Where your slip and fall occurred is important. It can be a factor in the:
- Type of claim(s) you can file
- Party (or parties) who can be held liable for your injuries
- Insurance coverage available to cover your losses
- Amount of time you have to bring a claim.
To help you better understand the role that location can play in your case, our Atlanta slip and fall lawyers ask you to consider the following:
Slip and Fall at Work
If you are hurt in a slip and fall due to the negligence of a property owner or occupier, you typically would bring a claim against that party. However, if the incident occurs at work, or while you are acting within the course and scope of your employment, it may be a different story.
If the owner/occupier of the premises where your injury occurred is your employer, your exclusive remedy may be to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Depending on the circumstances, you may be unable to file a premises liability claim.
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, meaning that anyone who has suffered an injury while acting within the course and scope of their employment will be entitled to worker’s compensation benefits from his or her employer, regardless of who is at fault for causing the injury. Worker’s compensation benefits will cover all of your related medical bills, but only a portion of the wages you lose while you are unable to work due to your injuries. These benefits do not seek to compensate you for any pain and suffering you had to endure.
Situations can arise under which an injured party may be able to assert both a Worker’s compensation claim against their employer, and a tort claim for liability against a third-party. For example, if an employee were on a sales call, and suffered a slip and fall while at a customer’s location due to the customer’s negligence, that employee would have the ability to file both a worker’s compensation claim for benefits from his or her employer and a separate personal injury premises liability claim against the customer for their negligence in causing the injury.
In this situation, an employee would still be able to rely on the no-fault worker’s compensation system to pay their medical bills and a portion of any income lost if they are disabled from working during their recovery. At the same time, the employee could pursue a premises liability claim against the third party owner/occupier of the premises where he or she was injured. The employee could feasibly recover the full value of all related medical care and treatment, as well as the full measure of all wages lost due to the injury, and an award of general damages to compensate them for the pain and suffering they had to endure.
If you are in the position of having two claims that you can pursue, Georgia law provides that the worker’s compensation carrier has a right of subrogation against the employee’s recovery, so long as the employee has been fully compensated for all of the economic and non-economic aspects of their injury. In layman’s terms, subrogation is a right to be reimbursed from the recovery in the third-party action for the benefits paid to the employee, or on the employee’s behalf.
Slip and Fall at a Store
If you are a customer at a store, restaurant or other commercial establishment, you generally are considered to be an “invitee” under Georgia law. Invitees are owed the highest duty of care by the owner / occupier.
In other words, the business owner / occupier must exercise ordinary care to keep the premises and approaches (including parking lots, sidewalks and entrances) reasonably safe and to either fix any hazardous conditions, or warn you about foreseeable injury risks so that you can protect yourself. If the owner / occupier fails to meet this duty, you may be entitled to bring a claim that seeks a recovery from the business, which typically will be paid under a commercial liability insurance policy.
Keep in mind: You may lose your status as an invitee if you enter a business location for your own business purposes or if you venture into an area where you are not permitted to enter. For example, you may be a vendor who enters a business to sell something, or you may enter a restricted area that the employer has no expectation that customers would enter.
If you lose your status as an invitee, then the owner / occupier owes a lesser duty of care to you. With this status, it may be more difficult to recover damages for your slip and fall injuries.
Slip and Fall at a Person’s Home
If you are social guest at a person’s private residence, you typically are deemed to be a “licensee” rather than an invitee. This is because as a social guest, you are there for your own interests, convenience or gratification as opposed to being there as a patron for the benefit of the owner.
With this status, the owner / occupier of the home owes a duty to merely refrain from “wantonly or recklessly” exposing you to hidden dangers.
For example, let’s say the owner / occupier of the home knows or should have reason to know that a kitchen floor is wet, a floor tile is loose or a stairway handrail is broken.
If you suffer a slip and fall because the person failed to take reasonable steps to correct the issue or to warn you about the hazard – when the person should have known you would be milling around the kitchen, walking on that floor or using the stairs – then you may be entitled to bring a premises liability claim. Your action would be against the homeowner, who would often have some form of general liability insurance.
Note: If you are a trespasser at a person’s home – for instance, you cut through a neighbor’s yard without permission – that person would owe only a duty to refrain from willfully or wantonly harming you.
Slip and Fall on Public Property
If you are injured on public property – owned and/or maintained by a city, county, state or federal agency – the amount of time you have to bring a claim can be much shorter than it otherwise would be.
Generally, under Georgia law, you have two years from the date of a slip and fall in which to bring a personal injury claim. However, if the incident occurred on government property, there may be a statutory notice requirement that you will need to comply with in order to bring your claim.
For example, if you are injured in a slip and fall due to dangerous conditions at a city park in Atlanta, you would be required to give proper written notice of your claim to the responsible city agency within six months of the date of injury. If the property was state-owned, then you would have 12 months to give such notice to the proper state agency.
Additionally, your ability to recover compensation for a slip and fall on government property could be impacted by immunity (and the extent to which that immunity is waived).
Get Help from an Atlanta Slip and Fall Lawyer
If you have been injured in a slip and fall in Atlanta or a surrounding community in Georgia, allow the experienced personal injury attorneys of James M. Poe, P.C., to carefully review your case. Contact us today to receive a free consultation and to discuss your rights and options.