Whether you can bring a successful legal claim after a fall depends on several factors:
Most successful cases stem from falls that take place at a business, primarily because Georgia statutory law imposes the highest duty of care on landowners and occupiers who invite customers to their respective businesses. O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1 states:
“When 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.”
Stated another way, if the entrant’s presence benefits the property owner and the entrant, the property owner owes the highest duty of care. A classic example is a customer at a retail store.
If the fall occurs at a residential social gathering or when someone is trespassing, it becomes more difficult to bring a successful claim against the landowner. The law does not require the landowner to meet any defined safety standard for social guests or trespassers; however, landowners must exercise some caution in making sure there are no pitfalls or hidden traps that might injure their guests.
Assuming the fall occurs at a location where O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1 governs the landowner/occupier’s duty, the claimant must prove the landowner/occupier had knowledge of the hazard that caused the fall. In Georgia, a recovery for personal injuries is allowed only when the landowner/occupier had knowledge of the hazard and the invitee did not. Claims involving falls rarely are successful when the person who fell knew about the hazard before putting himself/herself in a dangerous position.
The victim also must prove the fall caused injuries or exacerbated a pre-existing condition. This usually is done by testimony from physicians who can explain the nature of the injury.
Amount of damages.
Finally, the fall victim must justify the amount of damages, which could include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and, in particularly egregious situations, punitive damages.
After a fall, you must act quickly to secure evidence, such as video footage, incident reports and witness information. It’s usually best to contact a lawyer, so he or she can perform a prompt and thorough investigation and offer advice concerning the viability of the claim.
– Joel Williams is a partner at Williams|Elleby, a Kennesaw-based personal injury law firm. www.gatrialattorney.com.