Premises Liability

Many Georgia lawyers refer to these cases as "slip and fall" accidents. While slip and fall is certainly an acceptable way to refer to this type of case, a better However, term is "unsafe conditions,” as this broader term encompasses more of the common injury scenarios that we regularly encounter in this area of law. Regardless of what they are called, most of these cases occur when someone falls on another person's property (usually a store or business location). While the vast majority of unsafe conditions cases are not serious, each year over 250,000 people do suffer serious injuries and are rendered disabled after falling in a store or other premises. A relatively simple fall can result in catastrophic injuries.

Every Georgia business or property owner (the "premises owner") has a "non-delegable" duty to keep the property in a safe condition and to warn visitors of any safety hazards or unsafe conditions. This duty extends to the entryways and exits of the business, which includes the parking lot. The premises owner is liable for injuries caused by unsafe conditions which the premises knew or should have known created an unsafe condition.

Many serious injuries are caused by inadequate lighting, a lack of warning signs, steps and handrails which do not comply with the applicable building code, uneven steps or unmarked bumps or dips in the walkway, slippery or wet floors, poor visibility, boxes falling on customers from over-stocked shelves, and low objects which are not visible but jut into an aisle or walkway. Other types of common premises liability cases include serious dog bites, failure to properly repair unsafe conditions such as holes or bumps in the ground on the business premises and failure to exercise reasonable care for the safety of customers which results in criminal acts. Unfortunately, too many customers become the victim of violent crimes such as rape, robbery and shooting caused by the premises owner not providing reasonably safe conditions. What steps are sufficient for the owner to meet his or her duty to provide a ‘safe” environment is a question that is usually addressed by security or premises experts in the case. For this reason, it is advisable to retain a lawyer early on in the process to make sure the premises are available for inspection.

Still other types of cases involve shooting, sexual abuse, rape and murders due to inadequate security or safety measure at apartment complexes, parking lots, store locations and other private places that invite customers onto the premises. In most instances, the owner or management company of the premises fail to take adequate security measures such as posting a security guard in a parking lot in a high crime area, providing adequate lighting, hand rails, fencing, gates and signs, or notifying patrons of the high crime rate on the premises and in the area.

Many of these cases occur in apartment complexes (especially apartment complexes that cater to low income tenants and that are not well-maintained), gas stations, department stores, strip malls and other retail establishments that deal with the general public. These businesses have what is called a “non-delegable duty” under the Georgia laws pertaining to the safety of premises as follows:

O.C.G.A. 51-3-1 (2010)
51-3-1. Duty of owner or occupier of land to invitee 

Where an owner or occupier of land, by express or implied invitation, induces or leads others to come upon his premises for any lawful purpose, he is liable in damages to such persons for injuries caused by his failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.

The reason that this duty is non-delegable (i.e., the owner or occupier cannot escape liability to an injured invitee by claiming that they delegated the duty to a third-party that was negligent) is that premises liability and unsafe conditions victims can suffer serious injuries, such as brain injuries or even death when they trip and land on their head. Many others suffer from broken ankles, broken legs, torn knee ligaments, broken wrists, torn rotator cuff injuries, and other injuries and broken bones. These types of serious injuries usually result in damages in the form of medical bills, pain and suffering and lost wages. In addition, the spouse of an injured person is entitled to be compensated for "loss of consortium" which is the loss that occurs when a spouse is injured and the other spouse loses their companionship, services, and marital relations. For instance, in a recent case in which a client was injured as a result of improper maintenance at an apartment complex, the client suffered severe permanent injuries that resulted in damages in the form of past and future medical bills, past and future lost wages, and past and future pain and suffering. Since the client was married and the injury was severe and permanent, her husband also brought a claim for loss of consortium. Loss of consortium is loss of services of the injured spouse and may include such things as loss of society, companionship, affections, and “all matters of value arising from marriage.” This is a broad form of damages and was meant to be broad by the Georgia legislators so that a spouse can be fully compensated for the loss of consortium that results from a personal injury caused by the negligence of another, in this case, the third party would be, in most instances, the owner of the business where the victim was hurt.

Robert J. Fleming is an experienced Georgia personal injury lawyer who has handled many serious premises liability and unsafe condition cases. He works hard to get you all that you are entitled to under the law.

If you have suffered an injury from an unsafe condition on a property or a slip and fall at a business and would like to discuss your case in complete confidence with an experienced Atlanta Injury Lawyer, call Mr. Fleming directly at (404) 525-5150 or contact us online. We are here to help.

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