The injuries a person sustains from a slip and fall accident can range from minor bruising and sprains to traumatic brain injuries depending on the force with which they hit the ground or other object. This type of injury can be life changing and lead to other health problems and loss of ability to work or maintain a person’s normal activities. Lost income, medical bills, and pain and suffering can all result when someone has a slip and fall. It is natural to look to the property owner or manager when faced with these unexpected bills and costs, but are they legally liable for those damages?
Whether an owner or occupier (often a lessee in a commercial property setting) may be held liable for injuries sustained in a slip and fall case is heavily fact dependent. In the case of a restaurant, grocery store, or other retail establishment, a person shopping or dining at the location is considered an “invitee” under Georgia code §51-3-1. Essentially if a person is invited for purposes that potentially benefit the owner/occupier the person is an invitee and is owed a higher duty than someone who is not. The property owner/occupier can be held liable for the “failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe” to invitees. This does not mean that a property owner ensures the safety of everyone on the property against all possible hazards, but does mean that they must meet certain standards.
A property owner can make legal arguments that the hazard was “open and obvious” or that they did not have “superior knowledge” of the hazard. This is where things get heavily fact dependent and hiring an experienced slip and fall attorney quickly can help you establish the evidence needed to help build your case. Where was the hazard? When did the property owner or his agents learn of it? Were there warning signs or markings? How long had the hazard existed? Should the property owner have known that a fall was likely to occur based on their experience?
Often a store manager will take photographs, make reports, and review camera footage at or near the time a fall is reported. While the injured person is in shock and pain from suffering a fall, the defense is already building their case against you. It’s important to take photos (or have someone nearby take photos), seek medical attention quickly, and speak with an attorney about what steps to take. A slip and fall attorney will likely use a “spoliation” letter to apprise the property owner of a potential claim, which puts a duty on the property owner to keep and maintain all evidence and documentation. Their failure to do so can subject them to penalties later. If you have been injured as a result of a slip and fall in Georgia, contact Matson Law Firm for a free case evaluation.