For example, workers at a construction site might leave cables, lumber, or nails lying around where others can trip over or step on them.. Spills at grocery stores and restaurants are slip-and-fall hazards. You can trip because of uneven floor or carpet that a property owner or manager did not fix.
Or maybe you were walking to your car in a poorly-lit apartment parking lot and suffered an assault.
Georgia law states that property owners and managers have a legal obligation to prevent harm. This is called premises liability and it allows the injured person to sue for damages.
If you or a loved one suffered a serious injury because of an unreasonable danger on someone else’s property, consult the premier premises liability lawyer Charles Scholle and his team of expert attorneys at Scholle Law. Based in Duluth, Scholle Law represents clients across Gwinnett County and the State of Georgia who have suffered serious injuries because of someone else’s carelessness.
Georgia premises liability laws hold property owners and those who manage property liable to pay for injuries caused by unreasonably dangerous conditions on their premises.
Accident victims can make the property owner and manager pay damages for failing to design, build, maintain, repair, or warn according to safety standards when those failures lead to personal injury or wrongful death.
Liability insurers routinely cover those losses, meaning that your lawsuit generally does not harm the property owner or manager.
How our Georgia premises liability lawyers can help you
Charles Scholle is an award-winning Atlanta premises liability attorney with more than 20 years of experience in representing clients who have been seriously injured due to the negligence or willful acts of property owners or managers.
He founded Scholle Law and has built a team of skilled lawyers, paralegals and other professionals who serve our clients with the utmost care, concern and compassion.
How does a premises liability claim work?
When a person injured on another’s premises retains Charles Scholle and the team of expert personal injury lawyers at Scholle Law, Scholle Law investigates the claim to confirm the property’s owner, manager, and liability insurer, the breaches of safety standards that caused the injury, and the extent of the client’s damages.
Next, Scholle Law makes a claim to the property’s owner, manager, and liability insurer, including all the documentation that insurers require to pay the full value of the claim.
If the liability insurer does not settle the claim with a reasonable offer, Scholle Law files a complaint in the proper court, serving it to the defendant with discovery requests to gather even more evidence of negligence.
Charles Scholle will gladly try the case in front of a jury if a reasonable settlement agreement has not been offered. Your right to a jury trial, and Charles Scholle’s proven trial skills, ensure that liability insurers make reasonable offers to Scholle Law clients.
What to Do After a Premises Injury
If you or a loved one suffer an injury on another’s premises under circumstances suggesting that the property’s owner or manager may have been careless, contact Charles Scholle and the expert team at Scholle Law immediately. It is imperative to your case that your retained counsel promptly notify the owner, manager, and liability insurer of your claim. This helps preserve video, photographic, documentary, electronic, and physical evidence of the unreasonably dangerous condition causing your injury.
Don’t let the other side destroy the evidence your case depends on. They owe you a duty to preserve that evidence once Scholle Law informs it of your claim.
You too should preserve any evidence relating to your claim, such as the shoes you were wearing, cellphone photos or video you take at the scene, emails or texts you send or receive, and more.
Do not give a written or recorded statement without first retaining Scholle Law to advise your rights and interests. Do not accept an insurer’s offer to pay your medical expenses or pay a nominal sum in exchange for your written release of claims and promise not to sue. First, learn the full value of your claim by retaining Scholle Law to investigate your claim and advise you accordingly.
Why Retain a Premier Duluth Premises Liability Lawyer
Charles Scholle is an award-winning Duluth premises liability attorney with more than twenty years of experience representing clients who have been seriously injured due to the negligence or willful acts of property owners or managers. He founded Scholle Law and built a team of skilled professionals to serve clients with the utmost care, concern, and compassion.
Retaining Scholle Law ensures that insurers pay the claim’s full value. Liability insurers are notorious for trying to settle claims early and for far less than they’re worth. That’s their business, to protect their insureds’ liability and their profits. Don’t let a liability insurer discourage you from retaining a premier premises liability lawyer who knows your claim’s full value and can advocate effectively for it.
Sometimes, the injured person doesn’t even know they have a claim. One Scholle Law client was asleep in his rental home one night when he woke up to his house engulfed in flames. To escape with his life, he had to run through the flames, suffering severe burns that required months of skin-grafting procedures.
