Florida airports are busy hubs, with thousands of passengers arriving and departing every day. In fact, Orlando International Airport, the busiest of all of Florida’s airports, served 44.6 million passengers in 2017.
No matter what Florida airport you use for your vacation, family, and business travel, you are at risk for injury-causing accidents while visiting airport premises. Any injury may bring physical pain and stress, but when it happens at an airport, it can also interrupt important travel plans.
Under Florida law, when someone else’s negligence or recklessness causes an injury, victims are entitled to seek compensation for their damages in civil court. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury at Tampa International Airport, Orlando International Airport, or another Florida airport, speak to an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Contact The Florida Law Group at (813) 463-8880 or online to schedule a free consultation and learn if we may be able to help you.
Common Accident and Injury Scenarios in Florida Airports
Some of the most common factors in accidents and injuries at airports include:
- Tripping and falling on escalators, moving sidewalks, boarding ramps, or jetways;
- Food poisoning from dining at an airport restaurant, bar, or cafe;
- Curbside motor vehicle and pedestrian accidents during pick-up and drop-off;
- Airport transportation accidents such as those that might occur on shuttles, trams, or trains;
- Slipping and falling on wet floors or floors with uncleared food, debris, or other hazards;
- Elderly or disabled passengers who are poorly assisted while traveling; and
- Security breaches that result in assaults, shootings, or other dangerous situations.
Who Is Responsible When an Injury Occurs at a Florida Airport?
In many personal injury cases, establishing liability can be straightforward. For example, in a car accident there may be an at-fault driver. When a slip-and-fall occurs at a grocery store, the store owner and management company may be responsible for resulting damages. If a defective product causes an injury, the designer, manufacturer, distributor, and retailer may all share strict liability. However, when a personal injury occurs in an airport, liability issues may be complex.
Airports, especially large ones, are like small cities, with hundreds of interconnected entities, contracts, and agreements, between municipalities, airline companies, vendors, management companies, security providers, state and federal agencies, contractors, hotels, transportation companies, and more. When a person is injured at an airport, one, two, or even multiple parties may be partially or wholly liable. Just determining who to name as defendants in a personal injury lawsuit can be a significant challenge for a potential plaintiff.
If you have been involved in an accident at an airport, a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer who has experience with airport injury cases should review your case to determine who your potential claims should be made against. Some examples of parties commonly named in airport injury lawsuits include:
- The airline;
- Owner and/or manager of business operating inside of the airport, such as a dining establishment, retail store, spa and salon, hotel, and more;
- Contractor on the airport property; and
- The airport itself, including the controlling municipality and management.
Suing the Airport After an Injury
In most cases, the airport where the injury occurred may be named as a defendant in a lawsuit. Whether the airport is the sole defendant or just one of multiple parties requires analysis of all of the relevant facts.
Most airports in the United States, and almost all major international airports, are publicly owned, which means they are government entities. Usually a municipality that owns an airport creates a separate body that governs the airport. For example, Tampa International Airport is owned by the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority (HCAA) and Orlando International Airport is owned by the Sanford Airport Authority (SAA).
Federal, state, and local governments are generally protected from lawsuits because they have sovereign immunity. While there are exceptions when sovereign immunity does not apply, bringing a personal injury claim against a government entity, rather than a private individual, can be complicated, with different requirements and limits.
A person who has been injured at a Florida airport can sue a government entity because the State of Florida has waived their sovereign immunity in personal injury cases. Under Florida law, this waiver applies to the state, counties, municipalities, and any agency acting under governmental authority.
Although Florida waives its right to sovereign immunity, there are still some caveats. If someone has been injured, they:
- Cannot sue an individual who works for the airport authority unless they prove the employee intentionally caused the injury. Otherwise, they may only seek compensation from the airport authority.
- Must show that a Florida court would find a private party liable in the same situation.
- Will be subject to Florida law that caps damages at $200,000. If more than one party is named in the lawsuit, the cap is increased to $300,000.
- Are unlikely to receive punitive damages. Punitive damages are always rare in personal injury cases, but even more unlikely when the defendant is a government entity, such as an airport authority.
Recovering Damages After an Injury at the Airport
Damages may be economic or non-economic, and may include but are not limited to:
- Medical costs including ambulance and emergency services, hospitalization, radiology, surgery, prescriptions, physical therapy, and more;
- Future medical costs when a severe injury requires ongoing treatment or the injury results in permanent disability;
- Lost wages from missed work due to injury and/or hospitalization;
- Loss of earning capacity in the case of a long-term disability;
- Pain and suffering;
- Loss of consortium; and
- Other non-economic damages that apply.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney if You Were Injured at an Airport
If you have been injured at an airport, you may be feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and alone. Airport injury cases can be complex, and require the skill of an experienced attorney who can analyze the case, identify the claims, gather relevant evidence, represent their client in negotiations, and advocate for their rights. While many cases ultimately settle prior to trial, the experienced lawyers at The Florida Law Group are prepared to litigate when necessary, and they are committed to obtaining the best possible outcomes for every client.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury while traveling through airports in Tampa, Orlando, or elsewhere in Florida, contact The Florida Law Group at (813) 463-8880 or online to schedule a free consultation and learn if we may be able to help you.