of that appendage;
c. Severe brain or closed-head injury as evidenced by:
c1. Severe sensory or motor disturbances;
c2. Severe communication disturbances;
c3 Severe complex integrated disturbances of cerebral function;
c4. Severe episodic neurological disorders; or
c5. Other severe brain and closed-head injury conditions at least as severe in nature as any condition provided in sub-subparagraphs c1-c4.;
d. Second-degree or third-degree burns of 25 percent or more of the total body surface or third-degree burns of 5 percent or more to the face and hands;
e. Blindness, defined as a complete and total loss of vision; or
f. Loss of reproductive organs which results in an inability to procreate.
Injuries Caused by Dogs at Condominium or Apartment Buildings
A dog may injure someone at a condominium or apartment building. The incident could be a dog bite or a dog may knock someone over.
The primary target is usually the dog owner. However, the condominium, apartment building or property manager may also be liable.
In order for the condo or apartment building to be liable, they would have to know about the dog’s vicious propensity before the accident. The incident generally must occur on the condo or apartment building premises.
Even if the injured person can show that the condo, apartment building or manager knew that the dog was dangerous, most of the fault usually gets assigned to the dog owner. (However, there are exceptions to this rule.)
For example, if a dog bites you, there may be 15% negligence on the apartment building owner and 85% negligence on the dog owner. You would only be entitled to recover 15% of your damages against the apartment owner. You would be entitled to recover 85% of your damages against the dog owner.
The dog owner may not have homeowners or renters coverage. They may have coverage that has a dog injury coverage exclusion or sub-limit for dog bites.
Written Statement of Community Policies and Rules
The apartment building or condominium should give the tenants a written statement of the community policies and rules. If they don’t, and a tenant breaks a rule that causes injury, the victim may have a case.
Dog Parks at a condominium or apartment building
Some condominiums or apartment buildings have a dog park. It should have rules posted. If the dog park does not have rules posted, and a dog causes an injury there, the condominium or apartment building may be liable.
Personal Injury Claims Against Unit Owners
A unit owner’s carelessness may cause your injury. If so, you may have a personal injury case against them. Their individual liability insurance (HO6) would pay your damages.
Some buildings require the tenants to get insurance. If so, the minimum limit of liability are usually $300,000.
Management at Condominiums and Apartment Buildings
There may be several different management scenarios at a condo or apartment building. It could managed by a:
- On site/property management company
- Off site/property management company
- Self managed
Just like the apartment building owner or condo association, the management company has a duty to use reasonable care to keep and maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition.
The management should be frequently inspecting the premises for dangerous conditions.
If offsite management is used, site visits should be frequent. They should not be less than weekly.
Risk Management Suggestions
Some condominium associations or apartment building owners speak with risk management companies to get ideas on how to make the property safer. In an injury case against a condominium, you should request any risk management recommendations.
If you are a condo owner, they are required to give this to you if you request it in writing. If you were a guest of a condo owner, he or she could request these recommendations.
If you are a guest of an apartment building, once you sue them, you can request any risk management recommendations. They will have to produce these to you.
The recommendations, if they apply to the dangerous condition that caused your incident, may help you show that the building was aware of the hazard before your “accident.”
Liability for the Criminal Acts of Third Parties
In Florida, a condominium, apartment complex or property management company has no duty to protect an invitee on his property from a criminal attack by a person over whom the landowner has no control unless the criminal act was foreseeable.
A Florida, a condominium, apartment complex or property management company owner has a duty to protect an invitee on his premises from a criminal attack that is reasonably foreseeable. Admiral’s Port Condominium Ass’n, Inc. v. Feldman, 426 So.2d 1054 (Fla. 3d DCA); Medina v. 187th Street Apts., Ltd., 405 So.2d 485 (Fla. 3d DCA 1981).
In the Admiral’s Port Condo case, Mr. and Mrs. Feldman were unit owners in the Admiral’s Port Condominium complex in Aventura, Florida. The Association had established security procedures involving ingress and egress to the buildings occupied by the unit owners.
Mrs. Feldman was mugged in the northeast parking lot of the complex. She sustained physical injuries. Prior to the time of the foregoing event no crimes against persons had been reported on Admiral’s Port property.