Scholle Law’s preliminary investigation showed that the fire was electrical in nature. By filing a lawsuit, Scholle Law was able to secure documentation from the landowner and rental management company proving previous electrical incidents in the rental house—and even a previous electrical fire.
These and other facts uncovered during the investigation enabled Scholle Law to recover the full $100,000 under the landowner’s homeowner insurance policy to help pay for the client’s burn injuries.
Without retaining Scholle Law to investigate and advocate, the injured person would likely have recovered far less compensation.
What You Need to Know About Georgia Premises Liability
Georgia Statutory Law
Georgia premises liability law is a combination of statutory law and case law. Georgia’s premises liability statute Georgia Code §51-3-1, titled duty of owner or occupier of land to invitee, states:
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.
Another Georgia premises liability statute Georgia Code §51-3-2, titled duty of owner of premises to licensee, states:
(a) A licensee is a person who: (1) Is neither a customer, a servant, nor a trespasser; (2) Does not stand in any contractual relation with the owner of the premises; and (3) Is permitted, expressly or impliedly, to go on the premises merely for his own interests, convenience, or gratification. (b) The owner of the premises is liable to a licensee only for willful or wanton injury.
Georgia Common LawThese statutes leave some important questions unanswered. Georgia case law, otherwise known as the common law, answers more about to whom the owner or occupier owes the duty.
- Invitees. The owner or occupier of land owes invitees the highest standard of care. An invitee is someone the owner or occupier invites onto the land, typically for a business or similar contractual purpose. Examples include store shoppers, restaurant, bar and club patrons, hotel guests, and delivery workers. The owner or occupier owes these persons a duty to keep the premises reasonably safe, meeting standards of care that industry standards, customs of the field, building codes, and other evidence establishes.
- Licensees. Owners or occupiers owe licensees a lesser duty of care. A licensee is someone the owner or occupier did not invite onto the land but expressly or impliedly permitted on the land for that person’s own interests. Friends, neighbors, or other social guests dropping by or using the premises with permission, and door-to-door canvassers or solicitors, are examples. Owners or occupiers owe licensees only the duty to avoid willful or wanton injury, generally meaning knowledge of a high probability of harm.
- Trespassers. Owners or occupiers owe trespassers the lowest duty of care. Trespassers have neither express nor implied consent to be on the premises, such as a thief, vandal, or someone hunting or fishing when the owner had posted the land against such use and given no indication of permission. The only duty an owner or occupier generally owes a trespasser, with an important exception, is not to intentionally or willfully injure.
Georgia Law on Trespassing Children
Like the laws of many other states, Georgia law treats a child trespasser differently than an adult trespasser. Under the attractive nuisance doctrine, when an artificial condition of the land attracts the child to it, and it presents an unreasonable danger to the child about which the owner or occupier knew or should have known, then the owner or occupier owes a duty to the child concerning that unreasonable danger.Trampolines, swimming pools, and gym sets are examples, but so are things like abandoned freezers, mechanical equipment, or wells that might attract a child but present special danger. Trust Charles Scholle and the expert team at Scholle Law to know Georgia law and how to apply it to your premises liability claim.
What qualifies as premises liability?
The above special laws help us recognize what is and what is not a premises liability claim. Premises liability looks to the condition of the premises, whether the building, other structures, or the land. If an unreasonably dangerous condition of the premises injured the claimant, then law treats the claim under the above premises liability statutes and case law.
Examples of unreasonably dangerous conditions include:
- A cracked or uneven sidewalk presenting a trip hazard
- Steps that differ markedly in their relative height or depth
- Stairs without an adequate handrail meeting safety codes
- Waxed floors that become very slippery when wet
- Rugs without non-skid backs or mats that slide easily
- Carpet with rips or threads that catch footwear
- Hallways and stairways with burned-out lightbulbs or poor lighting
- An oddly placed step up or down hard to see for light or location
- A swimming pool without the code-required fencing around it
- A half-filled swimming pool without ladder or steps
- Non-working security doors or cameras
If an activity on the land injured the claimant, instead of a condition on the land, the law would treat the claim as one for ordinary negligence or strict liability rather than one for premises liability. Examples of strict liability activities on land, for which an injured person may also have a negligence claim, include using explosives or toxic chemicals, keeping wild animals, raising livestock, or harboring a biting dog.
