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Georgia’s Slip & Fall Laws
Georgia law holds that the owner or occupier of land or business is liable for some injuries that occur on his or her premises. Landowners must use ordinary care to keep their premises safe.
When landowners use their property for commercial purposes, they owe their paying guests the highest duty of care. For example, if someone slips and falls in a grocery store due to a dangerous condition, the store owner or occupier will very likely be liable for the injuries.
Glenn T. Cambre Jr
Sr Associate Attorney
Slip & Fall Accidents in Atlanta
Slip and fall accidents are more common than many Georgia residents realize. A dangerous condition on another person’s property can lead to catastrophic injuries. Georgia law allows injured parties to hold premises owners liable for injuries caused by dangerous conditions on their property. Successful premise liability claimants can win compensation for medical costs related to the injury. They can also recover compensation for lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Slip and fall accidents can happen almost anywhere. According to the National Floor Safety Institute, falls are the reason for over 8 million emergency room visits at hospitals every year. Slip and fall accidents account for over 1 million emergency room visits. Slip and fall accidents are one of the leading causes of workers’ compensation claims. Additionally, slip and fall accidents are among the leading causes of work injuries for employees age 55 and older.
Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
Many dangerous conditions can cause slip and fall accidents, such as the following:
- Liquid spills on floors that make them slippery
- Carpeting that is loose or not flat and smooth
- Ice or snow on sidewalks, pavement, and asphalt
- Uneven curbs
- Inadequate lighting
- Defective staircases
- Unmarked construction zones
- Ditches or potholes
- Buildings that are unstable
- Playgrounds that are poorly maintained or play equipment that is unsafe
- Vicious or aggressive dogs that are not properly secured
- Failure to hire security personnel for business premises
- Construction zones that are not properly marked
- Uneven curbs
Examples of Liability in Atlanta Slip and Fall Accident
Many slip and fall accidents are not the victim’s fault. Most injuries caused by slip and fall accidents are preventable. A few examples of scenarios in which the landowner or occupier is likely at fault for the slip and fall include:
- A woman is shopping at a grocery store. She walks up the steps to the store and her foot hits a concrete step. The step has a jagged, crumpled edge. She falls, breaks her arm, and injures her wrist. The store did not post any warning signs about the dangerous step.
- A child in a restaurant spills a large cup of water on the floor. An employee discovers the mess but does not clean it up. 20 minutes later, another restaurant customer slips and falls on the wet surface. The restaurant may be liable because the employee knew about the dangerous condition but failed to warn customers or clean up the liquid.
- A customer enters the office of a tax accountant. On the way to using the restroom, the customer trips on a cord strung across the hallway. She falls and injures one of her spinal discs. The store owner or occupier may be liable for her injuries if the dangerous cord was not obvious. A warning sign or the act of tying up the cord could have prevented her fall and subsequent injuries.
- A homeowner invites some friends over for dinner and to watch the football game. The homeowner knows that his dog has snapped at children before. Yet, the homeowner does not warn the guests, including the two young children. The dog bites one of the children, causing lacerations that need stitches. The homeowner is likely liable for the injuries caused by the dog.
- A grocery store clerk sees a water spill and places caution cones out while he goes to get a mop. The water leaks into another aisle and a customer slips and falls on the water puddle, suffering injuries. In this case, the grocery store is likely liable because they failed to contain and properly clean up the dangerous condition.
Succeeding in an Atlanta Slip and Fall Lawsuit
In order to succeed in a slip and fall lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove several elements in his or her case. Most importantly, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s negligence or recklessness caused the plaintiff’s injuries. In other words, the defendant must prove that the store owner’s negligence or recklessness in not taking reasonable care to prevent a dangerous condition caused his or her slip and fall injuries.
Landowners and occupiers do not necessarily have to have known about the dangerous condition. For example, a landowner might not know that a particular area of the sidewalk is currently icy. However, if the landowner knows that sidewalks in his or her location often become icy and dangerous, he has a duty to take steps to ensure his sidewalks do not ice up.
