You may feel like you don’t know where to turn after an accident on someone else’s property. We want you to know that Butler Law Firm is here to help you make sense of this confusing situation.
There are numerous factors that could lead to a premises liability accident, such as an unmarked trip hazard, an unfenced pool, inadequate security, or a dangerous dog, for example. Property owners, occupiers, and other responsible parties have a duty to maintain a reasonably safe environment for visitors. When they fail to do so and an injury results, they may be held liable.
There is no charge to talk to the premises liability lawyers at Butler Law Firm about your situation. We are ready to listen to you, understand your concerns, and advise you about your options under the law.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.
What Is Premises Liability?
The term “premises” refers to land and the buildings or other facilities on it. The term “liability” refers to a person or entity’s legal responsibility for injuries and other losses. Premises liability can be understood as the legal responsibilities of a property owner or occupier when someone gets hurt on their property.
Under Georgia premises liability law, a property owner or occupier has a legal obligation to exercise “ordinary care” to keep the property reasonably safe for visitors.
People who are injured on someone else’s property due to the negligence of the property owner or other responsible party may be able to file a personal injury claim. This includes people who were injured in public shopping areas, government facilities, offices, parking lots, or even private homes or rented apartments, for example.
Premises Liability Statistics
The Bureau of Justice Statistics released a bulletin describing civil court statistics in large counties throughout the United States. Among their findings were several illuminating points about premises liability cases:
- Premises liability cases were the second-most common cases seen in civil courts, behind only car accident lawsuits.
- Seventeen percent of the premises liability cases seen in a one-year period involved harm from inadequately maintained or dangerous properties.
- In 75 percent of premises liability cases, the defendant was a business rather than an individual property owner.
Among premises liability cases, slip and fall accidents are some of the most common:
- According to the National Floor Safety Institute, falls account for more than 8 million, or 21.3 percent of emergency room (ER) visits each year.
- Some of the most serious consequences reported from fall accidents were bone fractures, which occurred in 5 percent of falls.
- The CDC reports that among Americans aged 65 and older, one in every five injured in a fall suffers a serious injury like broken bones or head trauma.
Georgia Premises Liability Law
In Georgia, the law requires property owners or occupiers to keep their premises and the areas approaching them reasonably safe for visitors. A property owner’s responsibility for keeping visitors safe depends on the types of visitors that come to the property.
The three different types of property visitors identified by the law include:
1. Invitees – Any person who receives an “express or implied” invitation from a property owner is considered an invitee. An example of an express invitation would be a verbal invitation from a person to come inside their home. An example of an implied invitation is an open store entrance, which wordlessly bids customers to enter freely during normal business hours. At an apartment complex, tenants and their invited guests are invitees.
Of the three types of visitors, property owners owe invitees the highest standard of care. They are expected to be aware of existing property hazards, make reasonable efforts to resolve them, and warn invitees of latent hazards when they visit. Jarrell v. JDC & Assoc., LLC, 296 Ga. App. 523, 524-25 (2009).
2. Licensees – Like an invitee, a licensee is someone who is on a property legally. Unlike an invitee, a licensee visits a property for their own “interests, convenience or gratification.”
Common examples of licensees include utility company technicians who conduct work outside of residential homes, people with permission to hunt on someone else’s land for free, and door-to-door salespeople. For licensees, property owners may be held responsible only for “willful or wanton” injuries. Jordan v. Bennett, 312 Ga. App. 838, 840-41 (2011). Willful or wanton injuries are injuries caused by those who knowingly commit reckless or negligent acts that violate another person’s rights.
3. Trespassers – In most cases, the owner or occupier of a property has no legal duty of care to trespassers of their land except not to willfully or recklessly cause injury. Harrison v. Plant Imp. Co., 273 Ga. App. 884, 886 (2005). A trespasser is anyone who enters another’s property without invitation or authorization. The only obligation a property owner has to most trespassers is to refrain from willfully or recklessly causing them injury – for example, by setting a booby trap. However, if property conditions exist that create an “attractive nuisance,” property owners may be held liable to children who trespass and injure themselves on the premises.
Attractive nuisances are hazardous but appealing environments, such as swimming pools or abandoned cars, that attract children who may be too young to realize they are trespassing or in danger. Under Georgia’s doctrine of attractive nuisance, property owners are expected to take reasonable steps to prevent trespassing children from accessing or injuring themselves on enticing, dangerous objects or conditions on a property. An example of reasonable prevention may be fencing in and locking an outdoor swimming pool.
Types of Premises Liability Cases
Some of the most common incidents in premises liability claims include:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Trip and fall accidents
- Falling object injuries
- Elevator and escalator accidents
- Defective staircase accidents
- Hazardous or toxic materials exposure
- Construction or maintenance accidents
- Negligent security or inadequate security
- Defective door lock incidents
- Swimming pool accidents
- Parking lot or garage incidents
- Fires and fire hazards
- Dog and other animal bites
- Failure to post or issue hazard warnings
- Violence or criminal activity on site
- Building defects or inadequate maintenance
Do You Have a Case?
