Any business that invites guests onto its premises has an obligation to ensure their safety. Slippery floors, tripping hazards, and other risky conditions in a store can lead to serious injuries or even death. If you or a loved one suffered a slip and fall accident in a public business, consider speaking with an experienced Georgia personal injury attorney. Call The Mark Casto Law Firm at 706-940-4030 to visit with our legal team about your slip and fall case. We fight for accident victims across Georgia, seeking justice as well as financial recovery for their injuries and suffering.
What Is Premises Liability?
Premises liability is an area of the law that refers to the responsibility of property owners to keep their property free of dangerous conditions. A possessor of property, such as a store, owes a legal duty to its guests to make their property safe. A store's liability for a slip and fall accident depends on the type of visitor. These visitors can be divided into invitees, licensees, and trespassers.
An invitee is usually a person who was invited or induced to enter a property, often for business purposes. Under O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1, a landowner or occupier is liable for damages to invitees for injuries caused by the landowner's failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe. Customers in a store are typically classified as invitees, so store owners owe the highest duty of care to their guests of almost any other type of premises.
The next type of visitor is a licensee. Under O.C.G.A. § 51-3-2, a licensee is a person who is neither a customer, nor a servant, nor a trespasser. An example of a licensee is a social guest who is invited to a person's home for non-business purposes, such as a party. In Georgia, a property owner is liable only for willful or wanton injury.
A trespasser is someone who is on another person's property without permission. Under O.C.G.A. § 51-3-3, owners and possessors of land do not owe a duty of care to trespassers, except that they may not intentionally or wantonly harm trespassers.
How Do I Prove a Store's Liability in a Slip and Fall Case?
To hold a store liable for slip-and-fall injuries, the victim must be able to prove that the store was negligent. The store's duty is merely to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises safe. This means that the store, by way of its employees, does not need to inspect and make safe every condition that might constitute a hazard. There are two main ways that a victim may be able to prove that the store failed to uphold its standard of care.
If a store knew about a dangerous condition and failed to correct it, a victim may be able to hold them liable for any injuries caused by that condition. This can be legally challenging to prove, however, an experienced Georgia personal injury attorney may know what type of evidence to look for to provide clear evidence that the store knew about a hazard and did not repair it and/or properly warn guests. For example, if a store employee caused a dangerous condition, such as spilling a carton of milk and not mopping it up, you may be able to prove that the store had actual knowledge of the slippery floor.
Constructive notice means that the store should have known about the hazard but did not because they failed to exercise reasonable diligence. For example, if a visitor is injured because of uneven flooring in a regularly-used part of the store, the store may be charged with constructive notice because, after a reasonable inspection, it would have been able to discover that the uneven flooring posed an unreasonable risk of harm to customers. At The Mark Casto Law Firm, we know how to locate and analyze records of inspections and store policies to determine whether the store knew or should have known about the dangerous condition that caused the victim's injuries.
When Will a Store Not Be Liable for Slip and Fall Injuries?
A store will not be liable for every accident that occurs on its premises. Below are a few examples of times when the victim may not be able to recover damages from the property owner.
Open and Obvious Conditions
Generally, the law does not hold property owners liable for injuries caused by conditions that are “open and obvious.” This means that if there is a gaping hole in the parking lot that causes a visitor to trip and fall, a court may find that the store did not need to warn visitors about a condition that was easily visible and obvious.
The Visitor Caused the Condition
In some cases, the visitor may have tracked in ice or water from outside, which may have caused their slip and fall. In these situations, a court may not find that the store was responsible for repairing a dangerous condition that was caused by the injured party.
The Store Posted a Warning
A warning is often sufficient to relieve a store of liability for a dangerous condition. For example, if a visitor slipped in an area where there was a “wet or slippery floor” sign, then the court is less likely to award the visitor damages against the store than if there had been no sign.
The Employees Had No Notice
Notice is an important part of premises liability. If a dangerous condition is relatively recent, and the store did not have an opportunity to detect or repair it, then it may not be liable. For example, if another customer spills a liquid in the same aisle as you, and moments later, you slip on it, then the store would not have had a chance to clean it up or post a warning. In this case, the victim might not be unsuccessful against the store.
Talk to an Experienced Georgia Slip and Fall Accident Lawyer Today
Call The Mark Casto Law Firm at 706-940-4030 for a free consultation with an experienced Georgia premises liability lawyer. Our Georgia slip and fall accident attorneys know what it takes to determine a store's liability for a slip and fall accident, and we will fight to ensure victims are compensated for their injuries and losses.