THE BASICS OF PREMISES LIABILITY LAW IN GEORGIA

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Property owners in Georgia owe certain responsibilities to guests and other individuals present on their land or at their businesses. This is a long standing pillar of premises liability, but various circumstances can make the rule murky. If you’ve been injured on someone’s property, your relationship to the owner will likely affect your compensation. The nature of the hazard which caused the injury may also affect the outcome. A Georgia personal injury attorney can help you understand better.

A premises liability lawsuit may be brought against a variety of property owners. Included are retailers, homeowners, landlords, property managers, and even government entities. Negligent owners or occupiers who fail to keep their premises reasonably safe for someone’s use could be held responsible.

There are a number of things that can make a home, business, or tract of land unsafe, including:

  • Slippery floors
  • Cracked or uneven sidewalks and pavement
  • Building code violations
  • Malfunctioning elevators
  • Poor maintenance
  • Unmarked hazardous or dangerous areas
  • Naturally occurring hazards

Victims may generally hold a property owner or occupier liable for negligently causing unsafe conditions. Negligently failing to repair or warn others of dangers or hazards on the property may also result in liability.

The exact duty of care owed will depend on whether the injured party is an invitee, licensee, or trespasser. The highest duty is owed to individuals who are invited onto the property. These guests are known as invitees. Property owners owe invitees the duty of ordinary care to keep the premises safe. They should, within reason, actively work to maintain a danger-free environment for their guests.

The responsibility to inspect and maintain premises is not absolute. An owner is not required to know, and therefore correct, every unsafe condition on the property. Instead, he or she must use ordinary care in keeping the property safe.

Licensees are individuals who are not invited onto a property but whose presence is allowed and usually customary. An owner should reasonably expect a licensee to be on the property, even if that person is not explicitly invited. Under Georgia law, a lesser duty of care is owed to the lessee than is owed to the invitee. The owner must avoid “recklessly or wantonly” injuring the licensee.

The lowest duty of care is owed to trespassers. A trespasser has neither express nor implied consent to be present on the property. The owner’s responsibility is to not to intentionally, willfully, or wantonly injure a trespasser. Exceptions exist to this duty. One is that a child trespasser will be treated as a licensee. For practical purposes, legitimate visitors to a property will likely not be considered trespassers.

Liability for an injury may be demonstrated in one of two ways. First, the victim can prove the owner had actual knowledge of the hazard and failed to address it. This responsibility may attach to the owner or to his or her agents. Second, the victim may show the owner had constructive knowledge of the danger and did not act to address it. This means the owner should have known of the problem, had he or she exercised reasonable care or diligence.

There is one major restriction on the ability of an injured party to receive compensation. Georgia law limits liability where the land is used for a purely recreational purpose. This includes property used for hunting, fishing, camping, and other activities.

IF YOU’VE BEEN INJURED, SPEAK TO A GEORGIA PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY

It is important for your Georgia personal injury attorney to understand all relevant facts pertaining to your injury on someone’s property. The nature of your presence there, and what connection (if any) you have to the owner, are especially pertinent. Your lawyer will try to establish that the highest possible duty of care was owed to you. If you’ve been hurt because of a land owner’s negligence, retain legal representation at your earliest convenience. The team at Schneider Hammers can help. Call us today to set up a consultation.