In 2020, Americans were the victims of over 200,000 preventable injuries leading to death. People in the United States also suffered 55.4 million avoidable injuries that were non-fatal. These injuries led to $1.158 trillion in medical and other expenses.
Many preventable injuries throughout the United States were due to unsafe conditions on someone’s property. When someone else’s negligence injures you, it can be difficult to know what to do next. Property owners are required by law to maintain their properties reasonably and prudently. If you were injured due to unsafe conditions on someone else’s property, you might be entitled to compensation. A Conyers premises liability lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve.
What Is Premises Liability?
In Georgia, property owners can be held liable when someone suffers injury on their property. The extent of a property owner’s obligation depends on their relationship to the injured person. For example, commercial property owners must maintain their premises in a manner that is safe for customers they invite onto their property. Often, owners cut corners and let dangerous conditions linger on their properties for far too long. These hazardous conditions are an accident waiting to happen.
When an accident does happen and someone is injured, the property owner might be liable for the injuries. If the courts determine the owner or operator negligently maintained the property, the owner or operator will have to compensate the victim. This concept is known as premises liability.
Types of Premises Liability
Premises liability can arise from a broad range of circumstances. The common thread in these cases is the negligent maintenance or operation of a property.
Slip-and-fall accidents are one of the most common events that lead to premises liability. A classic example is a retail corporation failing to mark a wet floor in a busy shopping center. In most cases, a reasonably prudent person would clearly mark a damp floor. Therefore, a shopkeeper’s failure to mark a wet floor can be negligent. Other conditions leading to slip-and-fall accidents include unmarked holes, uncleared snow and ice, and improperly maintained stairways.
Dangerous hazards on properties regularly lead to premises liability judgments. Unsecured harmful chemicals, exposed sharp items, and objects falling from walls or ceilings are all hazards for which owners and operators of premises are responsible.
The owner or operator of property can also be responsible for preventing reasonably foreseeable crime from happening on their property. Crime prevention involves ensuring public corridors are well-lit and providing adequate security in high-crime areas.
How to Prove Premises Liability
A Conyers premises liability lawyer can help prove your case if you have been injured on someone else’s property. In most cases, to get compensation for an accident involving premises liability, there are four elements you must prove.
To prove negligence, first, you must prove that the landowner, property manager, or lessee had a duty of care towards you. For example, property owners have an obligation to maintain a safe premise for those they invite to their property. However, their duties towards you are much less stringent if you are a licensee or trespasser (as we will discuss in more detail below).
Establishing a duty also involves proving the defendant is responsible for maintaining the property. Usually, this means they have to be an owner, lessee, or operator of the property. If the defendant is not responsible for maintaining the property, they will not be liable for the damage done.
Next, you must prove the defendant breached their duty toward you. Proving a breach of duty involves showing that the defendant failed to use reasonable care in performing their duties as the owner or manager of the property.
Examples of negligence include leaving out sharp objects that people might cut themselves on, leaving unmarked holes on the property, and failing to fix dangerously malfunctioning electrical equipment.
You must show that you suffered an injury to prove a premises liability claim in court. Your doctor’s testimony, medical records, pictures, and scars will help you verify that you suffered a recoverable injury. Proving this element is more difficult when the injuries are less obvious such as in situations involving nerve pain or mental health.
Finally, you have to prove that the defendant’s breach was the cause of your injuries. To establish causation, you must show a direct link between your injury and the defendant’s negligence.
For example, if the defendant dug a deep, unmarked hole on their property and you fell in, the negligence directly caused your injury. If you were walking by and fell because you were looking at the hole, it is unlikely the defendant’s negligence was the direct cause.
Negligence Per Se
Georgia law also allows injured parties to argue that the defendant’s actions were negligence per se. Negligence per se creates a presumption that the defendant’s actions were negligent if the defendant was not following legal rules and regulations governing their property. Even if the defendant’s actions are deemed negligence per se, you will still have to prove damages and causation.
How the Status of the Victim Affects Liability
Your status on the property affects a landowner or operator’s duty of care towards you. There are three categories—invitee, licensee, and trespasser.
Invitees are people the property owner invites to the property for the property owner’s benefit. Customers at a store are an example of invitees. Owners or managers owe invitees the highest standard of care in Georgia.
Licensees are people allowed on the property but not in connection with a commercial benefit to the owner. House guests are licensees. A property owner is only liable to a licensee for willful or wonton injury.
Trespassers are people who are on the property unlawfully. In Georgia, property owners owe no duty to trespassers. However, a property owner cannot willfully harm a trespasser. Setting up a trap for trespassers is an example of willful harm.
Property owners owe children a duty of care even when they are trespassers. Property owners are responsible for harm caused by any attractive nuisance on their property. Attractive nuisances are inherently dangerous items that might attract children. Items like pools, trampolines, or even construction holes can be attractive nuisances.
Compensation Available for Premises Liability
Just compensation for a premises liability claim involves paying the victim for the costs, financial and otherwise, of their injury. Categories of payment that might be available to premises liability victims include:
- Lost wages,
- Pain and suffering,
- Mental anguish, and
- Medical expenses.
If the negligent maintenance of property caused the death of a close family member, you might be entitled to compensation for wrongful death. Wrongful death compensation includes:
- Funeral costs,
- Medical bills,
- Loss of financial support,
- Loss of companionship, and
- Mental anguish.
Courts rarely award punitive damages in Georgia. However, they might be an option if the property owner’s harmful act was willful, malicious, or involved fraud. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish a defendant for egregiously wrongful acts.
How to Know If You Have a Case for Premises Liability
The best way to know for sure if you have a case for premises liability is to contact MG Law for a free consultation. Our knowledgeable attorneys focus exclusively on personal injury matters.
In addition to premises liability, our highly-skilled legal team is always ready to assist with any injury cases, such as:
- Bicycle Accident
- Car Accident
- Motorcycle Accident
- Drunk Driving Accident
- Negligent Security
- Nursing Home Neglect
- Slip and Fall
- Truck Accident
- Wrongful Death
Our commitment to leadership, service, and problem-solving helps us achieve the best possible outcomes for our clients. Contact us today, and let us help you recover the compensation you deserve.