Personal injuries happen in a seemingly infinite number of different ways.
A slip and fall on a wet floor at the grocery store, an improperly secured light pole falling on a car, and a fall at a skating rink are just a few of the infinite ways unintentional injuries occur.
Generally, if you suffer an injury due to someone else’s negligent actions, you can hold them liable for the damages you suffer. In doing so, you can recover the cost of medical bills, missed work, and any other damage you suffer.
But what happens if you suffer an injury due to someone else’s negligence and that individual says that you cannot hold them liable because you signed a hold harmless agreement before the injury occurred?
You may find yourself wondering, What exactly is a hold harmless agreement in Florida? Are hold harmless agreements enforceable in Florida? What options do you have to recover damages in such a case?
What Is a Hold Harmless Agreement?
Essentially, a hold harmless agreement is a contract or clause in a contract between two parties that stipulates that one party will not hold the other liable for damages in the event of an injury or other loss.
We often refer to hold harmless agreements as indemnity agreements or waivers of liability.
Hold harmless agreements are very common. You may sign them all the time without realizing it. When you send your child on a field trip at school, you often have to sign a waiver of liability for the school or the field trip’s location. There is probably a hold harmless clause within the contract you sign when you join a gym.
Even when purchasing a ticket to a sporting event, there is a good chance that the terms of service you sign when purchasing the ticket contain a hold harmless clause.
Thus, if you are at a baseball game and get hit by a foul ball, a hold harmless clause with the stadium owners might say that you cannot hold them liable for your injuries. In signing the agreement, you accepted that there is a risk of injury in going to the sporting event and agreed you would not hold the owners liable for such an injury.
But what if the injury at the baseball game is due to the stadium owner’s negligent actions? Many hold harmless agreements include negligence specifically in their text. If so, the stadium owners cannot be held liable for injuries caused even by their negligent actions.
When Are Hold Harmless Agreements Valid in Florida?
Hold harmless agreements are generally valid in Florida. However, whether you can still sue for damages depends on the specific language in the agreement. Suppose a hold harmless agreement does not specifically stipulate that a property owner cannot be held liable for negligence or negligent actions.
In that case, the door is still open for the owner’s liability if their negligent actions cause the damages. If a hold harmless agreement does not specify negligence in this way, Florida law interprets the agreement in favor of the injured party.
Consider a situation where you are at a baseball game sitting behind home plate. The net behind the backstop is not properly secured. The net fails to stop an errant ball, and you get hit and require medical care.
A court may find that the stadium owner negligently failed to secure the net behind the backstop. Thus, if the agreement does not specifically mention negligence, you can still hold the stadium owner liable.
But if the agreement specifically states that the property owner will be held harmless for damages caused by negligence, it could successfully limit the owner’s liability.
Third Parties and Hold Harmless Agreements
While the stadium owner in our baseball example may avoid liability through specificity in the hold harmless agreement, you may still be able to recover damages. Hold harmless agreements apply to the individuals who agree to them. They do not apply to third parties. Businesses often contract out various services to third parties who may be liable for their negligence.
To illustrate, let’s add to our hypothetical baseball game situation. Consider that the stadium owner contracts with a separate company to maintain, set up, and operate the net behind home plate at all times, including during games.
An employee of the net company fails to properly secure the net before the game, so the net fails to stop the ball. Due to the net’s failure, which the net company’s negligence is responsible for, you suffer an injury and related damages.
The hold harmless agreement that you have with the stadium that specifies negligence likely does not apply to the net company. Thus, you can hold the net company liable for your injury and related damages.
Should You Hire an Attorney?
If you suffer an injury due to someone else’s actions, you should consult with a personal injury attorney so you can seek compensation for the damages you suffered. The party who caused your injury may point to a hold harmless agreement, but such a clause may not alleviate their liability entirely. It all depends on the language of the hold harmless agreement.
An experienced personal injury attorney will look at the specifics of the agreement and help you seek compensation. The hold harmless agreement may fail to specify negligence, or there may be a third-party responsible for the injury. In any case, you deserve compensation. A personal injury attorney represents your best chance to get that compensation.
Contact Us Today
If you suffer an injury and related damages, Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon is here to help. Our firm has over 100 years of personal injury law experience, so we have seen it all. We know how to help you get compensation for your injuries even if a hold harmless agreement comes into play.
We offer free consultations, and you can contact us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Don’t just take our word for it—check out our website’s testimonials page to see how we have helped our clients in the past, and give us a call. Contact us today for a free case review!