Charles Scholle and the expert team at Scholle Law can review your claim, whether for premises liability, strict liability, negligence, or even malpractice.
How hard is proving a Georgia premises liability case?
Proving a premises liability case in Georgia is not for the novice lawyer and surely not for an unrepresented claimant. Premises liability law is relatively complex, considering its classifications and varying standards.
The harder part of proving a premises liability case often has to do with confirming the building and accessibility codes, retaining the design, construction, and maintenance experts, and ensuring a credible presentation of reliable evidence proving the specific hazard.
If you or a loved one suffer injury because of an unreasonably dangerous condition on another’s premises, don’t put your case at risk.. Rely on Duluth premises liability lawyer Charles Scholle and the skilled team at Scholle Law.Here is what your premises liability lawyer needs to prove.
Duty of Care
The first element of a premises liability case requires proving the specific standard of care the owner or occupier owed the injured claimant. The standard of care is theoretically what a prudent or reasonably careful owner or occupier would have done under the circumstances then existing.
Yet, one doesn’t just snap one’s fingers and have a standard. Instead, proving the standard takes research into applicable building and handicap-access codes, construction and maintenance practices, and locating and retaining experts who know how to apply those codes and practices to the premises where the claimant suffered the injury.
To the injured claimant, the event may look like a simple trip or slip and fall. But the liability insurer who decides whether to pay the claim, or the jury who will make them pay, generally needs more evidence.
Breach of Duty
The second element of a premises liability case requires proving that the owner or occupier did not do what they should have done (or did what they should not have done!).
Proving breach of duty often requires a surprisingly close look at disputed evidence. For example, if the claim involves spilled liquid in a grocery store aisle, then proving breach can mean proving how long the liquid remained on the floor before the injured claimant slipped and fell. That proof may require evidence of the evaporation and stickiness of the spilled liquid, showing that it had remained long enough for the storekeeper to have discovered it and cleaned it up. Or it may require discovering the storekeeper’s surveillance video or taking depositions of stock clerks.
The third element of a premises liability case requires proving that the breach of duty by the owner or occupier was a cause in fact and proximate cause of the claimant’s injury.
Once again, causation can be surprisingly difficult to prove in a premises liability case. While the evidence may show that an unreasonably dangerous condition existed, connecting it to the injury is another matter.
For example, the claimant must ordinarily be able to recall and testify to every intricate detail of the slip or trip and fall. The incident report, medical report, and other circumstantial evidence must generally corroborate the claimant’s account if the case is to prove causation.
The fourth and final element of a premises liability claim requires proving the claimant’s injuries and damages. Proving damages in a personal injury case can be difficult and contentious.
For example, a fall may not sound like a significant injury. Yet falls account for many very serious and deadly injuries, including fractured hips, torn ligaments, separated shoulders, and even closed head injuries.
Convincing the insurer or jury of the seriousness of the injury is just one challenge. Proving the injury’s impact on the claimant’s work, wages, benefits, household services, dependent care, recreation, marriage, and enjoyment of life is also necessary. Not to mention, an attorney must determine the extent and course of the claimant’s future medical recovery and the cost of past and future medical care.
What should I ask a premises liability lawyer?
Proving a premises liability case requires a skilled professional staff, a great reputation, a long record of successful results, and substantial resources.
You need Duluth personal injury attorney Charles Scholle’s decades of premises liability experience, his outstanding record of success, his highest standing in the bar, and the skill of the expert team at Scholle Law. Before retaining a premises liability lawyer in Georgia, ask these questions:
- How many years of experience do you have with premises liability cases?
- How many premises liability cases have you tried to a jury?
- What are some of the settlements and verdicts you’ve won?
- Can you share client references, reviews, and testimonials?
- Where are your main and satellite offices?
- Who else is on your law firm’s professional team?
- What is your record of professional leadership?
- How well do you know the locale as an insider and influencer?
