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Falling down is nothing to be ashamed of since everyone does it from time to time, but nevertheless it can be embarrassing to many people. Often, your first reaction is to look around and see if anyone saw, or scramble back on your feet as quickly as possible.
But what if you’re seriously hurt?
Personal injury cases arising out of slip, trip and falls are common in Georgia — and not only among older Americans. People of all ages can suffer debilitating and long-term injuries when they slip and fall at home, work, in a store, in public or elsewhere. When they do, the state’s legal system is set up to provide accident victims a way to get compensated for their financial losses.
However, it’s important to realize there’s a ticking clock. In Georgia, slip and fall cases fall under the personal injury statute of limitations, which says that a claim must be filed within 2 years from the date of injury. This deadline is strict and there are few exceptions. If you miss it, you will likely lose your right to seek compensation forever.
An experienced premises liability lawyer at Westmoreland, Patterson, Moseley & Hinson in Macon, GA is standing by to take your call and answer your questions. Let us evaluate the strength of your slip and fall claim and help you recover damages for lost wages, medical bills and pain and suffering associated with your injury. The sooner we can start working on your case, the more evidence we’ll be able to gather to build the best possible case.
What is premises liability law?
Premises liability law involves the legal responsibilities of property owners and occupiers to prevent injuries to persons on their property. Slip, trip and falls are among the most common causes of premises liability claims.
Property owner liability varies depending on the rules and principles adopted in the jurisdiction where the injury occurred. In many states, premises liability laws focus on the status of the visitor to the property to determine a person’s rights and responsibilities in the event of a slip and fall claim.
Georgia generally classifies the injured person into 1 of 3 categories:
An invitee is someone who is expressly or impliedly invited onto the property of another. The owner owes the invitee the highest duty of care, which includes taking every reasonable precaution to ensure the invitee’s safety.
Examples include business invitees (such as restaurant patrons and store shoppers) and public invitees (such as library patrons or park visitors).
A licensee, by contrast, enters the property for his or her own purposes but is present at the consent of the owner. The owner is required to warn a licensee of hidden dangers, but is not necessarily required to fix them.
An example includes most social guests in a home. A licensee is neither a customer, a servant, nor a trespasser. The owner of the premises is liable to a licensee only for willful or wanton injury.
A trespasser enters the property without any right to do so and without consent from the property owner or occupier. In the case of adult trespassers, the owner generally has no duty of care and need not take reasonable care of his property or warn of hidden dangers. However, even if a person was trespassing at the time of their injury, they may still be able to recover if they can show that the owner knew it was likely that trespassers would enter the property. Children are owed a higher duty of care, regardless of whether they are considered trespassers. A landowner’s duty to warn of hazards is also heightened with respect to children.
In states where consideration is given to the condition of the property and the activities of the owner and visitor, a uniform standard of care is applied to both invitees and licensees. This uniform standard requires the exercise of reasonable care for the safety of visitors (other than trespassers). To satisfy the reasonableness standard owed to invitees and licensees, an owner has a continuing duty to inspect the property to identify dangerous conditions and either repair them or post warnings as appropriate.
How to prove liability for slip and fall in Georgia
Some slip and fall accidents are just that — “accidents.” But others are the result of negligence. If you can prove that the property owner’s negligence played a role in your fall (known as “liability”), then you might be able to file a claim or lawsuit to get compensated for your medical treatment, lost wages and even pain and suffering.
Georgia law (GA Code § 51-3-1) lays out the duty of a property owner or occupier to an invitee (the most common classification of visitor) as follows:
Where 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.
Why slip and fall cases are more complex
When it comes to slip and falls, one of the commonly applied legal theories to limit an injured person’s recovery is comparative or contributory fault. A visitor has a duty, in most cases, to exercise reasonable care for his or her own safety. When that degree of care is not exercised, an injured person’s recovery may be limited or reduced by an amount attributable to his or her own negligence.
For instance, in the cases where a person’s injuries are the result of slipping on a wet grocery store floor, the store owner may or may not be liable for the customer’s injuries. Yes, property owners have a duty to exercise reasonable care to maintain the premises in such a way to prevent injuries to customers (who are lawful visitors, or “invitees”). But if the wet floor was blatantly obvious or readily apparent to a reasonable person, the property owner may be able to avoid liability because the injured person also has a duty to protect himself or herself from injury.
Another way the property owner may avoid liability is by establishing that the tripping hazard had fallen on the floor or that the wet spot had accumulated so recently that there was no reasonable opportunity to correct the condition and avoid the hazard before the customer fell.
In other words, the plaintiff in a slip and fall case, whether it occurs in a grocery store or elsewhere, must show that the owner had a reasonable period of time in which to discover the dangerous condition and remedy it.
If, for instance, a grocery store customer slips on milk that had spilled only seconds before, the property owner likely didn’t have the opportunity to find and clean the spill; therefore, they might not be held liable. The determination of what constitutes a “reasonable time” will vary from case to case.
in determining damages
There are always different percentages of fault assigned in personal injury cases. States each follow a different system of fault, so while a plaintiff could recover 99% of damages in one state, he could be barred in another.
Here we discuss contributory negligence, comparative negligence and how to determine fault in a personal injury case.
What to do after a slip and fall
When you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident, you may be in shock or hoping you can eventually “shake off” the pain. In this critical moment, it’s important you take action to document the event while you’re still at the accident scene — whether it’s a grocery store, restaurant or public sidewalk.
We suggest you take the following steps to protect your health and future:
- Notify the property owner. If you fall in a store or restaurant, ask to speak with a manager or store owner and explain what happened. Write down their name and contact information.
