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When are property owners liable for alligator attacks?

One of the things Florida is known for -- for better or worse -- is alligators. People who want to see them can head to one of the "gator parks" or other zoological parks in the state. They have plenty of safety measures in place to keep people and the alligators safe.

What if you're on a property where you weren't expecting an alligator? Alligators don't know property lines. They might swim into a property without anyone noticing until it's too late to avoid an attack. It happened four years ago this summer at Disney World, with tragic consequences. Alligators were regularly removed from the Disney properties, but new ones swam in to a beach area. Disney has since increased its fencing and added more warning signs in the area.

So when is a property owner liable if an alligator or other wild creature attacks someone? If an animal is in its native habitat, the person who owns the land can still be held liable for negligence if all of the following are true:

  1. They knew or at least should have known that there could be dangerous animals on the land.
  2. The potential danger was hidden, and the victim couldn't have known about it until the animal was upon them.
  3. The property owner did nothing to protect the victim from an attack.

Say a property owner rents out their home on a vacation rental website, for example. The property includes a lagoon where they know that alligators sometimes wander in for a swim and a snack of some small fish. If they don't place any kind of signage or fencing up warning of the danger of alligators or otherwise notify anyone who visits their property of the danger, they could be liable for injuries caused by the alligators.

It's essential to be careful when you're visiting animal parks, wild areas or private properties throughout the state. If you or a loved one is injured by an alligator or other animal and you believe you have grounds for a lawsuit, it's wise to get the advice of an experienced attorney.

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