One common reason for injuries is unsafe conditions on properties, whether land or buildings. Unsafe conditions can be a danger for people who live on the property or people visiting. When a property owner fails to keep property well maintained and safe to the reasonable extent possible, and someone is injured because of it, the property owner may be held liable for the injuries.
Premises Liability in Georgia
When a person or company holds ownership or control of property and if he or she intends to have guests, then the property occupier or owner must keep the property in reasonably safe an conditions in accordance with the law; this responsibility is known as the "duty of owner or occupier of land to invitee." In other words, if an owner or occupier of land invites or allows persons onto the property for any lawful purpose, according to GA Code § 51-3-1 (2016), he is "liable in damages to such persons for injuries caused by his failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe." While the law establishes the basic standard for premises liability, there are a number of circumstances that can affect a person's ability to make a claim, including the claimant's status as either an invitee, licensee, or trespasser.
Invitees, Licensees, and Trespassers
When a person visits the property of another person, they are typically classified into one of three different groups. These groups include:
- Invitee: An invitee is a person who is invited onto the property by an owner for lawful purposes. This is a broad category, however, it can include individuals such as patrons at a store, ticket holders at a concert, or even passengers on a mass transit service. Invitees are on the property for a mutually beneficial purpose. Invitees are often entitled to compensation from the property owner if they are injured due to negligence.
- Licensee: A licensee is a person who is visiting the premises, but not for business or contractual reasons. A typical example of a licensee is a friend (the licensee) visiting a friend's home for a chat, dinner, or whatever the occasion may be. Licensees are sometimes entitled to compensation, however, there are certain elements that must be present or conditions that may apply.
- Trespassers: A trespasser is a person who has no legal right or invitation to be on the property, and as such, he or she may have a very limited right to compensation. In most cases, a property owner does not need to maintain the property so that it is safe for a trespasser, however, a property owner may generally not have deliberate, hazardous conditions on the property without providing some kind of warning even to potential trespassers.
What Are Some Examples of Premises Liability?
Premises liability cases can come from a wide variety of situations. Some common situations that may lead to a premises liability case can include:
- Hazardous Surface Conditions: These types of cases are commonly seen at stores with spills that have not been cleaned up. A person can easily slip and fall on these spills, especially if they have not been warned of the slippery conditions. Similarly, if a person who owns a home allows icy conditions to persist and a visitor slips and falls, the owner might be held liable for damages.
- Hazardous Construction: These types of cases include situations where a person or entity owns or occupies a property but has allowed certain crucial aspects of it to fall into disrepair. This can include unsafe staircases, decks, patios, or balconies. The structural failure of any of those can mean catastrophic injuries for anyone caught in the wake.
- Unmarked Hazards: Unmarked hazards can include failure to point out a spill on a slippery surface, or failure to caution a person of hazardous conditions before an injury occurs. These are sometimes called "failure to warn" cases.
- Dog Bites: A person who has a dog on their property owes a duty to visitors to take reasonable steps to prevent the dog from injuring them. Dog bites can be traumatizing, and can seriously injure a person. Failure to warn and prevent the dog from injuring someone may make the owner of the property liable for damages.
Types of Injuries Stemming From Unsafe Property Conditions
There are a number of injuries a person may sustain when they fall victim to unsafe property conditions. These can include the following:
- Broken Bones: If a person falls on a slippery surface, or if a person injures him or herself due to poor construction, he or she may suffer broken bones. For slip and fall accidents, it is common for a person to injure their neck, back, hip or shoulder, as these areas are often heavily impacted when a person falls.
- Sprains: If a person slips and falls, he or she may sprain an ankle or other joint, such as the hips or shoulders. The quick jerking motion of a slip can cause a person to injure him or herself.
- Cuts and Wounds: Lacerations or wound injuries are commonly experienced in dog bite incidents, but can also be supplemental injuries in falls.
Comparative Negligence in Georgia
Georgia law includes apportionment of fault and comparative negligence. This generally means that if a judge or jury finds you at fault by more than 50% for any injuries you sustain on another person's property, you cannot recover damages. On the other hand, if a judge or jury finds you at fault by less than 50%, you may be able to recover damages minus the percentage you are deemed at fault.
This doctrine can complicate a person's right to a claim for damages, so it is important to contact an attorney for legal counsel on the specifics of your case.
Georgia Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured while on the property belonging to another person or entity, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Gautreaux Law today.