Types of Premises Liability Claims
Some lawyers take a cookie-cutter approach to their cases, accepting only certain cases that look like their other cases. They don’t care to break new ground to help every client who has a legitimate claim. Charles Scholle and the expert team at Scholle Law take the opposite approach.
If you have a winnable claim under Georgia law, then they’re ready to help you win it, even if it takes developing the case’s unique or unusual theory. Each premises liability claim is different, and Scholle Law is ready to prove each claim on its own merits. Scholle Law can help with each of these types of premises liability or negligence claims, and other premises liability and negligence claims not listed here:
- Slip and fall, whether on slippery floors, wet floors, indoor surfaces, outdoor surfaces, or surfaces covered with snow or ice
- Trip and fall, whether on sidewalks, parking lots, curbs or curb cuts, ramps, walkways, elevated walkways, steps, stairs, or aisleways
- Accidents involving swimming pools, trampolines, gym sets, bounce houses, slides, skateparks, or other recreational areas or equipment
- Criminal attack, robbery, assault, and battery, or other violence due to inadequate security or defective door locks and entry systems
- Sexual assault and abuse due to negligent hiring, negligent entrustment, and negligent supervision
- Dog bites and animal attacks due to failure to leash, fence, or otherwise restrain, protect, and warn
In order to file a successful premises liability claim, you must be able to show that the property’s owner knew or should have known about the danger and had time to fix the problem or warn visitors, but didn’t. You must also show that you were taking reasonable care to guard your own safety.
Premises Liability Challenges to Overcome
Expect owners and their liability insurers to raise every available defense to your premises liability claim. That’s why you need aggressive representation from Charles Scholle and the expert team at Scholle Law.
For example, most premises liability claims require that you show that the property’s owner or occupier knew or should have known of the unreasonable danger and had time to correct it or warn visitors, but didn’t do so. Often, the claimant must rely on a theory of constructive notice because the owner or occupier is unlikely to admit that they knew.
Another challenge in many premises liability claims is that Georgia law will reduce the claimant’s recovery by the amount of the claimant’s own fault for the claimant’s injury. The claimant must show that the claimant was taking reasonable care to guard the claimant’s safety. These challenges are exactly the ones that Charles Scholle and the expert team at Scholle Law are ready to help you overcome.
Locations of Premises Liability Injuries
Premises liability law doesn’t only apply to slips and falls in stores or restaurants. It also applies to accidents at other businesses like amusement parks and sports arenas, in private homes, at nonprofits like museums and religious organizations, and on government properties such as parks, transit stations, agency offices, and libraries.
Premises liability can also apply to a variety of situations, in public or private places, as long as you weren’t trespassing. The claimant need not, for instance, have been an actual shopper at the retailer where the claimant suffered the injury. Window shopping or just tagging along is enough.No matter where your premises liability injury occurs, let Charles Scholle and the expert team at Scholle Law assist you.
Causes of Premises Liability Injuries
Generally, in a premises liability case, the claimant sues the owner, occupier, manager, or operator of the place where the claimant got hurt for creating an unreasonably dangerous condition or failing to repair or remove that condition and warn about it in a reasonably clear manner.
Unreasonable dangers can include many things, but some of the common mechanisms of injury include:
- Construction debris, cords, lines, hoses, or equipment in walkways
- Falling objects from upper shelves, ladders, scaffolds, or windows
- Collapsing displays, seating, counters, or other furniture
- Exposed electrical wiring, hot surface, or other shock or burn hazard
- Hidden or poorly lit trap doors, steps, stairways, ramps, or curbs
- Failure to adequately clear snow and ice from walkways and lots
- Water trekked from outside to indoors, creating slippery surfaces
- Water leaking from product, plant, and tank displays indoors
- Failure to timely clean up spills from serving stations
- Failure to timely clean up leaking or dropped products in aisleways
- Bunched, torn, threadbare, or loose carpet
- Loose or slippery rugs without non-skid backs or mats
- Uneven or waxed slippery hard flooring
- Missing or lacking handrails or guardrails on stairs and landings
- Unsecured, unfenced, or half-filled swimming pools
- Inadequate security for a reasonably foreseeable crime
Serious Premises Liability Injuries
Slipping and tripping might not seem serious at first, perhaps resulting only in a stubbed toe or bruised pride. But in reality, a fall onto a hard surface and other premises liability accidents can cause serious injuries, including:
- Puncture wounds
- Bullet wounds
These serious injuries can permanently change a victim’s life. The claimant who suffers one of these injuries may have short-term or long-term disabilities, keeping them from earning income at work and caring for their families.
