- In Georgia, property owners have a duty to exercise reasonable care in keeping their premises safe for invitees.
- If you have been injured on someone else’s property, you can receive compensation if you can prove 1) some hazard or dangerous condition existed, or still exists, on the property, 2) your injury was caused by that hazard, and 3) the property owner neglected to take reasonable measures to protect you.
- Premises liability does not have to be the result of an intentional act; you only have to show that the property owner knew or should have known the danger existed.
- To get fair compensation from the insurance company, you need experienced lawyers to gather and present evidence proving that your accident could have been prevented if the owner had not been negligent.
If you have been hurt in an accident on someone else’s property, your injuries may have serious and long-term effects on your life. Even if you simply slip and fall in the grocery store, you may be faced with exorbitant medical bills, future treatment costs, lost income from being unable to work, and other financial hardships.
No matter how serious your injuries, however, getting fair compensation for a premises liability claim can be challenging. The insurance company cannot be held responsible for your losses unless you can prove 1) some hazard or dangerous condition existed, or still exists, on the property, 2) your injury was caused by that hazard, and 3) the property owner neglected to take reasonable measures to protect you. You must also provide documentation of all the costs you incurred as a result.
There are several factors used to determine whether the owner took reasonable steps, and insurance carriers often receive premises liability claims that lack clear evidence of the owner’s negligence and/or the damages caused by the accident. Without proper evidence to support your claim, the likelihood of receiving full compensation from the insurance company is slim to none.
What Is a Premises Liability Claim?
If you are injured on someone else’s property and the owner was negligent in their duty to keep the property safe, you can file a premises liability claim to recover damages.
Your premises liability claim must be submitted to the carrier that insures the property where the accident took place and should include all current and future expenses related to your injury.
What Is the Property Owner’s Duty of Care?
In Georgia, property owners have a legal duty to exercise reasonable care in keeping their premises safe. Owners are responsible for not only the premises but “approaches” as well, such as stairs, ramps, walkways, and parking lots. However, just because you were injured on someone else’s property doesn’t automatically mean the owner was at fault. Generally, you must show that the owner either knew or should have known that a hazard existed before the accident happened. If an owner knew or should have known about a danger and you are injured because they failed to protect you from it, they may be found negligent in a premises liability case.
Under this standard of care, an owner has a duty to protect people from conditions that may cause accidents. For example, if the owner fails to install working handrails on the stairway, which causes someone to fall down the stairs, they may be held liable for negligence.
This duty also extends to protecting people from third-party criminal activity on their property. If, for example, the owner failed to repair broken locks or gates, which resulted in someone being mugged on their property, they may be considered negligent.
In Georgia, this standard of care is owed to “invitees,” meaning people who have a direct or implied invitation to enter the property. Invitees include clients and customers at stores or other businesses open to the public. For invitees, property owners or managers have a duty to check the premises often to look for dangerous conditions, remove or repair hazards, and provide warnings of hidden dangers. To protect against third-party crime, owners or managers must ensure buildings and parking lots have proper lighting, security, locks, and an ability for people to call security.
Property owners have a lesser duty to “licensees” on their premises, which means owners have a duty to warn them about dangerous conditions if the owner knows about a hazard and the visitor is unlikely to discover it on their own. Licensees may include guests you invite to your home or contractors you hire to work on your property. Generally, property owners owe no duty to trespassers because they lack permission to be on the premises. An exception is when the trespasser is a child and the owner has a duty of care to avoid risks created by artificial structures, such as a swimming pool.
The property owner is not the only one who can be found negligent in a premises liability case. Because Georgia is a comparative negligence state, the law limits the damages you can receive for your accident if you were partially at fault. If the court determines that you were at least 50 percent at fault, you are barred from recovering compensation for your premises liability claim.
Types of Accidents That Result in Premises Liability Claims
Negligence in premises liability claims can take many forms, from providing inadequate lighting in a parking lot to not keeping a dangerous dog contained at your home. Because of the variety of cases and factors involved in proving negligence, it can be difficult to file a premises liability claim on your own.
