A dangerous condition on someone else’s property can be catastrophic to unsuspecting visitors. Slip and fall accidents, exposure to hazardous chemicals, roof collapse, fires and floods…it only takes one negligent property owner to injure or kill others. Georgia law has specific statutes in place regarding incidents that happen on another person’s property. Bringing a premises liability claim against someone in Atlanta can lead to compensation for lost wages, medical costs, and pain and suffering. Kaufman Law can help you navigate these laws, which are often comprehensive and complex.
What is Slip & Fall Accident?
“Premises liability” is the legal doctrine that holds property owners and leasers responsible for maintaining safe premises. This involves inspecting the property for unknown hazards, repairing known ones, and warning visitors to avoid existing threats. If a property owner fails to maintain the premises, and an accident results from a dangerous element, the courts will hold him or her liable for the victim’s damages. Typically, a landlord will not be the one liable if someone rents the property. The defendant would be the person leasing the property at the time.
Georgia Code Section 51-3-1
gives the provisions for the state’s slip & fall laws. It states that a landowner or occupier is liable for injuries his or her “failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises safe” causes to individuals who enter the land for lawful purposes. If the owner uses the land for recreational purposes, such as for an amusement park, he or she owes the highest duties of care to paying guests. The only time a landowner is immune from a slip & fall case in Atlanta is if wildlife traverses the individual’s property, along with persons hunting game with permission, and causes damage or injuries.
Common Injuries on Unsafe Premises
Elements that can make premises unsafe for guests vary greatly, resulting in a diverse range of potential injuries. Innocent guests can experience anything from traumatic brain injuries to lacerations on others’ properties in Atlanta. Catastrophic injuries are those that result in permanent disability or disfigurement. Such incidents, and injuries that result in the victim’s wrongful death
, deserve immediate legal attention. Common injuries our firm has seen in slip & fall cases include:
- Injuries from falling objects
- Accidental drowning
- Vehicle run-over or back-over injuries
- Dog bites and animal attacks
- Burns from fires or explosions
- Illness from hazardous substances or fumes
- Head or spine injury from amusement park accidents
- Crush injuries/amputations from elevator/escalator malfunctions
- Assaults and robberies
Inadequate premises maintenance, dangerous conditions, loose animals, and negligent security can all lead to premises liability claims in Atlanta. We’ve helped clients recover for broken bones, contusions, concussions, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, burns, and illnesses from unreasonably dangerous properties. No matter what type of injuries you suffered, come to Kaufman Law for a consultation. You may be eligible for compensation.
What Can Cause a Slip & Fall Case?
Slip & fall cases occur most often from slip, trip, and fall accidents. According to the National Floor Safety Institute
, slip and falls are the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims, and the leading cause of injury-related deaths in people 65 and older in the U.S. The most common injuries from slip and falls are hip fractures, head injuries, and spine injuries. There are a variety of elements that can cause slip and falls, as well as other types of slip & fall accidents:
- Wet or slippery floors
- Loose carpeting
- Snow or ice
- Uneven curbs
- Defective stairs
- Inadequate lighting
- Potholes or ditches
- Unmarked construction zones
- Unstable buildings
- Unsecured swimming pools
- Poorly maintained playgrounds
- Lack of property security
- Aggressive or vicious dogs
A defendant may try to use the comparative negligence defense in a slip & fall case. He or she may try to place some of the blame on the victim for failing to pay attention or to recognize an obvious hazard, such as a broken bottle of liquid on the floor. If the defendant proves that a reasonable and prudent property visitor would have avoided the hazard, the courts may place at least part of the blame on the plaintiff. In Georgia, the plaintiff may still recover damages thanks to modified comparative negligence laws. As long as the plaintiff is less than 50% at fault, he or she can still receive compensation.
What Are the Differences Between an Invitee, Licensee, and Trespasser?
Property owners owe different standards of care depending on the relationship of the visitor to the landowner. There are clear lines between these relationships in the eyes of the law. The first is the invitee. An invitee is anyone with an implied or expressed invitation to enter the property. For example, customers at a grocery store are invitees. Property owners owe the highest standards of care to these entities. The property owner must ensure invitees’ reasonable care and safety. Owners must warn of existing conditions and protect invitees from dangers the person may not know about.
The second class is a licensee. A licensee is someone who has the privilege to enter the property by the possessor’s consent. For example, a door-to-door salesperson would be a licensee. Licensee often encompasses social guests as well. The property owner owes fewer duties of care to these parties. The owner must warn of dangers if the licensee will likely not realize the hazard. From there, it is up to the licensee to accept or deny the risks involved, and to assume liability for any incidents therein.
Trespassers are the third type of relationship. These entities do not have the landowner’s permission to enter or remain on a property. Owners owe no duties of care to trespassers, except that they may not deliberately inflict harm on innocent trespassers. If the trespasser is a child, however, the landowner must take reasonable care to protect the trespasser from hazards. These include attractive nuisances, or dangerous property elements that may attract children by their very nature – such as swimming pools, hot tubs, and trampolines. The property must be safe for neighborhood children who may wander onto the land.
Establishing Liability for Your Slip & Fall Accident
When a person is injured in a slip and fall, there is a tendency to blame the victim. We assume the fall happened because the victim was clumsy, was wearing the wrong shoes, or just wasn’t paying attention. The truth is, most slip and fall injures are preventable, but it isn’t always the victim that could have prevented it.
Here are some examples:
- Mrs. Green was running errands in Decatur. The elderly woman was walking up the steps to the bank when her foot hit the crumpled edge on one of the concrete steps. She fell and broke her hip. There were no warning signs.
- Carrie was at a restaurant. On the way to the restroom, she tripped on a cord that was strung across the hallway. She injured her back. Because the hallway was dimly lit, she could not see the gray cord on the gray carpet.
- An employee spilled mop water and was cleaning it up. There were caution signs. John noted the caution signs and went to the next aisle. He then slipped on water that had run under the shelves. He broke his ankle.
What Do I Need to Prove for a Slip & Fall Lawsuit?
Like most personal injury claims, slip & fall cases come down to the question of negligence. The courts will need to answer the question, “Was the property owner or possessor negligent in causing the accident?” It is the plaintiff’s burden to prove the defendant’s negligence, recklessness, or intent to harm in these cases. This requires four elements of proof:
- The defendant owned, leased, or was a resident of the property at the time. This assigns a clear duty that the defendant had to ensure the reasonable safety of the property.
- The defendant used the property negligently. The plaintiff must show that the landowner did something that a prudent owner would not have done in the same circumstances. The question of negligence depends on the visitor’s relationship with the landowner.
- The defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries. There must be a causal link between the defendant’s act of negligence in caring for the property and the plaintiff’s injuries.
- The plaintiff suffered real damages. Real damages include medical bills, lost wages from missed work, physical pain, and emotional suffering. If the accident didn’t cause damage, there is nothing for the plaintiff to recover.
Retaining an attorney can make proving a slip & fall claim in Atlanta much easier. Attorneys understand the state and local laws, and property owner responsibilities. Kaufman Law, P.C. has four decades of experience representing clients who sustained serious injuries, or whose loved ones died, in slip & fall accidents. If this sounds like your situation, contact us
for a free consultation.