They can also lead to chronic pain that keeps the claimant from enjoying any activity, even from peaceful rest. Serious injury may also mean that the claimant needs help with daily activities for some time—perhaps for the rest of their life.
The Financial Cost of Serious Premises Liability Injuries
The financial loss associated with premises liability injuries can add up very quickly. The claimant may face a literal pile of medical bills while expecting to need expensive medical care and rehabilitation in the future. The claimant may have substantial long-term or even permanent wage and benefits losses due to the inability to work or continue self-employment.
Furthermore, the claimant may need in-home care. Plus, Georgia law allows recovery for pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and non-economic damages that can double or triple the economic loss.
Charles Scholle and the expert team at Scholle Law know how to prove these damages.
Who is liable for my premises injury?
Georgia’s premises liability statute Georgia Code §51-3-1 refers to the owner or occupier of the premises as the liable party. That statutory phrase isn’t very helpful in identifying who exactly is liable, although the word occupier gives a good hint. The common law of premises liability generally looks to the person who or entity that controls the premises.
That rule makes sense because with control comes opportunity and responsibility.
For an injury that occurs at a homeowner’s residence, the answer is easy as to who is liable is easy: the homeowner, who is both the owner and occupier. For a homeowner who rents out the home, though, the answer could be the renter, if the renter controls the unreasonably dangerous condition that injured the claimant.
But if the owner retains control, perhaps over major repairs to the structure, then the owner would be the one to pay. Likewise, stores may have an owner who occupies and would thus pay, or an owner who rents to a tenant who controls and would thus pay.
Charles Scholle and the expert team at Scholle Law know how to parse these distinctions to find the right defendant and that party’s liability insurer.
What damages can I recover in a premises liability lawsuit?
Georgia Code §51-12-1 divides the damages that a premises liability claimant may recover into economic damages, which the statute refers to as special damages, and non-economic damages, referred to as general damages.
A premises liability claimant, like other tort claimants, may recover both forms of damages. Another Georgia statute, Georgia Code §51-12-5.1, authorizes a third form of damages known as punitive damages, but only if the premises liability claimant can prove more reprehensible conduct than in the usual premises liability case.
While Georgia Code §51-12-1 does not list any specifics, the economic or special damages recoverable in a premises liability claim includes past and future medical and rehabilitation expenses, wage and benefit loss, lost earning capacity, lost household services, and any other provable out-of-pocket loss.
Charles Scholle and the expert team at Scholle Law may retain medical account managers, labor economists, and in cases of permanent disability lifecare managers, to prove these out-of-pocket losses.
While the statute doesn’t explain, non-economic damages generally mean what reasonable jurors would award for pain, suffering, mental and emotional distress, lost enjoyment of life, and loss of the ability to love and be loved by a spouse, known as consortium loss.
Don’t misunderstand. Georgia law compensates non-economic damages financially just like economic damages. The law just means that jurors have to ascertain reasonable compensation because pain doesn’t have a specific price.
Once again, Charles Scholle and the expert team at Scholle Law know how to help insurance companies and jurors understand a claimant’s suffering and adequately compensate for that loss.
The above economic and non-economic damages compensate the claimant for the claimant’s own injury. Beyond those compensatory damages, Georgia Code §51-12-5.1(c) provides for an award of punitive damages “to punish, penalize, or deter a defendant.”
Punitive damages do not depend on proof of the claimant’s loss but on proving that the law should punish the defendant. Punitive damages are much more difficult to prove than compensatory damages. Subsection (b) of Georgia Code §51-12-5.1 limits a punitive damages award only to tort claims “in which it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.”
Charles Scholle and the expert team at Scholle Law know what makes a case for punitive damages, although those claims are unusual and require skilled advocacy.
Premises Liability Questions and Answers[accordions_pplugins id=’22227′]
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