Premises Liability – Slip and Falls
Often, when people call us after an injury on someone’s property, they assume the property owner is automatically responsible for their damages. That is not correct. To recover for injuries on someone’s property (frequently called “premises liability” cases) you have to prove the property owner had a legal responsibility they failed to live up to. You also have to prove that the failure resulted in your injuries.
What is the property owner’s legal responsibility/duty?
Your legal status on the property will make a difference in what the property owner’s legal responsibility to you was. There are three legal classifications for someone present on another’s property: an invitee; a licensee; and a trespasser. While property owners have some responsibility to all of these people, they owe the highest duty to invitees, somewhat less to licensees, and even less to trespassers.
If you are an invitee, you are someone who has been invited onto the property for the benefit of the owner. The classic example of an invitee is someone who goes into a store to make a purchase. Licensees are on property with permission but not at the invitation of the property owner. If you look at the back of just about any ticket you buy to a ballgame or a concert, you will see what you bought is a license to enter the ballpark or facility. A trespasser is someone who has no legal right to be on the property.
In Georgia the responsibility owed to invitee, licensees and trespassers is provided by statute.
|PERSON’S STATUS ON PROPERTY||RESPONSIBILITY/DUTY OWED|
|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. O.C.G.A. §51-3-1|
|Licensee||The owner of the premises is liable to a licensee only for willful or wanton injury. O.C.G.A. §51-3-2|
|Trespasser||A lawful possessor of land owes no duty of care to a trespasser except to refrain from causing a willful or wanton injury. O.C.G.A. §51-3-3|
While the statutory responsibility to licensees and trespassers sounds identical, the courts have clarified that it is somewhat different. Because once a landowner knows or reasonably should know that a licensee is on his property, the courts have said it is willful or wanton not to exercise ordinary care to refrain from actively injuring the licensee and to not use ordinary care to warn a licensee of hidden dangers. So licenses are really treated more like invitees than like trespassers.
Understanding your status on the property as well as the duty owed to you is critical to determining if you have a right to recover for damages for injury done. This is frequently a very fact specific inquiry and one that should be handled by an attorney. While slips or trips and falls are the majority of those, there are other dangers for which property owners may be responsible.
We’ve successfully handled many cases where our clients were injured due injury on someone’s property. If you would like to set up a free consultation with one of our attorneys, just call the phone number of fill out the “Need Help” form on the right side of this page.