If you have a slip and fall accident while on your neighbor’s property in Georgia, you might wonder what your options are. Can you sue them for your injuries or other damages? And how does that work? You’re also likely dealing with pain and frustration at what happened.
If the slip and fall occurred due to your neighbor’s negligence, you are legally entitled to seek compensation. But there are some details to know.
What Does Georgia Law Say About Slip and Fall Lawsuits?
Before knowing your options for filing a lawsuit or a personal injury claim against your neighbor, there are two crucial factors to understand.
1. Georgia’s Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is a certain amount of time you have to file a lawsuit or personal injury claim. If you try to take action after the statute of limitations has passed, it’s almost certain your case will be dismissed.
In Georgia and most other states, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is normally two years. That means you must file against your neighbor within two years of the date your slip and fall accident occurred. This time goes very quickly, so it’s best to take action as soon as possible after the incident. You want to ensure there’s plenty of time to complete each step.
There are sometimes exceptions to the statute of limitations. For example, sometimes the clock “tolls” and you end up with more time, but this is rare. Either way, if you’re not sure about the deadline on your own case, consult with a slip and fall lawyer who can look into the details and your options.
2. Full vs Shared Fault
The other huge factor in a slip and fall case is fault. The degree of fault affects your legal right to financial recovery from your damages. If your neighbor was fully at fault for your accident, they are legally liable for your costs. But be prepared for them to argue that you are partially or fully responsible—and know that this can affect your compensation.
When more than one party is at fault in Georgia, it’s known as comparative negligence. If you are found to be partially at fault for your fall, your compensation can be reduced based on your degree of fault.
For example, if you sue your neighbor for the slip and fall on their property and you go to trial, the jury can find you partly negligent in your fall. Say they find you 30% responsible. You would still be awarded compensation for your damages, but it would be reduced by 30% based on your assigned percentage of fault. And if you are found to be 50% or more at fault, you won’t be able to recover any compensation from the case.
Can You Prove the Slip and Fall Was Your Neighbor’s Fault?
Every property owner has a duty to keep their property safe for those who visit—including homeowners. This includes making sure front steps and sidewalks are clear of ice in winter, drying slippery floors, repairing known hazards, and letting any guests know about potential hazards on their premises. This is known as premises liability.
If a homeowner does not remove a hazard within a reasonable amount of time and you slip and fall because of it, they are negligent and can be legally liable. It’s rare that someone falls for no reason, and there is usually an obstacle or hazard that causes it. But to file a case against your neighbor for your slip and fall, you will need proof of their negligence.
Here are some things you can do to strengthen your case and document what happened:
- Tell your neighbor as soon as the fall happens and make sure they know you were injured.
- Take pictures of the accident scene, the hazard or obstacle that caused it, and pictures of your injuries and other damages (such as expensive jewelry that was broken). Picture and video evidence can be very powerful, especially if the hazard and accident scene is cleared away or changed.
- Talk to witnesses, and get their name and contact information. If anyone saw your fall happen on your neighbor’s property, they may be able to give testimony of what they saw.
- See a doctor. Have a medical professional examine your injuries, even if they seem minor. Many injuries worsen with time and require more treatment than victims initially realize. You should also keep track of all medical bills or other payments you make because of your accident.
Having a clear record of what happened makes it hard for your neighbor to claim nothing happened or tell a false story. But along with all of the above, you should contact a Georgia slip and fall lawyer as soon as possible. They can look at the situation and make sure you take the right action immediately. They can also help you decide if suing is the best option or if you can file an insurance claim for your damages.
Making an Insurance Claim Against Your Neighbor
Although you can sue a negligent neighbor in a slip and fall, you might not have to. If the neighbor has homeowner’s insurance (most do, especially if they have a mortgage), you can usually file a claim with the insurance company for your damages.
It’s best to report your slip and fall injuries to your neighbor’s insurer as soon as you can. But to do so, you will have to get this insurance information from your neighbor—and some homeowners are reluctant to provide it.
Insurance companies are for-profit businesses, and they don’t like paying out money for insurance claims. Some insurers will even cancel coverage if a claim is made. That’s why homeowners are not excited about reporting incidents to their insurance company.
Your neighbor may want to handle your claim on their own without the insurer. If this happens and your neighbor refuses to provide their insurance information, you would have to sue them to demand that information.
Slip and Fall Claim Versus Lawsuit
Best case scenario, your neighbor provides their insurance information and you make a claim for your damages. If that fails or you and the insurer can’t come to a fair settlement, you may need to proceed to trial. However, this is lengthy and expensive.
It’s best to contact a slip and fall lawyer as soon as you can after your accident and explore your options. A good attorney will advise you on the best choice for your situation.
Talk to a Slip and Fall Lawyer in Georgia for Free
If you were injured on your neighbor’s property (or anyone else’s property), John Foy & Associates can help. We’ve been representing personal injury victims for more than 20 years, and we know what it takes to win cases. To discuss the details of your situation, call us today for a FREE consultation. Call 404-400-4000 or fill out the form on this page to get started.