Georgia Premises Liability Laws and Our Legal Services – Summary
- Property owners have a responsibility to take reasonable measures to keep their premises and approaches safe for people who are asked or invited to come there – their invitees*.
- Neglecting to take ordinary and reasonable precautions to eliminate or minimize hazards and potential dangers to invitees and visitors to the property may lead to liability.
- If you are injured by someone else’s negligence, you may have the right to recover for your injuries.
- Negligence takes many forms – it could mean not having adequate lighting in the parking lot, failing to promptly clean up a spill on the salad dressing aisle, or letting your dangerous dog escape from your back yard.
- Generally speaking, a property owner (or responsible manager) must either know about the danger or should reasonably have known about the hazard before the accident to held liable for the accident and resulting injuries.
- Premises liability doesn’t have to be the result of an intentional act. A property owner may be liable if he or she neglects to take reasonable safety measures to protect visitors against a known hazard, like making sure that their dog can’t jump the fence, or cleaning up the spilled grapes before somebody can slip and fall.
- Your personal injury lawyer can obtain police reports and other documentation from unwilling defendants in order to prove your case.
- Keeping track of your injuries means seeing your doctor at the time of the accident and following up with all the tests or appointments he/she asks for. Even if it is difficult or inconvenient to attend your medical appointments, it can be extremely difficult to prove your injuries if you are not going to the doctor as instructed or recommended.
- A personal injury lawyer may be able to help you find ways to finance or pay for medical care if you do not have insurance or the money to pay for doctor visits.
- Follow your doctor’s advice to the letter including at-home treatments and/or exercises you’re told to do.
- Finding a lawyer who is ‘up to speed’ on personal injury law can be the single most important job you do to recover from your injuries.
If you’ve ever been hurt in an accident, it can be quite frustrating. You may be unable to work or feed your family. You probably have mounting medical bills and no way to pay them. You are in pain and feeling hopeless. Worst of all, you have no idea what to do about all of these insurmountable problems you did nothing to deserve. You feel trapped and alone with nowhere to turn. None of this was your fault – it’s just not fair.
– Back to Top –
Premises Liability – An Example
Let’s imagine that you live in a mid-size apartment complex in a rough neighborhood. There is a small parking area that is poorly lit to begin with, but also has several non-working flood lights.
One late evening you arrive home from work, grab your groceries and leave your car. Out of nowhere, two men wearing ski-masks attack you, hit you repeatedly with something large and hard – you think it’s a rock – and steal your wallet and your notebook computer.
When your unconscious body is discovered an hour or so later in the dimly lit lot, you’re sent to the hospital in an ambulance where you’re diagnosed with a fractured skull and traumatic brain injury. You will be in the hospital for weeks, then in a rehabilitation facility where you’ll be taught to speak and re-learn how to solve problems and do every-day activities over a period of months. Your prognosis indicates that you will not know the extent of your possible recovery for 12 to 18 months but you may be permanently disabled.
– Back to Top –
Can A Georgia Landlord’s Failure to Repair Lead To A Case?
If you are a Georgia renter or tenant injured by a landlord’s negligent failure to repair, you may have a case. In Georgia, the basis for a landlord’s liability for failing to keep his premises safe is the landlord’s superior knowledge of the hazard or dangerous condition. A landlord is under a statutory duty to keep his/her premises in repair under O.C.G.A. § 44-7-13.
However, in the State of Georgia the landlord or owner is not automatically responsible for any injury on the property. The landlord is not an insurer of a tenant’s safety. O.C.G.A.§ 44-7-14. Knowledge by the owner of the dangerous condition is required by law. See O.C.G.A. 51-3-1. Generally, where a tenant had equal or superior knowledge of the alleged defect, a landlord may not be liable for injury even though the condition of the premises may be hazardous. Etheridge v. Davis, 243 Ga. App. 11 (2000). Liability results only from Landlord’s failure to exercise ordinary care to make repairs after notice to the landlord of defective condition coupled with a failure to repair within a reasonable time. Fincher v. Fox 107 Ga. App. 695 (1963).
A landlord who retains a qualified possession and general supervision of the premises, may be liable for injuries arising from the landlord’s failure to maintain the premises in proper repair even without actual knowledge, if in the exercise of ordinary care the landlord should have known thereof, and in such circumstances, the use of words “owner or occupier” is synonymous with “landlord”, that is, of a landlord who retains qualified possession and general supervision of the rented premises, as in the case of an apartment house owner. Rothberg v. Bradley, 85 Ga. App. 477, 669 S.E. 2d 293 (1952). The liability of an owner for failure to repair who has fully parted with possession and the right of possession, arises only in instances where there is a duty to repair and notice has been given of the defect. Johnson v. Loy, 231 Ga. App. 431 (1998).
When a landlord is put on notice of a patent defect, he is also charged with knowledge of any latent dangerous condition that a reasonable inspection would have revealed. If he does not make any necessary repairs within a reasonable time, he can be held liable for injuries resulting from the dangerous condition. See Johnson v. Loy, 231 Ga. App. 431 (1998). In certain circumstances, evidence of a similar prior occurrence is admissible to show knowledge on the owner’s or landlord’s part of a dangerous condition. However, while the relevancy of other occurrences is ordinarily within the sound discretion of the court, it is necessary that the conditions of the things compared be substantially similar. Sparks v. Pine Forest Enters., Inc., 174 Ga. App. 598 (1985). See also O’Connell v. Historic Invs. Of the South, Inc., 265 Ga. App. 262 (2004).