The plaintiff must also prove that he or she suffered a physical injury as a result of the slip and fall. Physical injuries include dog bites, spine injuries, lacerations, bone fractures, bruises, concussions, and more. In severe slip and fall accidents, an already fragile victim may even suffer death as a result of a hard fall.
Premises Liability Attorney in Atlanta
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about one in every five people that experience a fall sustain a serious injury. Falls are especially serious when it comes to older Americans ages 65 or older and children ages 0 to 19. The CDC estimates that over three million elder Americans are treated in emergency rooms for fall injuries each year, and about 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls. With respect to children, falls were the leading cause of nonfatal injuries from 2000 to 2006, according to the CDC. These falls resulted in an estimated 2.8 million emergency room visits for children during that time period. Normally, a fall is just an accident, but a slip and fall caused by a business or land owner is often considered negligence and is covered under Georgia’s premises liability laws.
Premises liability cases are covered under the umbrella of personal injury law in Atlanta and occur with a consistent degree of regularity in Georgia and the United States. For example, a study was conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) that analyzed over 12,000 civil trials from 75 of the largest counties in the U.S. in 2001. Approximately 110 of these case were from Fulton county. Premises liability cases had the second highest number of trails out of all of the tort cases analyzed with the highest being car accidents. So, given the commonality of premises liability cases, it is important for you to understand some of Georgia’s unique premises liability laws.
Premises Liability Laws in Atlanta, GA
The foundation of Georgia’s premises liability laws are established under O.C.G.A. §51-3-1. This statute indicates that an owner or occupier of land that induces people to come on their premises by implied or direct invitation is liable for damages caused by a failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the property safe.
Premises liability laws apply to all owners of residential and commercial land and are designed to hold land owners accountable for unsafe buildings and structures. Typical examples of premises liability cases include slip and fall cases, elevator accidents, falling merchandise accidents, etc. However, there are exceptions to this statute one of which involves trespassers.
Premise Liability Laws for Trespassers in Atlanta
Remember, O.C.G.A. §51-3-1 deals specifically with individuals who are invited on a land owner’s premises, and the invitation can be direct, such as you inviting someone to your home, or implied, such as a business that serves the public. However, this does not include individuals who are not invited. In fact, the Georgia legislature took this concept a step further by establishing O.C.G.A. § 51-3-3, which indicates that a land owner has no duty of care to a trespasser. However, O.C.G.A. § 51-3-3 does prohibit a land owner from purposely injuring a trespasser.
Premises Liability Awards and Settlements in Atlanta, GA
The damages that can be awarded to you in a premises liability claim are the same as any other negligence case. You can recover compensatory damages for things like lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, etc. The amount of damages you incur as a result of the property owners negligence will influence the amount you can recover in a settlement or award by a jury.
In the study conducted by the BJS in 2001, plaintiffs prevailed in premises liability trials 42% of the time. Moreover, the recovery statistics of the 522 plaintiffs who prevailed in the cases analyzed by the BJS are as follows:
- The median recovery of prevailing plaintiffs was $59,000
- 22.9% of the prevailing plaintiffs recovered over $250,000
- 9.1% of the prevailing plaintiffs recovered one million dollars or more in damages
In cases where a property owner’s actions rise to the level of gross negligence, you may be able to seek punitive damages from the property owner or business. Punitive damages can substantially increase the amount of your recovery in some cases. For example, of the cases included in the 2001 study, punitive damages were awarded in eight cases with a median punitive damage award amount of $33,000. However, in order to be successful, your personal injury lawyer must demonstrate through clear and convincing evidence that the land owner’s actions demonstrated willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, or a presumption of conscious indifference to consequences of their actions, which is why punitive damages are only awarded in some of the most egregious cases.
Premises Liability Cases in Atlanta
A premises liability incident can do long-term severe damage to your health and finances, which is why hiring a personal injury attorney to help you through this stressful time is so important.
