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Understanding premises liability in Georgia

If you suffer an accident due to unsafe conditions, you may have a legal claim based on premises liability. Georgia law obligates property owners to keep their premises reasonably safe; failure to do so may constitute negligence and give rise to a lawsuit.

Many types of personal injury cases fall into the category of premises liability. Some common ones include slip-and-fall cases, dog bites and injuries from merchandise or equipment.

Who bears responsibility

Generally, anyone who owns premises and opens them to other people may become liable. This includes stores, office buildings and parks, as well as private residences.

Who can file a lawsuit

A basic component of a personal injury case is establishing that the negligent party owed you a duty to make the premises and the approaches to them reasonably safe for you. Generally, you must be an invitee to the premises. This means you enter the premises because the owner invited you to do so, whether expressly or by implication.

In the case of an establishment such as a store, this would apply to any member of the public there to shop. Typically, the law also looks for mutual benefit between invitees and premises owners or occupiers, e.g. the store owner wants to people to come in so they can spend money.

As a rule, a person who sustains injury due to entering an area off-limits to the public will not have a strong case. However, this may vary depending on the type of danger encountered. Another question in such a case would concern whether the owner put up visible signs to indicate an area is off-limits.

Types of reasonable safety precautions

Keeping the premises safe may involve a variety of duties. These usually include keeping floors, stairs, ramps and structures in proper repair. Cracked sidewalks or plaster falling from the ceiling are some examples of structurally unsafe conditions. Reasonable safety precautions may vary depending on the nature of the premises and the purpose of the invitees' presence. Some instances include leashing dangerous animals, providing appropriate security barriers and/or signage around unsafe areas and ensuring compliance with local fire codes.

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