In the Admiral’s Port Condo case, the appeals court said that the duty of care owed by a landowner to an invitee with respect to protection from criminal acts of a third person is dependent upon the foreseeability of that third party’s activity. Medina v. 187th Street Apartments, Ltd., 405 So.2d 485 (Fla. 3d DCA 1981); Relyea v. State, 385 So.2d 1378 (Fla. 4th DCA 1980).
The appeals court said that a jury is not allowed to hear about a violent crime which had occurred substantial distances away from the premises in the case. Evidence of similar crimes committed off the premises and against persons other than the landowner’s invitees is not proof of foreseeability. Highlands Insurance Co. v. Gilday, 398 So.2d 834 (Fla. 4th DCA), petition for review denied, 411 So.2d 382 (Fla. 1981).
The appeals court said that the Feldman’s failed to show any evidence that the Association should reasonably have been on notice to take reasonable steps to guard against crimes against persons on its parking lots. It also said that the Feldman’s did not show that the Association breached any duty owed them with respect to the security measures that it did use. See Ten Associates v. McCutchen, 398 So.2d 860 (Fla. 3d DCA), petition for review denied, 411 So.2d 384 (Fla. 1981).
The Admiral’s Port Condo appeals court granted judgment for the condominium association. (The injured lady lost her case.)
The condominium or apartment complex’s duty arises only when he has actual or constructive knowledge of similar criminal acts committed on his premises. Paterson v. Deeb, 472 So.2d 1210 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985), review denied, 484 So.2d 8 (Fla. 1986), and 484 So.2d 9 (Fla. 1986); School Bd. of Palm Beach County v. Anderson, 411 So.2d 940 (Fla. 4th DCA 1982); Medina; Relyea.
In the Medina case, Virgilio Medina, was mugged in the defendants’ parking lot. When the assault occurred, he was returning to his car after escorting two young ladies who lived in the apartment complex home from church services.
He sued the apartment complex, claiming that it was negligent by their failure to:
(1) warn persons lawfully on the premises of the danger of criminal assaults;
(2) take reasonable measures to provide safe ingress and egress;
(3) limit access to the parking lot; and
(4) provide security protection to invitees within the complex.
The apartment complex manager indicated that he had actual knowledge that persons had been mugged in the complex. A police officer testified that due to domestic disputes, juvenile disturbances, and breaking and entering of apartments, he would classify the apartment as a high crime area.
The Medina appeals court said that where facts are in dispute as to the previous criminal activities in the complex and the knowledge of these activities on the part of the defendant, foreseeability is a question for the jury to determine. See Holley v. Mt. Zion Terrace Apartments, Inc., 382 So.2d 98 (Fla.3d DCA 1980).
In personal injury/negligent security case, it helps the injured person’s case if violent crimes were reported to the condominium, apartment complex or property management company in the two years prior to the attack on him or her.
It may help his case if he can find evidence that the condominium, apartment complex or property management company knew of the existence of violent criminal activity at the premises.
In the absence of proof that it had actual or constructive notice of similar criminal activity at the condominium, apartment complex or property management company, they may not be held liable for the attack on the victim because, as a matter of law, the attack was not foreseeable.
If it is foreseeable that a crime will occur on the premises, the building should have security. If they should have security but do not, you make have a personal injury case against the condo association or property manager.
If the apartment building or condominium is a gated community, it makes the victim’s case tougher. This is because the condo association or apartment building owner will argue that a gate is a reasonable safety measure.
The type of access to the gate is a factor on how much the gate increased, if at all, the security. If anyone could open or get through the gate, then this may make the personal injury case easier.
Inoperable Security Gate
An injured person or his estate may be able to raise a reasonable inference that the apartment’s broken gate may have contributed to a crime that happens on the inside of the apartment. Holley v. Mt. Zion Terrace Apartments, Inc., 382 So.2d 98 (Fla. 3d DCA 1980).
In order to get the case to a jury, the victim’s evidence needs to create a question of fact as to whether the apartment complex more likely than not caused the victim’s injury or death.
It may help if the victims’ security expert testifies that the majority of the crimes that happened at the apartment complex were opportunistic crimes, including an armed robbery initiated when a resident was accosted in the parking lot of the complex.
The apartment complex may have an inoperable security gate. The gate’s purpose may be to limit access to the premises only to those authorized to be on the grounds.