Why You Need A Slip & Fall Accident Attorney
Unbeknownst to most people, personal injury lawyers provide their clients with multiple services throughout the course of every case a personal injury attorney accepts. The main reason most people are unaware of all of the services their personal injury attorney provides them with stems from a misunderstanding of what a personal injury lawyer does in each case. For starters, lawyers are tasked with being subject matter experts in their field. This point is demonstrated by the fact that every personal injury attorney at Cambre and Associates has earned a juris doctor degree, which simply means a doctorate of law degree, but law school only gives a lawyer some of the tools they need to practice law in the real world. Every case that a personal injury attorney accepts requires the lawyer to, among other things, perform the following services for their client:
- Gather evidence and ensure that the evidence gathered is admissible: Not all evidence is admissible in a court of law, and the rules concerning what evidence is admissible and how that evidence can be submitted are often dictated by a combination of statutes, and binding legal precedent that articulates the process a personal injury attorney and plaintiff must go through in order to submit evidence
- Interpret and apply the law: This service has two parts. On the one hand, a personal injury lawyer must interpret statutes, which is the law as it is written by the state or federal legislature. However, Georgia and the U.S. have a judicial system that recognizes legal president, which is a higher court’s interpretation and application of the law in a certain cases. Binding president can affect how a law is applied in a certain situation or throughout the entire state or country, and thus, researching state and federal case law on a particular legal subject is a critical service that a personal injury attorney performs for their client.
- Cross examining witnesses: To successfully execute a personal injury case in court, a personal injury lawyer must prove certain elements in court in order to prevail. The elements of proof for each type of personal injury claim can vary, but one of the primary ways an attorney gathers evidence is through sworn testimony. A personal injury lawyer will often take the testimony of witnesses either at trial or through depositions, but in both instances, the lawyer must ask the witness questions in a manner that can both provide the attorney with information and that serves to accomplish the lawyer’s ultimate goal which is to prove the necessary elements needed for their client to prevail in court.
This list is not all inclusive, but rather, it articulates some of the more complex aspects of practicing personal injury law. Being able to perform all of the legal tasks needed to bring a personal injury claim to a successful conclusion takes years of education, practice, and experience that cannot be learned in small amount of time by someone without legal training. As such, although most people may be unaware of all of the services a personal injury attorney performs for their clients, they do recognize that they need to have their cases handled by legal experts, and thus, they employ the services of an experience personal injury lawyer.
Our Expertise at Cambre & Associates
At Cambre and Associates, our law firm consists of six personal injury attorneys who come from diverse legal backgrounds with previous practice experience in areas of law such as personal injury law, criminal law, family law, and immigration law. Moreover, some of our lawyers are licensed to practice in multiple states, and have been admitted to both state and federal courts across the state of Georgia. Our clients benefit from the various unique legal backgrounds that each of our personal injury attorneys have, and this aspect of our practice allows our clients to have the benefit of knowing that every personal injury attorney at Cambre and Associates has an extensive amount of education and trial experience. Moreover, the personal injury lawyers at Cambre and Associates have the legal skills necessary to handle cases that involve complex personal injury litigation and that require specialized knowledge of various areas of law such as medical and legal malpractice cases, catastrophic injury claims, and commercial vehicle accident claims. Each of these types of personal injury claims and others that are handled by the personal injury attorneys at our firm require either an intimate knowledge of a very specific area of state law such as medical malpractice or an understanding of the interplay between state and federal law such as commercial vehicle accidents.
Personal Injury Attorney at Cambre & Associates
The personal injury attorneys at Cambre and Associates understand the effect a negligent injury can have on your life, but you don’t have to face this stressful situation alone. At Cambre and Associates, our personal injury lawyers will explain the rights that are afforded to you by law, evaluate your claim, gather evidence and testimony on your behalf, and aggressively seek the appropriate resolution to your case that you deserve. Call our office today for a free consultation and find out how some of Atlanta’s best personal injury attorneys can help you.