The most common types of incidents that result in premises liability claims include:
- Slip-and-fall accidents
- Supermarket accidents
- Defective stairway or sidewalk falls
- Toxic fumes or chemical spills
- Fire safety and building code violations
- Elevator accidents
- Ceiling/building collapse
- Crimes caused by inadequate security
- Dog attacks
- Swimming pool accidents
An example of a premises liability claim that arose from a slip-and-fall accident involves a hotel employee who was injured after falling down a stairway at work. The employee was a housekeeping supervisor who was checking empty rooms at the hotel when she slipped on a piece of debris and fell down a flight of metal stairs. Her accident caused her to suffer multiple herniated discs in her spine, which necessitated expensive surgery and other medical care. Because the property owner or hotel supervisor had a duty to keep the stairway clear of debris that might cause accidents, this employee received a large settlement from the insurance company for her injuries.
Another woman received a huge payout after she was injured when part of her apartment ceiling collapsed because of a water leak. In this case, the woman had noticed water leaking through her ceiling the night before the accident and notified her building superintendent. After inspecting the damage and finding the source of the water leak, the superintendent told her he would come back the next day to work on the problem. He did not try to determine whether the ceiling was in danger of collapsing before he left. The next day part of the ceiling collapsed on the woman, causing serious injuries to her back and neck that required multiple surgeries. Her landlord had failed in his duty to keep her apartment in a safe condition, so the insurance carrier compensated her with a seven-figure settlement.
Businesses and Organizations That Often Have Premises Liability Issues
Though accidents can happen anywhere, businesses and organizations that cater to the public tend to have more premises liability issues. The following are some of the most typical locations where premises liability claims may arise:
- Retail businesses
- College campuses and other schools
- Shopping malls
- Hotels and resorts
- Amusement parks
- Sports stadiums
- Apartment and office buildings
- Manufacturing facilities
Statute of Limitations for a Premises Liability Case
In Georgia, you have a set time limit for filing a premises liability case, which is known as the statute of limitations. If you file after the statute of limitations has expired, your case will be dismissed, and you cannot recover damages.
In most cases, the time limit is two years after the injury occurred. There may be exceptions when the injured person is a minor or is legally incompetent because of a disability or mental illness.
Why Hire Our Firm to Handle Your Premises Liability Claim?
Proving negligence in a premises liability claim can be challenging. To determine whether the property owner failed to meet their duty of care, a court will consider factors such as the intended use of the property, the circumstances of the accident, the status of the injured person (i.e., invitee, licensee, or trespasser), whether the accident was foreseeable, and whether the injured person was negligent in their behavior. If you were injured on someone else’s property, you need to present credible evidence proving that your accident could have been prevented if the owner had not been negligent.
Most people lack the knowledge and expertise necessary to build a strong claim, which is why you should hire attorneys who specialize in premises liability to do the work for you. At The Millar Law Firm, we have almost 28 years of experience handling premises liability cases in Atlanta and know how to gather all the evidence you need to prove your claim.
To build your case, we may collect witness statements, 911 calls, police reports, accident reports, photos, videos, property records, and expert opinions. Because you must not only prove the merits of your claim but also show the total cost of the accident, we also gather medical records and bills, consult with doctors and experts to determine your future treatment needs, and help you calculate your current and future lost income.
Armed with all the relevant information to prove liability and costs, we then negotiate with the insurance company to reach a settlement that provides the full compensation you deserve.
Other Reasons to Hire Our Atlanta Premises Liability Lawyers
Because our firm has focused solely on injury law cases since 1993, we know the tactics insurance companies use to eliminate or reduce your compensation in premises liability cases.
For example, insurance companies are skilled at finding one fact that you may not have been aware of to turn the claim in their favor. A good lawyer can identify those facts and successfully argue why you are still entitled to compensation.
Sometimes a carrier will make a quick settlement offer, hoping that the injured party will accept the payment before they know the full extent of their medical treatment and expenses. Insurance companies know that once you accept their lowball offer, you are prevented from receiving any further compensation.
Other times a carrier may try to avoid paying anything or drag out the claims process as long as possible. Hiring the right lawyer can ensure that you get paid in a timely manner and receive full compensation for your accident.
If you’ve been injured and are looking for an Atlanta premises liability lawyer, our team can help. To learn more about your legal options, call The Millar Law Firm today at (770) 400-0000 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with one of our attorneys.