A reasonable jury can determine that an apartment complex’s failure to maintain the security gate and failure to have the courtesy officer visible probably allowed the assailant(s) to get to the decedents’ door more easily without being detected. Sanders v. ERP Operating Ltd. Partnership, 157 So. 3d 273 – Fla: Supreme Court 2015.
Security Guard Service
If guard service was provided at the building, it makes the injured person’s case tougher. If the guard service was 24 hours a day, it makes the case tougher.
If the guard service was during the evenings, it may make the case tougher.
If the guards are condo or apartment complex employees, then your case will likely be against the property owner and management company. If the guards are employees of a third party company, you may also have a case against the security company.
Your personal injury case may also be more difficult if the:
- Complex hired off duty police as security.
- Security is armed.
- Building has Closed circuit TV (e.g. security cameras)
Some apartment buildings or condominiums have a clubhouse. The clubhouse may have:
- Cooking facilities
- Food Service
- Liquor Service
- Pro Shop
- Convenience Store
- Retail Store
Sometimes a third party operates these amenities. If so, your personal injury case may also be against the third party.
If the clubhouse is rented out to residents or the public, they may be required to purchase liability insurance for the event. If so, you can make a personal injury claim with the liability insurer.
You may also be able to make a claim against the homeowner’s insurance of the person who rents out the clubhouse. You should check to see if there is a formal rental agreement that was used.
The rental agreement may discuss the duties of the parties.
A Florida condominium or apartment building may fail to maintain its swimming pool. If they do, and it causes someone’s injury, the victim may have a case.
The swimming pool should be compliant with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. Condos and apartment buildings have a duty to warn of dangerous conditions in Florida.
This includes warnings at its swimming pools.
You may be hurt due to one of the following:
- Faulty diving board
- Pool without a fence
- Gate that is not-self locking/latching leading to the pool area
- Broken self locking/latching leading to the pool area
- Gate that improperly slammed shut
Actual Case (Not Mine): $400,000 for the Pain and Suffering component for a 9-year-old girl who cut her Achilles tendon (requiring surgery) after a pool gate slammed shut on her at the condominium complex where she lived. She claimed permanent weakness.
The condo association appealed the verdict. The appeals court let the verdict stand. The condominium association’s attorneys were from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The injured girl’s lawyer was from Miami, Florida.
The case is Espirit Condominium Association v. Talavera, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 3rd Dist. 2009.
The parents can bring an injury or wrongful death claim if a child is injured or killed due to a condo or apartment building’s negligence in the swimming pool area.
It may help your case if the condominium or apartment building did not have:
- A Written maintenance schedule for pool area
- Daily Maintenance at Condo and Apartment Building Swimming Pools
- SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK signs
- Pool depths marked in and around the pool area
Lakes or Ponds
In Florida, the standard rule is that a condominium or apartment building, or property manager may not be held liable for dangerous conditions which exist in natural or artificial bodies of water. This is true unless the:
- body of water contains some unusual danger that does not normally exist in similar bodies of water, or:
- the artificial body of water is constructed in a manner that it constitutes a trap
Allen v. William P. McDonald Corp., 42 So. 2d 706 (Fla. 1949); Seitz v. Surfside, Inc., 517 So.2d 49 (Fla. 3d DCA 1987).
However, the condominium, apartment building or property manager may be liable if a natural or artificial body of water is constructed or maintained in a way that violates a regulation, ordinance or statute. Gilbertson v. Lennar Homes, Inc., 629 So.2d1029 (Fla. 4th DCA 1993).
In Florida, a condominium, apartment building or property manager generally does not have to fill in or fencer a natural or artificial body of water. Scott v. Future Investments of Miami, Inc.,559 So.2d 726 (Fla. 4th DCA 1990). It would be unreasonable to require this.
Some things that may be an unusual danger or trap are:
- a body of water that has a drain pump that works without oversight and sucks a child (who is swimming) in the water to the bottom and he drowns;
- banks of sand next to a pond or lake that mask a sharp drop into deep water without a warning to kids who are on the sand piles;
- a floating dock that takes a minor from the shore through deep water to a raft that flips over and the kid drowns.
