Property owners and occupiers owe a duty of care to those they invite, induce, or lead onto their premises for a lawful purpose. The owner or occupier must maintain safe premises; otherwise, they may be found liable for damages (Georgia Code § 51-3-1). This includes cleaning up or fixing hazards on their property, but how long does that hazard actually need to be present before the property owner is liable?
Georgia law typically dictates that the property owner or business must have known about and cleaned up the hazard within a reasonable amount of time. This can make many injury victims wonder what exactly what “reasonable” means in this context.
What is a Reasonable Amount of Time to Clean Up a Hazard?
The primary factor in a Georgia premises liability case is negligence or failing to take proper care in performing an action. Negligence comes down to how an ordinarily diligent person who reasonably act in the same situation.
There is no set amount of time a hazard needs to be present to determine liability. It depends on the situation and how the property owner acted (or failed to act) in response to it.
A premises liability case will look at whether or not the property owner acted in a reasonable way. Since they must maintain safe premises for those who are legally on their property, they must make regular efforts to keep their property free of hazards. For example:
- Had the hazard been present long enough for the owner or occupier to have known about it?
- Did the hazard have a valid reason for being present at the time you tripped, fell, or were otherwise injured because of it?
- If there was a valid reason for the hazard, could it have been blocked off or removed or could visitors have been warned about it?
- Does the property owner or business have a routine method of checking for potential hazards and cleaning up/repairing them? (And is there any proof of these methods they can provide?)
- Did certain issues, such as poor lighting, contribute to an injury that could have otherwise been avoided?
There can appear to be a lot of gray areas when it comes to premises liability issues, but the law is typically on your side. Basically, you must be able to show that the hazard was present long enough for the property owner to have reasonably known about it and remedied it to prevent you from getting harmed. If you can show that they did not uphold that duty, they may be liable for your damages.
Hazards on someone else’s property can range from wet floors and poor lighting to the presence of environmental hazards like asbestos, carbon monoxide, and radon. If you’re unsure whether a hazard applies to your case, contact a premises liability lawyer right away.
Personal Responsibility Versus Property Owner Liability
In any premises liability case, there is a degree of personal responsibility. As a customer or visitor to the property, you’ll need to act in a way that is reasonably careful. If it seems you were careless in some way related to your accident, the property owner or their insurance company may try to blame you.
Even if the owner was being negligent and left a hazard out too long, they might try to say you could have easily avoided the hazard through your own carefulness. Even if this is partially true, it doesn’t necessarily mean the owner is not liable.
We find that many victims of premises liability accidents are quick to blame themselves even though the business was at least partially to blame. So, do not assume you were “just being clumsy” or “not watching where you were going” until after you’ve spoken to a premises liability lawyer who can examine the facts. People rarely fall for no reason.
Comparative Negligence and Premises Liability
The state of Georgia has comparative negligence laws that apply if both parties hold a degree of fault in an injury accident. You’ll need to understand your rights if an insurance adjuster starts asking questions about your own responsibility in the accident.
You and your lawyer can consider:
- Whether or not you had a valid reason for being near the hazard
- If the premises contained any warnings about the hazard
- How much you were paying attention to your surroundings when you tripped, fell, or otherwise became injured by the hazard
- Whether or not you could have reasonably noticed the hazard and avoided it
These questions can help your lawyer describe how your accident happened and demonstrate how you were being careful even though you were injured. If it is determined that you hold some fault in your accident, under Georgia’s comparative negligence laws you can still seek compensation for a percentage of your damages if you were less than 50% at fault.
How a Premises Liability Lawyer Helps
It’s really best to work with a Georgia premises liability lawyer after an accident of this nature. Property owners or businesses and their insurance companies may try to say they didn’t have enough time to see the hazard and prevent harm. Or, they might try to blame you for the accident, saying you could have prevented yourself from getting hurt.
Many businesses have their own legal team at-the-ready to handle premises liability claims. You will want to level the playing field by contacting an experienced premises liability lawyer in Georgia. If the property owner was indeed negligent in removing the hazard that caused your accident, your lawyer can help demonstrate that in your claim.
Talk to a Georgia Premises Liability Lawyer for Free Today
The amount of time a hazard must be present to find a property owner liable depends more on what is “reasonable” than a specific amount of time. This can make building a case complicated and leave you with a lot of questions. Thankfully, John Foy & Associates is here to help.
Our premises liability lawyers have been helping injury victims win the money they need for over 20 years. We can look at the details of your case, gather evidence to show the property owner’s negligence, and help you seek the fullest compensation possible. Plus, there is no upfront fee and the consultation is FREE.
To get started with your FREE consultation today, call us at (404) 400-4000 or contact us online.