- Take pictures of the scene. Before you leave and before anyone has a chance to clear up the hazard that caused you to slip and fall, try to get as many photos and video of the scene as possible. Also record your injury. This can be powerful evidence later on if your case is disputed.
- Talk to witnesses. Speak with people who may have witnessed your fall or seen what caused it. Ask to write down their names and contact information. Their testimony may be important later on to support your version of events.
- Get medical attention. Go see your doctor or check yourself into a local emergency room as soon as possible after your accident. Even if you think your injuries weren’t serious, we recommend visiting a medical professional anyway since many injuries don’t have symptoms right away and get worse over time. Taking this step also helps support your claim by creating documentation of your injury and showing insurers that you were actually hurt.
- Consult a lawyer. Even common accidents such as slips and falls can present complex legal issues and complicated questions of both fact and law. For this reason, it’s worth consulting a lawyer near you who specializes in these types of cases to explore your rights. Our attorneys offer free consultations, so it costs you nothing but your time to find out what to do next.
Common slip and fall injuries
All of us have been slipping, tripping and falling ever since we first learned how to walk as toddlers. In fact, the very act of walking has often been described as just “controlled forward falling.” For a majority of these accidents, we’re able to get back up, brush ourselves off and keep going. All that’s damaged is, perhaps, our pride.
But sometimes a slip and fall results in serious and long-term injuries. In the most severe cases, a fall can even result in a person’s death. Here are a few of the most common examples of serious slip and fall injuries:
- Concussions and other head injuries
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Spinal cord and back injury
- Knee damage
- Broken bones (wrist, arm, back, etc.)
- Shoulder injuries
- Soft tissue injuries (sprains, strains and other internal injuries)
- Cuts, bruises and lacerations
- Hip injuries
Where and why do slip and falls happen
A person can slip and fall essentially anywhere. However, there are certain places where such accidents tend to happen more regularly. These places include:
- Grocery stores
- Retail stores
- Stadiums and other arenas
- Parking lots and garages
- Apartment complexes
- Swimming pools
- Elevators and escalators
- Senior care facilities and nursing homes
- Amusement parks
- Gyms and fitness facilities
- Sidewalks and driveways
As for why these types of accidents happen, there are many potential causes. For example, snow and ice on sidewalks can be a real problem in colder climates. Fortunately, here in Middle Georgia, this typically isn’t a big problem. However, we do have our fair share of slip and fall risks as well.
Here are just a few of the most common reasons why slip and falls occur in Georgia:
- Wet floors. Whether floors have recently been mopped or waxed, something was spilled or moisture gradually collected on the floor’s surface, wet and slick flooring accounts for a vast majority of slip and fall accidents.
- Poor lighting. Insufficient lighting in theaters, parking lots, staircases or other places can make it difficult for people to see and avoid tripping hazards and obstacles.
- Potholes and uneven surfaces. A sudden ditch, pothole or defective sidewalk can cause an unsuspecting person to lose their balance and fall. Most businesses, homeowners (or landlords) or local governments are required to promptly fix these tripping hazards or post warnings about them.
- Damaged flooring. Torn carpeting, loose rugs and uneven floorboards can all pose serious tripping hazards to passersby, particularly seniors and young children. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), floors and flooring materials directly contribute to more than 2 million fall injuries each year.
- Improper footwear. A great number of slip and fall accidents that happen each year are due to improper or defective footwear. Wearing appropriate shoes at home, at work and in public can substantially reduce your risk of falling.
- Clutter and debris. Cluttered floors create unnecessary tripping hazards in stores, on sidewalks and crosswalks, and at home or work. Tools, equipment, toys, boxes, trash and debris can all pose a danger.
Sometimes, a combination of these factors may ultimately cause a slip and fall accident. For instance, maybe insufficient lighting made it difficult for people to see the clutter and debris scattered across the floor. Or perhaps your worn sandals had no tread left on them, so you weren’t able to stop from falling when you suddenly encountered a wet grocery store floor.
Regardless of who or what caused your slip and fall, you may be able to seek compensation from the property owner depending on where it took place and their duty to visitors on their property. These rules are laid out in Georgia’s premises liability law.
Slip and fall accidents resources
Slip and fall statistics
- One out of 5 falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
- More women experience slip-and-fall accidents than men, though fatality rates are equally divided.
- Together, slip and falls account for over 9 million emergency room visits, representing the leading cause of visits (23.3 percent).
- Slips and falls are the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims and the leading cause of occupational injury for people aged 55 years and older. Aproximately 85 percent of workers’ compensation claims are attributed to employees slipping on slick floors. An estimated 22 percent of slip/fall incidents resulted in more than 31 days away from work.
- In 2005, more than 15,000 people over the age of 65 died as a result of a fall — up from 7,700 a decade earlier. Approximately 1.8 million people over the age of 65 were treated in an emergency room as a result of a fall.
- Compensation and medical costs associated with employee slip/fall accidents is approximately $70 billion annually. Disabling (temporary and permanent) occupational injuries due to falls cost approximately $250,000 to $300,000 per year.
Talk to our committed Macon slip and fall lawyers for free
If you’ve been injured in a premises-related accident, an experienced and knowledgeable slip and fall attorney at the law firm of Westmoreland, Patterson, Moseley & Hinson in Macon, GA can advise you on your rights and work with you to pursue a favorable outcome. We’ve represented personal injury victims throughout the state for over 50 years. We have a proven track record of helping injured people pursue maximum compensation for all types of injuries.
For more information about pursuing the compensation you deserve, contact our firm at any time.