However, if a child dives into shallow water in a lake or artificial pond, the condo or building owner is not liable. If a kid gets caught in natural weeds or underwater plants and drowns, the condo or apartment building owner is not liable.
A condominium or apartment building may have a playground. If so, it is required to have the proper surface under the playground equipment.
If it does not have the proper surface and a child gets hurt, he or she has a personal injury case against the condo, apartment building and/or property management company.
Amenities and Recreational Activities
Child Care Services
A condominium or apartment building may have child care services on site. If so, the condo or apartment building has a duty to supervise the kids. If they fail to supervise them and one is injured, the condominium association or apartment building owner may be liable.
Is Skateboarding allowed?
The condominium or apartment building may allow skateboarding. If so, a skateboarder may have a personal injury case against the condo association, apartment building owner and/or manager if a dangerous condition causes a skateboarder’s injury.
If skateboarding is not permitted, signs should be posted. If signs are posted, it makes the skateboarder’s injury case much tougher.
Florida Injury Case Value Against a Condominium or Apartment Building
The injured person may want to try to figure out how much your injury case may be worth. You can try looking at past Florida settlements and verdicts in similar cases.
But settlements and verdicts are most helpful if they itemize each category of damages. If you don’t know the breakdown of the damages, reading about settlement or verdicts can be almost useless.
The pain and suffering component of the settlement value of your case is what many people want to know.
Obstructing view causes pedestrian or bicycle accidents
If a pedestrian or bicyclist is hit by vehicle, the injured person should look to see if the condo or its management company created or contributed to the accident.
The condo could have trimmed the hedges and had stop signs in place so that drivers exiting the condominium complex would have seen pedestrians and bicyclists.
Perhaps they should have had mirrors in the parking garage so drivers could see oncoming cars when turning a corner.
Other Attorney Settlements with Condo Associations
Actual Case (not mine): $12 Million Dollar Verdict for pain and suffering for the parents of a 9 year-old boy who was killed when hit by a minivan while he was riding his bicycle in at a condominium complex in Palm Beach County, Florida.
Does a Florida Condominium Association Need to Keep Records?
In Florida, a condo association is required to keep many items. These items may be the key to the injured person proving his or her case. Some of the important items include:
A copy of the plans, permits, warranties, and other items provided by the developer pursuant to s. 718.301(4).
The plans show the layout of the condominium building. This may help refresh the injured person’s memory.
If a lawsuit is filed, the defense attorney may ask the use the plans to ask the victim to explain how he entered and walked through the property.
I settled a case for close to $65,000 where this happened. The defense attorney used a layout plan provided by a developer.
He wanted to clearly understand my client’s path of travel before the accident.
A photocopy of the recorded declaration of condominium of each condominium operated by the association and each amendment to each declaration.
A declaration of condominium is a document that proposes the governing rules for the condominium, including statements about an owners’ association.
Most laws also require descriptions of the common areas and rules associated with the use and maintenance of those areas. The condominium association is liable if its negligence caused injury to a guest in a common area.
The residents are required to follow the condominium’s rules. If a condo resident does not follow a rule and is injured, he or she may have reduced rights.
A copy of the current rules of the association.
The resident or guest may need to review the association rules to see if he or she broke any of them. The case may be tougher if the resident or guest broke a rule, and this caused an accident.
A book or books that contain the minutes of all meetings of the association, the board of administration, and the unit owners, which minutes must be retained for at least 7 years.
These minutes are the notes of the discussions at various association and board meetings. The minutes may contain crucial evidence of a hazard at the condo.
The minutes may also talk about whether the association decided not to fix a dangerous condition.
If the condo knew about a hazard and failed to fix it, it can help the injured person’s case. The minutes may also talk about complaints from residents about hazards on the premises.
A current roster of all unit owners and their mailing addresses, unit identifications and, if known, telephone numbers. The association shall also keep the email addresses and fax numbers of unit owners consenting to receive notice by electronic transmission.
This can help the injured person identify anyone who:
- Witnessed the accident;
- Complained of the dangerous condition before the accident
Witnesses can help or harm an injured person’s case.
All current insurance policies of the association and condominiums operated by the association.
After someone is injured on a condo’s property, he or she should report the accident to management. The victim should send a notice of claim to the condo and its property manager.
