Accidents happen all the time. People slip and fall in puddles of juiced spilled in grocery store aisles, trip on torn carpeting and tumble down stairs, and crash while attempting a challenging new move on a skateboard.
Accidents frequently happen in the home or at the local store or the classroom, schoolyard, or church. They include burns, poisoning, drowning, choking, strangulation, cuts and scratches, fractures and sprains, contusions, pulls, falls, dog bites, and nose and eye injuries.
Accidents can and often do cause serious injuries. When someone is injured he or she may feel the need to sue the homeowner, business owner, or insurance company to recover medical costs, lost wages, and other expenses incurred while recuperating from an accident.
Was there negligence?
In general, personal injury law will be applied in accident cases. Personal injury law recognizes that where a person owes another person a degree of care and has been negligent in maintaining that standard of care, the person may be liable when the other person suffers injury.
A common example is when someone has guests in his or her home. The law imposes a duty on the host to provide a safe environment for the guests. Should the host forget to shovel the snow and ice from the pathway to the front door and one of the guests slips, falls, and hurts his back or twists an ankle, the host could be liable to the guest.
Accident law, or personal injury law, does not require that a person intend to injure the other person. The law asks,
- Did the person owe a legal duty of care to the injured party?
- Did the person fail to fulfill that legal duty through act or omission?
- Did the person cause an accident?
- Was someone injured or harmed in the accident?
Invitee or licensee?
In Georgia whether an injured person can expect a certain standard of care and the level of care the owner of the premises is obligated to provide depend on whether the injured person is an invitee or a licensee.
Section 51-3-1 of the Georgia code defines an invitee as someone who by express or implied invitation was induced to come upon the owner’s premises for a lawful purpose.
In the case of an invitee, owner is liable for damages when an invitee is injured due to the owner’s failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and pathways safe.
But where the injured party is a licensee, the owner of the premises is liable only for willful or wanton injury. “Licensee” is defined by Georgia law as being someone who is:
- Neither a customer, a servant, or a trespasser
- Not in a contractual relationship with the owner of the premises; and
- Expressly or impliedly permitted to move on the premises for his or her own interests, convenience, or gratification
Duty of care
In Georgia the duty of care toward an invitee is ordinary care, which requires the premises owner to be diligent in ensuring the premises are safe for use by an ordinarily prudent person in the usual manner.
Where the injured party is a licensee, Georgia law imposes a higher standard of proof, requiring the injured person to prove intent and knowledge by the owner of the risk of injury and that the injury was willful or wanton.
An injured person would have to show:
- That the premises owner knowingly or intentionally disregarded an unreasonable risk; and
- The risk entailed a high degree of probability of causing substantial harm
The standards are subjective, which may account for the great differences in personal injury case judgments. The jury must take into account and weigh all the variables legally presented in the case and decide whether, in the example given, the host is solely responsible, the injured party is to blame, or the responsibility should be apportioned between the two parties, depending on each person’s degree of culpability.
Compensatory and punitive damages can be awarded in personal injury accident cases. Just as fault may be apportioned between the parties, so may the damage award.
The lawyers of Angell Law Firm are personal injury attorneys who are experts in live personal injury law, which is the only kind of case they handle. If you have been injured in a car accident, on the property of another person, or other accident, the Angell Law Firm can help. Call (770) 217-4954 today to discuss your legal options. The Angell Law Firm is located in Atlanta and serves the Rome, Augusta, Athens, Macon, Columbus, Savannah areas and more.