What is a premises liability claim and how long do you have to file?
If you’re hurt while on another person’s property, it may be possible to hold the property owner accountable for failing to maintain safe premises. However, much depends on the specifics of your particular case. In order to address major concerns with these types of cases, we’ve provided some short answers to common questions—such as what a premises liability case is, how to prove that the defendant acted in a negligent manner and how long you have to file a lawsuit.
At the law firm of Westmoreland, Patterson, Moseley & Hinson, our Macon premises liability attorneys are happy to answer all your questions. If your answer isn’t listed below, contact us for your free consultation.
Q: What is a premises liability claim?
Premises liability is a legal theory that says the owner of a home, office building or apartment complex is responsible for keeping those on his or her property safe from harm. It is typically the duty of the property owner to take reasonable steps to mitigate hazardous conditions that they know about or should have known about.
In some cases, those who have direct operational control of a given space will be held liable for any damages that an injured person may incur. For instance, a company that is renting a commercial space would likely be responsible for ensuring that the premises is free from wet floors or other hazards.
Q: What is the statute of limitations for premises liability claims in Georgia?
The statute of limitations in Georgia is 2 years from the date of the accident that caused your injuries. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be granted 2 years from the date that you realized that your injuries were related to a specific event.
The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is also 2 years. However, you may have 4 years to pursue claims related to property that was lost or damaged in an accident.
Q: How do I prove that a property owner acted in a negligent manner?
Under Georgia premises liability law, you will need to show that a property owner or other liable party acted negligently. To prove that negligence occurred, it will be necessary to establish that the defendant had a duty of care toward you. This generally means that you were either an invited guest on the premises or otherwise had the right to be there when an accident occurred.
It will also be necessary to show that the defendant knew or should have known about a hazard but did nothing to mitigate it. In many cases, a property owner may meet that requirement simply by putting up a sign acknowledging that the hazard exists. For instance, putting a wet floor sign near a puddle of water is generally enough to shield a grocery store or apartment building owner against a premises liability claim.
Finally, you must typically establish that you incurred a financial loss as a result of a defendant’s negligence. For instance, if you had to pay to see a doctor after you sprained your ankle in a parking lot, that would likely be sufficient to prove a financial loss occurred.
Q: What types of damages can I pursue in a premises liability case?
You will likely be entitled to the cost of past, present and future medical bills related to an accident caused by a defendant’s negligence. It may also be possible to obtain compensation for lost wages or lost future earnings. Compensation may also be awarded to help make up for emotional distress, pain and suffering or a loss of consortium in the aftermath of a slip and fall or other significant accident.
In the state of Georgia, you may be able to obtain punitive damages if you can prove that a property owner acted in a willfully negligent manner. This could mean that they forced tenants to live in moldy apartments or allowed shoppers to come into contact with contaminated food.
Q: Should I settle my premises liability case or seek a trial?
The facts of your case will generally determine whether it is in your best interest to settle or go to trial. For many people, the most significant benefit of settling a case is that it may be possible to do so in a relatively short period of time. It is not uncommon for settlements to be reached days or weeks after negotiations begin.
If you choose to go to trial, it could take several months or even years before a verdict is handed down. Even if you obtain a favorable jury verdict, the defendants in your case may appeal the decision. This means that you might have to wait several more months or years before you get paid.
However, you may want to go to trial if you feel that the settlement being offered isn’t sufficient or if it is important to get your story out to the public. In most cases, the terms of a settlement are confidential. Furthermore, settling a case means that the parties responsible for your injuries won’t need to admit their guilt.
If you experience a concussion, broken bones or other injuries because of another person’s careless behavior, it may be worthwhile to contact an experienced personal injury attorney near you who can review your case and create a strategy that can help you get everything that you may be entitled to under Georgia law.