Taking Steps to Prove your Claim
In this case, the thugs who attacked may have been able to do so successfully because the parking area was badly lit and the apartment complex provided little or no security. Perhaps nobody noticed the criminals hanging about, or the crime while it was happening, because the landlord had neglected to repair the burned-out bulbs in the floodlights, leaving the area dark and dangerous.
Maybe you and your neighbors at the complex had often complained to the maintenance man about the lights, but nothing was done. (The maintenance man is, in this case, the property owner’s representative – complaining to him is the same as complaining to the owner.) This evidence will be very important as you and your attorney prepare your claim. You‘ll want to make a list of everybody you’ve spoken to about the parking lot lighting and when you did so.
Another important factor is whether the apartment complex has a history of prior similar incidents. If other people have been robbed or assaulted on the property, it is possible that the owners or managers of the complex have been negligent in failing to increase the level or amount of security on the property, intended to deter future crimes from happening.
In our case there will be several important other bits of evidence to gather. Because you’ve been hospitalized and transported by ambulance, there will be official documents from medical professionals to help prove your case. These records will prove the level of your injury and your prognosis for recovery. You don’t need to be permanently disabled to seek compensation for your injuries – settlement amounts take the matter of injuries and their consequences on a case by case basis, but generally the worse and longer lasting your injuries, the larger the recovery will need to be to fairly compensate you for what happened.
There will also be police reports in this case. Such is not the case with all injuries caused by negligence.
Additionally, the police may or may not be called to all accidents that happen in a store, or for example, on a fast-food playground where shoddy equipment or poor maintenance leads to injury. In all cases, if it is possible it is best to report the incident and your injury to the appropriate person in charge. At a store tell the manager, the shift leader, or an employee what happened and how. In other words, letting the right people know means that you’ve documented the event properly. If other people have complained about the hazard, your attorney will be able to obtain proof of previous complaints in order to prove your claim.
If your doctor says you need further tests or therapy, you must attend those appointments without fail. Don’t let your financial situation d-rail your claim. Even when you think you might not have the money to pay for the appointments this month, you can pay a little at a time until the bill is paid off. Missing doctor appointments or therapy sessions can blow your claim right out of the water. Don’t. The insurance company lawyers you may eventually face in court would like very much to prove that you were not badly injured. One way they do this is by showing that you didn’t carefully follow your doctor’s advice.
– Back to Top –
Get the Right Attorney
Personal injury law is just one field in the practice of law. Finding a personal injury lawyer who is focused only on the constantly-changing landscape of personal injury law is the single most important thing you can do to recover for your injuries.
You wouldn’t ask your veterinary doctor to remove your appendix or a doctor of dentistry to do surgery on your brain. You need a personal injury law specialist in order to do battle with highly paid insurance company lawyers.
You can bet on the fact that the people who insure the person who failed to protect you will have the very best defense possible. Insurance companies hate to pay out money. They will go to great lengths to keep your settlement small. The first thing they always do is hire great attorneys who do nothing all day but find ways to keep their company from shelling out cash, even when they should. Know that you are up against a powerful force. It will be an uphill battle.
In order to combat insurance company lawyers, you need an attorney whose skills and know-how are as effective as the other side’s legal counsel. You need a law firm that is totally focused on this very technical field of the law. You can recover money if you hire the right premises liability lawyer.
At The Millar Law Firm, our attention is on personal injuries – everything we do is aimed at recovering for our clients and their damages. Because our concentration is exclusively dedicated to claims that involve the negligence of others, we are better able to win cases and recover larger settlements. We have the winning edge.
We know what to expect from insurance companies and their hired guns. We do this all day every day – and we’ve been doing it for decades. At our firm we have over 60-years of experience at successfully advocating for our clients. Dedication and experience are the key ingredients in winning a personal injury claim – we use ours to make the lives of innocent victims better.
If you or somebody you know has been the victim of negligence, call us today for a free case evaluation. Allow us to review the facts of your claim to help you discover how to proceed. This is a no-cost review that can help you find your way through the frustration and pain. We’re standing by to help you. Call us today.
– Back to Top –
Questions Answered on This Page
- Do property owners have a responsibility to keep their property safe for the public?
- What if I complained to the maintenance man and not the owner of the property about a danger or a hazard?
- What evidence do I need to prove a premises liability claim?
- Can I get information from reluctant defendants using police reports?
- Who is responsible for hazards or dangers in an apartment parking lot?
- If I’m not permanently injured, can I still be compensated?
- Why should I choose personal injury specialists like the Millar Law Firm?
Premises Liability Glossary
*Invitee: You might think that an invitee is somebody who has been given a special invitation – such as to a party or a graduation event. In the legal world of tort* law, “an invitee is a person who is invited to land by the possessor of the land as a member of the public or one who enters the land of another for the purpose of business dealings with the possessor of the land.” (Wikipedia.)
In other words, if you’re entering a public place that “invites” the public to come in and shop or have the oil in their car changed, the store has a responsibility under the law to take reasonable precautions to keep the premises free of hazards and danger.
*Tort: According to Wikipedia, a tort is a civil wrong that causes a claimant to suffer loss or harm resulting in legal liability for the person who commits the tortuous act.
– Back to Top –