What is the Responsibility of a Georgia Property Owner in a Slip and Fall Case?
If you experience a fall on someone else’s property resulting in injury (known in legal terms as a “slip and fall” or “trip and fall” case), are you entitled to compensation from the owner of the property? Many people are unclear as to the responsibility of a Georgia property owner in slip and fall cases, and as a result, many end up forfeiting compensation to which they might otherwise be entitled. If you have recently been in such a fall, the following overview should lend some clarity.
What is Slip and Fall?
As the name suggests, a slip and fall accident occurs when someone loses their balance and falls as a result. “Slip and fall” generally refers to stepping on a slick spot on the floor or ground, while “trip and fall” alludes to an obstruction in the path or an unmarked stair – but both terms are frequently used interchangeably. For our purposes, slip and fall accidents usually only deserve legal attention if you suffered injury and/or financial loss as a result of the fall. (If the only thing injured was your dignity when you fell, you probably don’t have a case.) The law doesn’t specifically differentiate between commercial and private property when addressing slip and fall liability, but statistically speaking, most slip and fall cases involve companies open for business.
The owner’s responsibility
When a property owner invites others onto his/her property, Georgia law requires that owner to “exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.” (O.C.G.A. section 51-3-1). For example, normal trafficked walkways must be free of obstructions, dangerous step-ups or step-downs appropriately marked with warnings, slippery floors identified, etc. If the owner fails to exercise this “ordinary care” and an injury fall results from it, this may constitute negligence, and the owner may be held legally liable for damages and medical expenses on behalf of the victim.
If you are suing someone for a slip and fall injury, you must essentially prove three things in order to hold the property owner responsible:
- You sustained measurable damage or personal injury as a result of the fall;
- The fall occurred because the property owner was negligent in his/her basic responsibilities to keep the premises safe; and
- The fall didn’t occur because of any reckless or careless behavior on your part.
You can imagine that sometimes slip and fall cases are difficult to prove. Sometimes the defendant can convince a judge that you contributed to your own fall, and sometimes it’s difficult to prove the owner was actually negligent. This is why you need an experienced attorney in your corner if you believe you’ve suffered injury due to a property owner’s negligence. For a free case evaluation, call Sutton Slover at 404.768.0292.