Experienced Georgia Premises Liability Lawyer
At The Sessions Law Firm, we hand a broad range of premises liability and trip-and-fall cases. If you were hurt at a business or while visiting a residence and you believe that there was a dangerous condition that the owner or resident allowed to exist on the property, you may have a premises liability claim. The definition of premises liability is “the body of law which makes the person who is in possession of land or premises responsible for certain injuries suffered by persons who are present on the premises”. The key to the premises liability cases is showing that the owner or person responsible for maintaining the property knew or should have known about the dangerous condition that caused your injury.
Premises liability cases are extremely fact-intensive, and they can be heavily contested on “liability grounds”. The liability of the owner or person responsible for maintaining the property can be heavily contested in cases where it is not clear whether they knew or should have known about the condition that caused your injury. For example, consider the deck that collapsed which is in the picture here. The first thing that the insurer said in response to our initial letter notifying them of our client’s injury was that it was not clear that their insured (the owner of the property and the landlord) knew about the dangerous condition of the deck.
In premises liability cases, it is critical to have an experienced premises liability lawyer who will take the necessary steps to preserve evidence in your case.
When an insurer receives notice of a potential premises liability claim, you can be assured that the insurance company will instruct their insured (the owner or personal responsible for maintaining the property) to correct, change, or even tear down the structure that caused your injury. An experienced and skilled premises liability lawyer will (1) photograph and document the condition of the property before the property can be changed, and (2) put the property owner on notice that a potential claim exists and an attempt to alter the property may result in a spoliation claims.
Trip-and-Fall and Slip-and-Fall Injuries
The most important question to ask yourself following a slip or trip and fall injury is “does this injury justify calling a lawyer?”
The next question you should ask yourself is, “who is responsible for your injury?” Just because you have tripped or slipped and fell on property in Georgia does not necessarily mean that you are legally entitled to collect damages from them. The state of Georgia is under the Open and Obvious Doctrine. This doctrine follows common sense and you are expected to be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to where you are going. An example of this doctrine in use would be, if you were walking through Home Depot and you tripped and fell over a pallet of mulch and injured yourself. Because the pallet is very large and noticeable the law assumes under common sense you should be able to avoid it.
On the other hand, an example that would not fall under the Open and Obvious Doctrine and favor your right to sue would be: if you were walking through Lowe’s and gray paint had spilled on the gray floor and there was ample time for a careful store owner to locate and clean it up, then the injures you sustained are the responsibility of the store.
Generally, there is two main criteria that have to be met in order for a fall, and the subsequent injuries of that fall to be the fault of the property owner.
- 1. The property owner must have had actual or constructive knowledge of the substance or item that caused the fall.
- 2. The injured person did not know about the substance or item despite the exercise of care on their own part.
Slip and fall cases are very susceptible to motions by the store owner’s lawyers to have the case thrown out before it ever reaches a jury trial. This motion is known as a Motion for Summary Judgment. Through this argument, the store owner’s lawyers argue that there is nothing for the jury to decide and the judge should simply make a summary judgment instead.
An additional threat to slip and fall cases are if the property owner can show a log with routine inspections of their store. Georgia state law varies depending on the type of store on how often a patrol should legally occur. Nonetheless, if the store owner can show that he performed routine checks which fall under the law the Court will throw the case out. On its face this might seem unfair to the injured party, however, the economic cost of patrolling the entire store constantly looking for spilled items would put most stores out of business.
At The Sessions Law Firm, we have the wherewithal to combat store’ challenges that a spill was too recent to be a liability. We use detective work such as going through store video cameras and operational records. Also, we depose the store’s employees to seek real answers and not just a front from the store owner. Most significant slip or trip and fall cases end in litigation. Because of this, these cases are often hard-fought and take diligence but at The Sessions Law Firm, we will always fight hard for you and your family.
If You Were “invited” to Someone’s Property, the Owner of The Property Had a Responsibility to Take Reasonable Measures to Make Sure that The Property Was Safe.
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.
O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1.
An invitee is the most protected category of people you can have on your property as a property owner. A property owner has the duty to use ordinary care in keeping the premise and the area of approach safe. Examples of invitees are shoppers, people performing work on the property who have been invited to do so, and anyone else there for the mutual benefit of the owner and guest.
Unlike welcomed guests, a landowner only owes a trespasser the duty not to willfully or wantonly injure them. The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine which pertains to children is an exception to that rule.
The most notable example of the Nuisance Doctrine is that of a swimming pool. It is common knowledge that children like to swim and as a result, it is foreseeable that children might trespass to get to the swimming pool. As a result of an Atlanta, Georgia death case the Appellate Courts stated that if a property owner takes reasonable measures to erect a fence surrounding a pool then they cannot be held responsible for the child’s death. This is common sense, a property owner has done their duty to provide a substantial fence to prevent children from easily making their way on their property. However, this is not to say that recovering damages in these cases is impossible. At The Sessions Law Firm, we will find every possible avenue through which we can help your family recovery damages falling a tragic accident.
A property owner owes a licensee the duty not to wantonly and recklessly expose them to non-obvious dangers. A door-to-door salesman is a perfect example of a licensee.
“Constructive Knowledge” of A Dangerous Condition in A Business
It is frequently the case that people are injured as a result of a slip-and-fall incident in which the store owner or operator did not have actual knowledge of the condition or spill that caused the fall. In cases in which the owner or operator did not have actual knowledge of the dangerous condition, we must show that the owner or operator of the store had “constructive knowledge” of the dangerous condition:
A plaintiff may demonstrate a proprietor’s constructive knowledge of a hazard by showing:(a) … evidence that the hazardous condition lasted so long that it would have been discovered and removed if the proprietor had exercised reasonable care in inspecting the premises, or (b) … evidence that an employee of the defendant was in the immediate vicinity of the hazardous condition and could have easily seen and corrected the hazard.Barbour-Amir v. Comcast of Georgia/Virginia, Inc., 332 Ga. App. 279, 283 (2) (772 SE2d 231) (2015).
All Am. Quality Foods, Inc. v. Smith, No. A16A1669 (Ga. Ct. App. Feb. 27, 2017).
If you’ve been hurt and what’s called a premises liability case. If a deck has fallen, if you have slipped and fell somewhere, if you tripped and fell somewhere, you need to know that the insurance company on the other side, as soon as they know about this is going to try to get the owner of the property to correct that condition that caused you to fall. That caused you slip, that caused you to trip, whatever it may be that caused injury to you there, they’re going to try to get them to change it. And if they change it before you have that condition documented in almost every case, it is going to extremely hurt your likelihood of recovering in this case. That’s why it is that documenting the conditions prior to any change is so critical in these cases. Call us if you’ve been hurt, let’s try to get out there before any sort of changes have been made and let’s try and get out there before the insurance company has had an opportunity to go out and take actions that may affect your ability to recover. Thank you.
Contact a Premises Liability Lawyer Today
Slip-and-fall cases are considered to be straightforward in the legal field, however, they can involve a magnitude of issues including; a transfer of the case from state to federal court, evidentiary disputes, and even several pre-trial dispositive motions. Even the most straightforward cases take time and skill to navigate properly. If you or a loved one has been injured and believe you possibly have a case please seek legal counsel prior to proceeding with any legal actions. At The Sessions Law Firm, we work hard every day to ensure you and your family receive the compensation you deserve.