If you become injured while on someone’s property, you might have the right to seek compensation for the costs of your injuries. Although you can often reach a settlement through a personal injury claim against the negligent party’s insurance company, you may need to take your case to court to seek damages. In that case, you will need to understand what happens when you go to court for a premises liability case.
Premises liability cases can result from injuries on almost any type of property, including in grocery stores, department stores, and on someone’s personal property. Injuries can happen due to slips and falls, falling objects, obstacles, dangerous equipment, and more. No matter how your premises liability injuries happened, you probably have a right to financial recovery.
How a Premises Liability Case Goes to Court in Georgia
In Georgia, property owners or occupiers have a legal duty to exercise ordinary care in keeping their premises safe. If someone they invite to come onto their property, such as a customer, is injured because the owner did keep their property safe, the owner is liable for damages (Georgia Code § 51-3-1).
If you are injured on someone’s property because of their negligence (which is a legal term for carelessness), you may be able to file a personal injury claim. You would do this by filing the claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company.
Here’s an example of grounds for a premises liability claim:
- You slip and fall on a puddle of water in a grocery store, breaking your arm.
- The water was left on the floor after an employee mopped but did not put out a “wet floor” sign to warn customers.
- The store employee was negligent because they created a hazard and did not exercise care in preventing harm to customers.
- Your broken arm directly resulted from the store’s negligence, which caused your accident.
- You can file a personal injury claim with the store’s insurance company for your medical costs, lost wages, and more related to your broken arm (and other injuries you might have suffered at the same time).
Now, once you have filed your claim with the insurance company, the insurer must respond. Unfortunately, most insurance companies will fight premises liability claims. They will look for ways to reduce the value of your claim and, at best, offer you a lowball settlement. This is where you will want a Georgia premises liability lawyer on your side from the beginning.
In most cases, an experienced lawyer can communicate and negotiate with the insurance company to agree on a fair settlement. However, premises liability cases, in particular, are not always that straightforward. Many companies are prepared for premises liability claims, and they will have their own legal team ready to fight them.
If you and your lawyer cannot get the insurance company to agree on a settlement amount that covers your damages, you might decide to take the case to court. Going to court will require a great lawyer, lots of evidence, and a thorough investigation of what happened.
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What to Expect When You Go to Court for a Georgia Premises Liability Case
First, it’s important to understand that most premises liability cases are settled outside of court. Taking a case to trial is expensive and time-consuming.
You and your lawyer will only make the decision to go to court if your evidence is very strong and you feel confident in your chance at winning. This is why it’s so vital to work with a lawyer who understands premises liability law in Georgia. They can investigate the details of your case and make sure you have evidence that is admissible in court.
The above being said, there are cases where your evidence is solid and you have a good chance at winning. If that is the case, here’s what you can expect.
You Will Need to Reach Maximum Medical Improvement
An experienced lawyer will know you shouldn’t file a lawsuit until you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), which is the point at which you’ve recovered as much as you can through medical treatment. Once you have reached MMI, your lawyer will have a good idea of how much your case is worth.
Reaching MMI can take weeks, months, or even years. If you can afford to wait until you are recovered as much as possible, it’s best to wait until that point before filing the lawsuit. However, if you cannot afford to wait that long, your lawyer may bring the case sooner.
The Lawsuit Must Be Filed Within the Statute of Limitations
You will also need to be mindful of the statute of limitations for filing your lawsuit. In Georgia, you typically have two years from the date of your injury to file your case (Georgia Code § 9-3-33). It usually takes about one to two years for a premises liability case to get to trial.
The Trial Discovery Process
During the period called “discovery,” both parties in the case will investigate the legal claims and defenses. Your lawyer and the at-fault party’s lawyer will exchange document requests and questions (known as interrogatories). Your lawyer will also likely talk to witnesses related to the accident.
The discovery process typically takes between six months to a year, although that timeline varies depending on the details of your case.
Mediation in a Premises Liability Case
Sometimes, a case will get settled before the meditation phase. Both sides may discuss settlement as the discovery phase ends. If this happens, the case will be closed and not go to trial.
If a settlement is not reached, the case will go to meditation. During mediation, you and your lawyer (along with the at-fault party and their lawyer) will go in front of a mediator in a further attempt to settle the case. However, if a settlement still cannot be reached through mediation and negotiation, the case will go on to trial.
Going to Trial for Premises Liability
Your case will be scheduled for trial. A premises liability trial could last for a day or a week. In some cases, it might last longer. Trial dates also often get rescheduled, so you might end up waiting longer for your trial date.
Trials are very structured, and both sides will present the facts of the case before a judge or jury. The judge or jury examines the evidence and decides whether or not the at-fault party should be held responsible for your damages. They will also decide what you will be awarded if the defendant is found to be responsible.
Talk to a Georgia Premises Liability Lawyer for Free Today
Most premises liability cases do not go to court, but if yours needs to, you will want an experienced lawyer on your side from the beginning. John Foy & Associates can help. With more than 20 years of experience, we have been helping injury victims win the money they need to recover and move on.
To get started with a FREE consultation today, call us at (404) 400-4000 or contact us online now. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to take your call.