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By Jarome Gautreaux

Slip and fall cases represent a significant area of personal injury law, highlighting the dangers present in everyday environments. These incidents can occur anywhere, from wet grocery store floors to uneven sidewalks in public parks. They often result from negligence, such as inadequate maintenance or failure to warn of potential hazards. Understanding the basics of open and obvious hazards is crucial for property owners and visitors, as it helps to understand the legal principles involving duty of care and liability in these situations. It is helpful to explore the elements that influence slip and fall cases.

Elements That Influence Slip and Fall Cases

Open and obvious hazards play a significant role in slip-and-fall cases in Georgia. This legal principle can significantly influence the outcome of such cases, affecting both the strategy and the likelihood of a successful claim. Understanding this concept is crucial for anyone involved in a slip-and-fall incident, whether as the injured party or the property owner.

  • Definition of Open and Obvious Hazards: An open and obvious hazard is a potential danger so apparent that a reasonable person using ordinary care would notice it and take reasonable measures to avoid it. In the context of slip and fall cases, this could include a large hole in the ground, a conspicuously wet floor, or a marked construction area.

The central idea behind the open and obvious doctrine is that the property owner may not be liable for injuries resulting from dangers readily apparent to visitors, as the visitors are responsible for protecting themselves from obvious risks.

  • Legal Implications in Georgia: An open and obvious hazard can significantly impact a slip and fall case. This ties in with the “modified comparative negligence” concept, which Georgia follows. Under modified comparative negligence, an injured party can recover damages for their injuries from the responsible parties even if the injured party was partially at fault so long as their percentage of fault does not equal or exceed that of the other party, or it does not exceed the proportion of fault of all other parties combined. Further, the damages awarded will be reduced by the injured party’s percentage of responsibility. O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33.

If a hazard is deemed open and obvious, a property owner might argue that they should not be held liable since the injured party should have taken steps to avoid the hazard. However, it is essential to note that this is not an absolute defense. The incident’s circumstances will be closely examined, including the hazard’s visibility and the injured party’s behavior.

  • Exceptions and Considerations: There are several essential exceptions and considerations to the open and obvious hazard rule in Georgia:
    1. Distractions– If the injured party was distracted reasonably during the accident, they might not be held responsible for overlooking the open and obvious hazard.
    2. Necessity to Encounter the Hazard– If an individual had no reasonable alternative but to encounter the hazard, the property owner might still be liable.
    3. The Injured Party Could Anticipate Harm– If a property owner could anticipate harm despite the open and obvious hazard, they may still be held responsible.
    4. Constructive Knowledge– Property owners can still be held liable if they should have been aware of the hazard and had reasonable time to address it, even if it was open and obvious.
  • Evidence and Documentation: Proving whether a hazard was open and obvious (or whether one of the exceptions applies) typically requires substantial evidence, including photographs or videos of the scene, witness statements, incident reports, and expert testimony.
  • Legal Advice and Actions: Given the complexities surrounding open and obvious hazards in Georgia slip and fall cases, consulting with a personal injury attorney experienced in premises liability law is often advisable. They can provide guidance on the strength of a case, help gather necessary evidence, and show you how to handle the legal system effectively.


The concept of open and obvious hazards is a critical factor in Georgia slip and fall cases, often influencing the outcome significantly. Understanding this legal principle, along with the exceptions and considerations that accompany this legal principle, is essential for anyone involved in such incidents. Proper documentation and legal advice are critical components in addressing these cases effectively. Gautreaux Law has dedicated attorneys with years of experience in personal injury and premises liability law. Contact our office for an initial consultation.

About the Author
Jarome Gautreaux is a personal injury trial lawyer. He represents people who have been seriously injured, as well as the families of people killed because of carelessness or negligence. For over 20 years, he has successfully recovered more than 100 million dollars in a variety of Macon personal injury cases. Jarome’s reputation for client focus and case success has led to other lawyers requesting his assistance with complex personal injury litigation. What drives Jarome every day is his strong belief that the amount of money someone has should not dictate the justice they receive. It is for this reason that he has never worked for corporations, insurance companies, or other interest groups. Instead, he thrives on helping the people who need it most- people who have suffered at the hands of others and deserve compensation.