Navigating premises liability law can be confusing. It’s a particularly broad topic, and there are so types of premises liability cases. It can be difficult to know when to contact a professional Atlanta premises liability lawyer for your case. This guide will introduce you to some of the basics of this large and varied legal category.
The first thing that you need to consider when it comes to premises liability law is which type of legal issue you’re dealing with. In Georgia, there are two general legal issues that a premises liability issue might fall under: the relationship between the injured party and the person responsible for the premises, and the cause of the injury.
Relationship Between Parties
While it may seem simple to define the legal relationship between the legal party and the person responsible for the premises, it gets difficult quickly. This is especially true when the property is owned by a third party, or when the premise isn’t a business.
Georgia law (O.C.G.A § 51-3-1) states that an “owner or occupier of land” is “liable in damage […] for injuries caused by his failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.” In most cases, this means that if the injured party is a customer of a business, the business is liable for the injuries.
This gets a little muddier when you consider that the owner of the property may be a different entity entirely.
However, the law is clear on this in most cases: the tenant or business renting a space is responsible for the upkeep, not the owner of the space.
It’s also worth noting that this particular law passage refers mostly to ‘invitees’. In Georgia, an ‘invitee’ is anyone who has been welcomed, invited, or accepted onto the premises. This includes customers (during business hours), guests, employees, contractors, and other invited persons.
However, some parties may fall under the banners of ‘licensee’. A licensee is not a customer, a servant, or a trespasser. They aren’t specifically invited to the premises, but they are invited to be there for their own interests (such as public parks and recreational spaces). Licensees are generally not protected under the same premises liability laws.
The first step towards bringing a premises liability case to bear is to understand that there was a legal responsibility on the part of the person in charge of the property to make the property safe.
Cause of the Injury
Next, you must look at the direct cause of the injury. Just because an accident happened on the property doesn’t mean that the business is necessarily liable. This section of the law is meant to narrow down who is liable and exactly how liable they are for an injury caused in the following ways.
Obvious hazards. This section of the law defines that if the danger was open, obvious, and not obscured, it’s the responsibility of the invitee to avoid this. This applies to large puddles of water, for example, or large sections of obviously broken walkways.
Awareness of the danger. Georgia law doesn’t require landowners or tenants to be aware of everything that happens on their property the moment it happens. In the case of spills or obvious hazards, there is generally a 15-minute window during which the business or tenant cannot be held liable. This is because they might not know that the danger is present yet.
Ongoing risks. This area covers situations where the business or landowner is aware of a clear, present, and ongoing danger and does nothing to help solve the problem. However, there is a certain point at which the liability fails, including if the hazard is obvious (as mentioned above).
These are just some of the things you have to consider when looking into representing yourself in a premises liability case. In Georgia, there are so many different clauses and categories for the law, your best chance for getting accurately represented is to hire an experienced Atlanta premises liability lawyer.