Can You Sue For Injuries Or Damage From Hurricanes In Florida?

As has already happened in the past, Florida has been hit by another hurricane, and this time, hurricane Ian went through the Fort Meyers and Port Charlotte area, causing swathes of damage in its wake. As with past hurricanes, such as Irma in 2017, Southwest Florida experienced the brunt of the damage for the state.

Even as people continue to recover and try to resume their lives, for some, it will be a lot more than just waiting for electrical power, plumbing, and home repairs to get back to normal. Some have been seriously injured during the storm, leaving some wondering if it’s possible to take legal action.

The answer is “yes,” but only in very specific circumstances.

Storms Are Acts Of God

In general, civil law is not on the side of the public when it comes to the widespread damage caused by a hurricane. This is because a hurricane itself is not an act of negligence that can be blamed on the carelessness of another person or business. The formation of storms and the path they take are beyond anyone’s control; thus, no one is legally culpable if a hurricane moves through Lakewood Ranch instead of Orlando.

In the same way that there’s no legal liability for the route a hurricane takes, in many cases, the same is true for the damage the storm creates. For example, someone who has parked their car can’t be held legally responsible for the damage that car causes if a hurricane picks it up, carries it for several miles, and then drops it through the roof of someone’s home. There was no way to predict or control this outcome, so the car’s owner couldn’t be held responsible.

It’s the same circumstance for trees that are uprooted and flung through the air into other properties or even people. The random nature of a storm means that negligence is not typically a factor in the damage caused.
However, there are some instances where this may be the case.

Negligence In Prevention

Suppose a tree is solidly planted in the ground, is uprooted by a hurricane, and injures a person or damages another property. In that case, there is no legal recourse for this event.

But if the tree was in poor condition, to begin with, and people knew about it, that’s a different legal story.

If a tree was in a state of obvious decay, and it was clear that it could easily fall and cause an injury, then when that tree finally falls, any damage or harm it causes is the responsibility of the property owner. The owner knew the tree posed a risk and chose to do nothing about it, directly resulting in damage or harm. In the case of a hurricane, if a tree clearly poses a threat to people and properties nearby and causes injury or damage due to the storm, this may be tied to negligence on the part of the property owner.

Similarly, a rental property may show signs of vulnerability to storm damage. If the landlord ignores these warning signs and a hurricane exploits this vulnerability, the landlord or property owner may be legally responsible for the injuries sustained. For example, a load-bearing wall's structural weakness may be extremely susceptible to strong forces, and a landlord may be aware of this but do nothing for years. That years-long negligence means legal liability should a hurricane finally arrive that exploits that vulnerability being ignored.

Negligence is a key component of a lawsuit. If you’ve been injured in Sarasota due to someone else’s negligence, talk to a personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal options for the compensation you’re owed.

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