Slip & Fall / Trip & Fall
One of the most common types of premises liability cases are claims arising out of “slip and falls” and “trip and falls.” While the insurance companies have made a mockery of these claims, many people each year suffer Traumatic Brain Injuries, Post-concussive Syndrome, spinal cord injuries, and broken bones due to the negligence of a business or institution.
A slip and fall or trip and fall claim exists when the an owner fails to maintain their premises in a safe manner. The law is clear that property owners and landlords must keep their property reasonably safe. Georgia Code, 51-3-1. These cases are very important to the safety of our community. Not only do they assist in helping a person who has been seriously injured by business or institution’s negligence, but it forces the business or institution to fix their hazard that is causing harm so others do not get injured.
The degree of care a property owner must exercise depends on the reason the visitor is on the property. Under some instances the property owner has an obligation to fix the hazard or protect the visitor from the injury, while other times the property owner only needs to warn of the hazard.
Some premises (slip and fall / trip and fall) claims that are most common are:
- Owner failed to remove foreign objects on the floor;
- Failure to repair defects on their property;
- Failure to appropriately design their premises;
- Failure to warn of dangerous conditions on property; and
- Failure to properly remove ice, snow or water.
Georgia case law states, a person who goes onto someone else’s property “must use all senses to discover and avoid hurtful things.” Alterman Foods v. Ligon, supra, 246 Ga. at 623. But, a person on another’s property “is not obliged to inspect the premises to discover latent defects nor even to observe patent defects.” Amear v. Hall, 164 Ga.App. 163(2) (1982). Also, a person on another’s property needs to not look “continuously in all directions [to exercise ordinary care for personal safety]”. Ellington v. Tolar Construction, supra, 237 Ga at 238.
Under Georgia law, the real questions for these matters are:
1. Who has superior knowledge of the hazard, the injured person or the owner of the premises; and
2. Should the owner have known or did the owner know of the hazard.
For example, if it is raining outside and a person enters a business and slips 5 feet from the door, clearly the person should have known the floor would be wet. Therefore, that person would not have a good claim against the owner of the premises. However, the store should be protecting the inside of the building. So if the person slipped in the back of the store, then that person may have a claim against the owner of the premises.
A victim of a slip and fall or trip and fall can succeed with their claim by showing that the property owner violated ordinances and codes, which would evidence that the owner should have known about the hazard. This exists in cases where water has continually leaked into a building due to non-compliant gutters and a person slips. The victim can show that the owner of the premises should have known of the water leak because the gutters were not to Georgia building code.
In cases of slip and fall due to a hazard, such as liquid, food, or materials, the property owner can successfully defend the claim if they show that they took all the necessary steps in securing the premises. One way they can do this is by showing a duty checklist that evidences they have properly checked, and cleaned if necessary, the floors every 20 minutes. If the property owner properly completed and followed their duty checklist, it is understood that they did not have superior knowledge of the hazard as they were doing all they could to make their property safe.
If you do suffer an injury from a slip and fall or trip and fall, it is very important that you know what caused you to slip or trip. Make sure to take a picture or even take with you what made you fall. If you do not know what caused the fall, you may not have a fruitful claim.
As can be seen, slip and fall and trip and fall cases, and other premises liability cases, can be vastly complicated. It takes an experienced, dependable and dedicated attorney to uncover and then prove that the owner had prior knowledge of the hazard.