The victim should also send a notice of claim to the condominium’s insurer. A claim may get setup quicker if the injured person directly notifies the condo’s insurer.
A current copy of any management agreement, lease, or other contract to which the association is a party or under which the association or the unit owners have an obligation or responsibility.
A condo association has a duty to keep its premises safe. A condo association may hire a property management to help it keep the premises safe.
The property manager may also be on the hook for accidents that occur on the premises.
Sometimes a condo association or the property manager contracts with a third party. Typical third parties include pool cleaning companies, landscapers, painters, plumbers, AC repair companies, security guards and more.
If one of these third parties is responsible for the victim’s injury, he or she may also have a case against them.
Accounting records for the association and separate accounting records for each condominium that the association operates. All accounting records must be maintained for at least 7 years. The accounting records must include, but are not limited to:
a. Accurate, itemized, and detailed records of all receipts and expenditures.
b. A current account and a monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly statement of the account for each unit designating the name of the unit owner, the due date and amount of each assessment, the amount paid on the account, and the balance due.
c. All audits, reviews, accounting statements, and financial reports of the association or condominium.
d. All contracts for work to be performed. Bids for work to be performed are also considered official records and must be maintained by the association.
Ballots, sign-in sheets, voting proxies, and all other papers relating to voting by unit owners, which must be maintained for 1 year from the date of the election, vote, or meeting to which the document relates, notwithstanding paragraph (b).
All rental records if the association is acting as agent for the rental of condominium units.
A copy of the current question and answer sheet as described in s. 718.504.
All other records of the association not specifically included in the foregoing which are related to the operation of the association.
Who are the biggest Florida condominium and apartment liability insurers?
The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (FLOIR) creates an annual report. It lists the top 15 commercial general liability (CGL) insurers. Condominium associations and apartment buildings have CGL insurance.
The FLOIR’s 2014 annual report lists the top 15 carriers for commercial liability insurance. The 2014 report is for the 2013 year. The 2015 report should be available in January 2016.
The annual report includes Philadelphia Insurance’s market share. Market share is the percentage of the Florida market (defined in terms of revenue) accounted for by Philadelphia Insurance.
Market share is in parenthesis. The #1 insurer is:
Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company
Philadelphia Insurance Company insures many Florida condo associations. They also insure apartment complexes.
Philadelphia provides business liability insurance to about 10% of Florida businesses.
I was co-counsel in a case where they were the condo building insurer. It happened at a condo building. Learn more about Florida injury claims with Philadelphia Insurance Company.
Next biggest 14 Florida condo and apartment complex liability insurers are:
- Old Dominion Insurance Company (I settled a case for $200,000 with Old Dominion.)
- Westfield Insurance Company
- Federal Insurance Company
- Southern-Owners Insurance Company
- Rockhill Insurance Company
- Scottsdale Insurance Company (I settled a condo case for $78,000 with Scottsdale.)
- Granada Insurance Company
- First Community Insurance Company
- Hartford Casualty Insurance Company (I settled a case for $100,000 with Hartford.)
- Depositors Insurance Company (part of Allied Insurance, which is part of Nationwide).
- Zurich American Insurance Company (I settled a case for $100,000 with Zurich.)
- Nationwide Insurance Company of America
- American Economy Insurance Company
- State Farm Florida Insurance Company (I settled a case for $87,000 and many others with State Farm.)
The above companies are listed from biggest to smallest. This is in terms of market share for Florida business liability insurers.
A Florida condominium or apartment complex’s carelessness may cause your accident. If so, there is a 50% chance that one of those 15 companies is their liability insurer.
Did a condominium’s carelessness cause your injury in Florida? Did a homeowner’s negligence cause your accident?
See Our Settlements
Check out some of the many Florida injury cases that we have settled, including but not limited to slip or trip and falls, drunk driving (DUI) accidents, cruise ship accidents, wrongful death and much more.
I want to represent you!
I am a Miami condominium and apartment accident lawyer. If a Florida condominium or apartment building’s carelessness caused your injury, I want to represent you. I represent people who are hurt in accidents such as slip, trip and falls, accident at someone else’s home, wrongful death and many other types of accidents.
I want to represent you if you were hurt in an accident in Florida. If you live in Florida but were injured in another state we may also be able to represent you.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2015 and has been completely revamped and updated.
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