Posted on behalf of The Nye Law Group on Jun 01, 2017 in Personal Injury
Slip and fall accidents are caused by a variety of hazards and obstacles, including poor lighting, uneven flooring and broken handrails.
In some cases, property owners knew about these obstacles and failed to take adequate steps to remove them to help ensure the safety of those who enter their property. This could be considered negligence under Georgia law.
If you can prove that negligence occurred, the property owner could be held liable for your injuries and you may be able to recover fair compensation for the damages you suffered in your accident.
However, establishing liability for a Georgia slip and fall accident is complicated. There are many factors involved, from your legal status when you entered the property, to the type of hazard that caused your personal injury and whether the property owner knew about the unsafe condition before your injury occurred.
Below, our Savannah slip and fall accident attorneys review the basics of slip and fall liability in Georgia.
Arguably the most important factor in establishing liability is your legal status when you entered the property.
Your legal status determines the duty of care you are owed by the property owner. A duty of care is a legal obligation to take certain steps to prevent injuries to others.
Many slip and fall claims are filed by people who were classified as invitees at the time of their injury. Invitees are people with an express or implied invitation to enter the property for business reasons for the mutual benefit of both parties.
Examples include customers and sales representatives who enter retail stores, since they are on the property for their benefit and the benefit of the property owner.
Property owners owe a higher standard of care to invitees than to anyone else who enters their property. Under the Official Code of Georgia (O.C.G.A.) Title 51 Chapter 3 Article 1, property owners are liable for damages caused by a failure to exercise ordinary care to keep the premises safe.
This means that property owners must take reasonable steps to inspect the premises and ensure conditions are safe for invitees. However, this does not mean property owners have a legal obligation to continually patrol the premises to look for hazards because that would be unreasonable.
The legal duty owed to invitees applies only to hazards that property owners had actual or constructive knowledge about.
Actual knowledge means that the property owner could see, hear, touch or smell the obstacle in question. Constructive knowledge refers to a hazard that the property owner should have known about.
Constructive knowledge is much more difficult to establish than actual knowledge. One way to do so is to prove that an employee of the owner was in the immediate vicinity of the hazard and could have easily noticed it and taken steps to fix it.
Another way to prove constructive knowledge is to prove the property owner failed to exercise reasonable care when inspecting the premises.
In some cases, violations of ordinances or codes can be used as evidence that a property owner was aware or should have been aware of a hazard.
Under this doctrine, property owners cannot be held liable for injuries caused by obstacles in plain view of the plaintiff.
This is because plaintiffs are expected to take reasonable steps to avoid obstacles that are plainly visible and in locations where one would expect an obstacle or hazard to be.
For instance, there is a reasonable expectation that there will be boxes or merchandise in an aisle of a retail store when an employee is restocking shelves.
However, the employee has a legal obligation to place the objects in the aisle in such a way that they are plainly visible and do not create an unreasonable hazard for passersby. This means the employee cannot place these objects in such a way that prevents you from seeing them.
Property owners do not have an obligation to warn invitees about obstacles that are in plain view because invitees have the same amount of knowledge about these obstacles as the property owner.
The other two legal statuses for visitors to a property are licensees and trespassers.
These are entrants who have permission to come onto a property but are there for their own interests. Examples of licensees include houseguests and door-to-door salespeople.
Property owners can be held liable for injuries to licensees if they knowingly exposed the licensee to an obstacle that posed an unreasonable risk of harm. This includes willfully or wantonly exposing the licensee to an unreasonable risk.
This means claimants must establish that the property owner knew about the hazard and there was intent to cause harm.
These are entrants who do not have permission of the property owner or occupier to be on the premises. The only duty owed to trespassers is to avoid carelessly or willfully harming them.
If you do not exercise reasonable care on someone else’s property to protect your own safety, you may be found partially at fault for the accident that caused your injury. This is known as comparative negligence.
Under Georgia's modified comparative negligence system (O.C.G.A. 51-12-33), you will not be able to recover compensation if you are more than 50 percent at fault for your injury.
If you are less than 50 percent responsible, your compensation award will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if a jury awards $50,000 for your injury but you are found to be 20 percent at fault, your award would be reduced to $40,000.
If you suffered an injury in a slip and fall accident, contact The Nye Law Group today to find out if you have legal options.
Our experienced attorneys have detailed knowledge of laws governing premises liability claim.
We know how to determine if you have a viable claim and are prepared to build a strong case to improve your chances of recovering fair compensation.
If you have a valid claim and you decide to proceed, we will conduct a comprehensive investigation to collect vital evidence, including:
Your initial consultation with our attorneys is absolutely free and we do not charge legal fees unless you recover compensation.