While Georgia may not see much snow, we do get plenty of ice. We tend to worry primarily about ice when behind the wheel of our car, but it’s important to remember that ice can lead to falls and very serious injuries. Cuts, scrapes, and bruises may not require much treatment, but some falls result in broken bones, concussions, and other injuries that can require surgery and time off of work. In those cases, you may be entitled to compensation from the property owner for negligence, but it’s important to understand how to make your claim.
Principles of Premises Liability
Whether or not a property owner should be held liable for someone else’s injury is typically determined by a negligence standard. Most people understand negligence to mean careless or reckless behavior. In the context of premises liability, a property owner is negligent when he or she fails to maintain the property according to a standard of ordinary prudence under the circumstances. For example, a property owner could be held liable if someone fell on a staircase that was the main entry to the building and in obvious need of repair. So, the questions that typically need to be answered in this scenario are as follows:
- Was the property owner aware that the stairs were broken and dangerous?
- And if not, should he have known? Would ordinary prudence in the same situation require that the property owner be aware of the situation?
In addition to the property owner’s knowledge of the hazard, Georgia law also requires that the victim was unaware of the hazard. In the example above, this means that the victim was not aware that the staircase was broken and dangerous.
Premises Liability Due to Ice
Instead of a broken staircase, let’s say the victim above slipped on the ice and fell in the parking lot. Did the owner know or should have known that his parking lot was icy? Because the ice is likely the result of prevailing weather conditions, the conclusion may seem obvious. Unfortunately, the answer can be more complicated than it appears.
First, it’s important to note that the outcome of slip-and-fall cases varies widely depending upon the facts. One seemingly minor fact can determine whether or not the property owner is liable. As a result, very similar cases can have very different results.
Second, the property owner is likely to argue that you knew that the parking lot was icy due to the very same weather conditions that make him potentially liable for your injuries. Remember, Georgia law requires that you be unaware of the hazard in order to prevail on your claim.
Third, the property owner may have taken measures to remedy the hazard that may be considered to be “ordinarily prudent” under the circumstances. The fact that those hazards were ineffective does not mean that the property owner is necessarily liable.
What to Do if You’ve Slipped on the Ice
If you’ve been injured due to a fall on the ice, you should take the following steps if you think you’ll need to make a claim:
- Document your injuries: take pictures and keep copies of all medical reports, correspondence, and bills.
- Document your fall: take pictures of the place where you fell. Make notes of the time and date, the weather conditions, and whether there were any obvious attempts to address the hazard.
- Get statements from any witnesses, and be sure to get their contact information.
Contact an Atlanta Slip and Fall Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Consultation
The attorneys at Slappey & Sadd have been helping injured people in Atlanta and across Georgia since 1992. If you’ve been injured in a fall on the ice, contact us for a free consultation – give us a call at 888-474-9616 or send us an email.