Many people are under the impression that just because you fell at a store or a business means that you will get a recovery. That is not the case in Georgia. In Georgia, an owner or occupier of land owes a duty to the public to keep the premises and approaches safe. If you are making a claim, you will still need to prove your case by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely yes than no). This means that you will need to show 3 things: (1) negligence; (2) causation; and (3) damages.
Negligence is fancy legal jargon for showing that the property owner did something wrong or acted unreasonably. However, there are a number of defenses available to property owners, all of which we have seen pop up in cases from time to time and which make us uniquely equipped to navigate the circumstances of your particular case. Here are 3 common areas that many people (including lawyers!) get tripped up on:
Generally speaking in Georgia your legal classification is one of invitee, licensee, or trespasser. The duties owed from the property owner depending on each classification. In order to be considered an invitee, your presence at the property owner must also present some potential benefit. For example, if you are shopping at a grocery store or big-box retailer and slip on a puddle of water while shopping for groceries, you will be considered an invitee. If you stop at the grocery store to use the restroom and do not intend on shopping, you may not be considered an invitee, because the property owner does not derive any benefit from your presence. It is a big difference under Georgia law. If you enjoy invitee status you only need to show that the property owner was negligent. If you are a licensee, you will need to show that the property owner’s conduct was “willful and wanton.” That is a much harder hurdle to overcome, and if you are a licensee your recovery will be limited.
If you walked by the hazard at the property before you slipped on and had an opportunity to observe it, you will be barred from making a recovery. For example, if you walk into a property owner’s restroom, and prior to entering the stall there is a sign that says watch your step, and you subsequently fall off the step while exiting the stall, you will likely be barred from a recovery. These cases are super fact-specific, so it is imperative that you hire the right Atlanta personal injury attorney to guide you through the process.
Failure to Exercise Ordinary Care
Although a property owner has a duty to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe, you also have a duty of ordinary care to watch where you are going. Although you are under no duty to continuously scan the walking surface for potential trip hazards, you should be looking in front of your walking path. If you give a recorded statement or testify in a deposition that you were distracted prior to your fall because you were reading a text message while walking across a slippery surface, count on the property owner holding that against you, resulting in a recovery which will be limited.
If you have been involved in an Atlanta slip and fall, contact the Atlanta Slip and Fall attorney at Ponton Law today. He has handled many of these cases, from intake through jury verdict. Because of the complexities involved in these cases and the amount of work that goes into it, we will generally need to see fractures or surgery before we can get involved. Keep in mind that many of these cases can be tricky and if you are not careful in your recorded statement and deposition your case may be tossed.