The duty of property owners to protect people on their premises
Posted on Tuesday, January 31st, 2017 at 9:00 am
Owning real estate comes with many rights and responsibilities, one of which is ensuring that the property is in reasonably safe condition so that other people can be on the property without getting hurt. However, people get hurt in accidents every day, and many of those occur due to dangerous conditions on land or in buildings owned by others. When this happens, the injured person’s right to recovery for the injuries suffered depends on what they were doing on the land in the first place.
When people visit a home or a business, or even a vacant lot, Georgia law considers their claims against a property owner differently depending on if they went there at another person’s invitation or uninvited. A person who is expressly or implicitly invited into a business or home is referred to as an invitee. By being open for business to the general public, most businesses are inviting customers onto their premises. Social guests are referred to as licensees.
Generally, property owners have a duty to protect invitees from hazards or dangerous conditions that could cause them injury, within reason, by conducting reasonable inspections. For example, in a grocery store, if there is a spill in one of the aisles, the store employees should not let it go unattended for hours without putting up signs to warn customers. The store is expected to be aware of such spills and warn its customers in a timely manner.
In some cases, the property owner’s duty to protect invitees from hazards extends to providing enough security. This is especially true in cases where the business or property owner is aware of crime in the area and fails to take reasonable steps to protects invitees such as adding a lock on a gate or installing better lighting. If an invitee is assaulted or mugged by a criminal on the premises, he or she can seek compensation from the property owner, even if the crime was committed by a third party.
A property owner owes a licensee, such as a house guest, a duty of protection from known hazards on the property that are not obvious. So, if the property owner is aware of a loose step that could cause a guest injury and does not fix it, he or she could be liable if the guest trips on it and falls down the stairs. However, if the guest can see the loose step plain as day, and is still injured when he or she trips over it, the property owner will not likely be liable for those injuries.
People who trespass, or go onto another person’s property without permission, are also afforded some rights under the law, although the rights are more limited than those owed to a licensee or invitee. The property owner has to avoid willfully or wantonly injuring a trespasser. This usually means that the property owner cannot set up hazards on the property, such as booby traps, that are likely to injure the trespasser. A property owner also owes a higher duty of care to trespassing children, and has to take more steps to address hazards that could be particularly harmful to children, such as swimming pools.
Contact an Experienced Premises Liability Attorney
The law protects you from more than just slip and fall accidents when you are on another person’s property. If you suffered injuries as a result of an accident or third party conduct on another person’s property or at a place of business, you may be eligible for compensation. For a consultation on how an experienced premises liability attorney in Atlanta, Georgia can assist you, contact the Jonathan R. Brockman, P.C. today.