If you have been injured while on someone else’s property, you may be wondering whether you have a valid premises liability case. To help determine whether your accident case involves premises liability, consider the following:
- Were you hurt in an accident on someone else’s property?
- Did you have an explicit invitation, implied invitation, or other lawful reason to be on the property when the accident occurred? For example, were you at a business during business hours, or were you a tenant or guest of a tenant?
- If the incident involved a trespassing child, was there an attractive nuisance present on the property?
- Were there dangerous or hazardous conditions present on the property?
- Did the property owner know, or would it have been reasonable to expect them to know about the dangers or hazards on their land?
- Did the owner fail to adequately resolve the dangers or hazards on the premises?
- Did the owner fail to appropriately warn visitors of the dangers or hazards?
- Did the dangers or hazards present on a property cause an accident?
- Did you suffer serious injury as a result of the accident?
- Did you require medical treatment because of your accident?
- Are you missing work or regular wages because you were temporarily or permanently disabled by your injuries in the accident?
- Has your overall quality of life been affected since the accident?
If you answered “yes” to many of the above questions, you likely have a premises liability case. However, it’s important to bear in mind that premises liability law has many subtle distinctions. The best way to know for certain that you may have a case is to consult with a good premises liability lawyer.
Proving Negligence in Premises Liability Claims
The majority of premises liability cases involve claims of negligence against the owner or occupier of the property in question. Negligence means the failure to take proper care. Negligence claims involve people who suffered damages because of dangerous or hazardous conditions that the defendant could have resolved or prevented.
To make a successful premises liability negligence claim under Georgia state law, an injured person must prove four elements:
- There was a legal duty to observe a standard of conduct. The “duty” in most premises liability cases is a property owner’s responsibility to keep their property reasonably safe. To prove that a legal duty existed, it is necessary to prove that a defendant was the legal owner or occupier of a property and that the injured party was a lawful invitee or licensee on the premises – or that a trespassing child was lured by an attractive nuisance.
- There was a breach of that legal duty. A breach of duty in premises liability law usually involves a property owner or occupier failing to fix or warn visitors of dangerous conditions on the premises, or failing to provide adequate security. Neglecting to resolve a hazard is considered a breach of duty when a property owner knows or should reasonably be expected to know that a hazard exists.
- The breach of that duty resulted in injury. The injured party must prove that their injury was a result of the action or inaction of the owner of the property where the accident happened. The injured party is also expected to have exercised “ordinary care” to prevent their injury and may not be eligible to recover full compensation if they are found partially or fully at fault.
- The resulting injury caused damages. Injured persons also need to prove that the injury they suffered caused compensable losses, such as medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses.
Georgia follows something called a modified comparative negligence rule under which plaintiffs are entitled to compensation if they are 49 percent or less at fault. This means if you are found 50 percent or more responsible for your accident, you may not be eligible for compensation. If you are less than 50 percent liable but still bear some degree of responsibility, the award for your case could be proportionally reduced by your percentage of the blame.
Compensation in a Premises Liability Claim
The amount and types of compensation you may receive in a settlement or judgment depend heavily on the unique conditions surrounding your accident. The severity of your injuries and your percentage of fault in the accident directly affect the value of your claim.
In general, compensation in premises liability cases is often awarded for:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Lost wages from missed time at work
- Lost future earning potential, if you were disabled
- Pain and suffering for your injuries or trauma
- Loss of consortium, if relations with your spouse are affected
- Interference with daily living
- Wrongful death, if resulting injuries prove fatal
- Punitive damages, which punish the negligent party in rare and exceptional cases
Georgia Statute of Limitations on Premises Liability
Georgia Code § 9-3-33 sets specific deadlines, called statutes of limitations, for filing certain types of lawsuits. For personal injuries sustained in premises liability incidents, the deadline to bring a lawsuit is usually two years from the date of the accident. This deadline may be longer or shorter in some circumstances, such as when the injured party is under 18 years of age, or the property owner in question is a government entity.
While two years may seem like a long time, premises liability cases are frequently complex. Your best bet is to get legal help as soon as possible after the accident.
Talk to an Atlanta Premises Liability Attorney Now
Please reach out to the legal team at Butler Law Firm when you are ready to discuss your potential premises liability claim. We are proud of our history of success in achieving positive results for our clients, and we want to help you, too.
We provide free initial consultations and do not accept payment from our clients unless we win money for them in settlements or trial verdicts. If you are interested in having us review your case, call us, send us a live chat, or fill out our online contact form.