What Is Georgia’s Recreational Property Act?
Property owners have a legal duty to prevent injuries to lawful visitors to their properties, and every state has unique laws pertaining to property owners’ responsibilities and specific laws for recreational activities on private property. While property owners are generally liable for injuries to lawful visitors on their properties, there are some occasions in which a property owner can avoid liability for such injuries. One very powerful defensive tool for property owners in Georgia is the Georgia Recreational Property Act. This law protects property owners from facing liability when visitors are on their properties for recreational purposes.
The purpose behind this law is to encourage private property owners to open their land to recreational use for the public, because the government cannot provide the land in most cases or has little opportunity to do so. The Recreational Property Act hinges on the concept of assumed risk, or an individual’s willing consent to partake in a potentially dangerous activity. When an individual assumes the risk of engaging in recreational activity on privately owned land, the property owner is not liable for any resulting injuries or damages. This law can also apply to publicly owned facilities that are accessible to the public, such as playgrounds on public school grounds. Most public schools will post signs that allow the public to use their playgrounds outside of school hours.
Details of the Recreational Property Act
Georgia’s Recreational Property Act carefully outlines coverage of various recreational activities under this law, including:
- Hunting and fishing
- Swimming and boating
- Camping, picnicking, and hiking
- Water sports
- Winter sports such as snowboarding and skiing
- Nature studies
- Observing scientific, archaeological, or historical sites
- Pleasure driving
It’s important to note that the Recreational Property Act does not cover bicycling, one of the most popular outdoor leisure activities in the United States. This law also includes exceptions for property owners who willfully or intentionally create hazardous elements on their properties or who allow hazards to persist. The law also does not apply to property owners who charge the public fees for use of the land for recreational purposes.
Various other factors may come into play, especially when a property owner partitions the property into areas open to the public and other areas that remain closed to the public. In these situations, it’s vital to determine exactly where the incident occurred and whether the property owner took reasonable steps to prevent entry into the closed area of the property. Some property owners may charge fees for using certain areas of their land while they allow free use of other areas. For example, a landowner who owns multiple acres with some waterfront property may charge for use of boats on the water but allow hiking for free in another area of the property.
Legal Options with the Recreational Property Act
While it’s true that the Georgia Recreational Property Act does limit injured individuals’ options for legal recourse, it does not excuse property owners from the basic responsibilities of maintaining a safe property. Failure to address known safety issues, failure to erect warning signs of known hazards or to properly divide the land into accessible and inaccessible areas may all lead to property owner liability. Additionally, a private property owner who conducts a business on his or her property by charging the public fees for use of the land will need to meet Georgia’s specific business requirements as well.
If you are unsure about your rights as a landowner in Georgia, or you recently suffered injuries while engaging in recreational activities on private property, an Atlanta personal injury attorney will be your best asset when it comes to determining your options. Your attorney will help you assess the facts of the situation and determine the best course of action.
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