Georgia Premises Liability Law Explained

Premises liability is a legal concept that holds property owners, managers, and occupants responsible for accidents and injuries that occur on their properties. This responsibility applies whether the property is a residence, a business, or any other piece of land. In essence, if you get hurt on someone else’s property due to their wrongful actions or inaction, Georgia’s premises liability laws give you the right to demand compensation from them for your injuries.

So, how does premises liability law work? When you step onto someone else’s property, whether it’s a shopping mall, a public park, or a neighbor’s house, you have a reasonable expectation of safety. Furthermore, the law says property owners must ensure their premises are safe for visitors. This means property owners and occupants are responsible for conducting regular maintenance, fixing known hazards, and warning visitors of potential dangers.

For example, let’s say a business owner knows about a loose floorboard in their store and does nothing to repair it or warn customers about it. Then, someone trips on the loose floorboard and breaks their arm as a result. In that case, premises liability law would come into play. Specifically, the property owner would likely be liable because they knew about the hazardous condition and failed to take any action to prevent injury to visitors.

The Duty to Make Premises Safe for Invitees, Licensees, and Trespassers

Shopping cart in a supermarket aisle

Georgia premises liability law differentiates between three main types of visitors and the level of care property owners must provide to each. This distinction allows the courts to clarify when and how a property owner might be liable for injuries that occur on their property. Let’s take a closer look at the three types of visitors and the duty of care property owners have toward each.


An invitee is a visitor whom a property owner or occupant has invited onto their premises through express or implied invitation for any lawful purpose. This includes customers in a store, guests at a public entertainment venue, or anyone else entering a property for reasons that might directly or indirectly benefit the owner or occupant. Because an invitee is someone who visits a property for the owner’s benefit, the owner owes them the highest duty of care of the three classes of visitors to property.

For invitees, Georgia property owners must exercise ordinary care to keep their premises and the approaches to their property safe. In practice, this means they must conduct regular inspections to identify dangerous conditions, promptly repair known hazards, and provide clear warnings about potential dangers. If a property owner fails to exercise this level of care and an invitee gets hurt as a result, the owner could be liable for the invitee’s injuries.


A licensee is a visitor who enters a property not as a customer, servant, or trespasser but for their own interest, convenience, or gratification. This includes social guests like friends or family members visiting someone’s home. Door-to-door salespeople generally count as licensees, too, since they visit other people’s properties for their own interests.

For licensees, Georgia property owners have a more limited duty of care. Specifically, they are liable to licensees only for “willful or wanton” injuries. This means the property owner must not intentionally harm the licensee or act in a manner that shows reckless indifference to their safety. Unlike with invitees, Georgia property owners generally have no obligation to licensees when it comes to inspecting their properties for dangers or repairing known hazards, except to avoid intentional or reckless harm.


Trespassers are visitors who enter someone else’s property without permission. Property owners owe the lowest duty of care to trespassers. Specifically, Georgia property owners must only refrain from willfully or wantonly injuring trespassers. They have no duty to keep their properties safe for trespassers or to warn them of dangers.

However, there is an important exception regarding property owners’ duty of care to trespassers in Georgia: the attractive nuisance doctrine. This legal principle aims to protect children who might wander onto a property without understanding the potential dangers posed by certain features or objects. The attractive nuisance doctrine acknowledges that children do not always appreciate risks in the same way adults do, making them more vulnerable to injury.

Essentially, the attractive nuisance doctrine requires property owners to take extra precautions to protect trespassing children from hazards that are likely to attract them onto a property. These “attractive nuisances” can include a variety of hazards, from open swimming pools and trampolines to abandoned cars and construction sites. The law presumes that property owners know or should know when such conditions on their properties might attract children who do not recognize the risk of harm.

If a child suffers injuries due to an attractive nuisance on someone else’s land, the property owner’s liability will generally depend on two main factors. First, whether the property owner knew or had reason to know that a hazardous condition on their property was easily accessible to children. Second, whether they took reasonable steps to eliminate the hazard or protect the children. If the property owner didn’t take reasonable steps to prevent access to the hazard or protect children from the danger, they could be liable for a child’s injuries.

Cases That Fall Under Premises Liability

Premises liability encompasses a wide range of cases in which visitors sustain injuries on other people’s properties due to the owner’s or occupant’s lack of care. Here are some common examples of injury cases that fall under the umbrella of premises liability:

  • Slip-and-Fall Accidents: Many premises liability cases involve people slipping and falling due to unsafe conditions on a property. For example, if a grocery store owner fails to clean up a spilled liquid on the floor, and a customer slips, falls, and injures themselves, this could lead to a slip-and-fall lawsuit. The law expects store owners to regularly inspect their premises and promptly address any hazards, including those that can lead to slip-and-falls. Victims can claim money for their injuries after slip-and-falls if they can prove that the owner knew about the danger but did nothing to fix it.
  • Dog Bites: Dog bite incidents often fall under premises liability when they happen on the property owner’s land. For instance, suppose a homeowner’s dog bites a guest because the homeowner negligently leaves the dog unrestrained despite knowing its tendency to bite. In that case, the guest might have a premises liability claim against the homeowner. Property owners have a duty to ensure their pets do not pose a danger to visitors. This includes taking reasonable steps to control or restrain potentially dangerous animals.
  • Inadequate Security: Inadequate security cases arise when visitors suffer injuries on others’ properties due to a lack of proper security measures. For example, let’s say an apartment complex known for frequent break-ins and assaults fails to install adequate lighting or secure locks, leading to a tenant being attacked. In that case, the property owner or manager could be liable for failing to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their tenants. Property owners must address known security risks on their land to prevent harm to lawful visitors.
  • Swimming Pool Accidents: Swimming pool accidents are another common type of premises liability case. If a homeowner leaves their swimming pool uncovered and unfenced, and a neighborhood child wanders in and drowns, the homeowner might face a lawsuit. Owners of properties with swimming pools are required to implement safety measures like fencing and pool covers to prevent accidental drownings, especially because pools can be attractive nuisances to children.
  • Exposure to Hazardous Materials: Cases involving exposure to hazardous materials on a property can also fall under premises liability. For instance, if a landlord knows about asbestos in an apartment building but fails to remove it or notify tenants, and a tenant becomes ill due to exposure, the landlord could be liable. Property owners must manage and disclose the presence of hazardous materials on their properties to prevent exposure and subsequent health issues for visitors.

Empty public swimming pool

What Are the Elements of a Premises Liability Case?

If someone gets hurt on another person’s property and believes the injury occurred because the property wasn’t safe, they might consider pursuing a premises liability case. To succeed, the injured person must prove four elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. Each element plays a critical role in establishing the property owner’s responsibility for the injury. Let’s dive deeper into these elements to clarify the requirements for a successful premises liability claim.

Duty of Care

The first element, the property owner’s duty of care, revolves around the property owner’s obligation to ensure their premises are safe for visitors. The extent of this duty depends on the visitor’s status (invitee, licensee, or trespasser) and the property’s condition. For example, a store owner has a duty to ensure that their store’s aisles are clear of obstacles that might cause a customer to slip or trip and fall. This duty includes conducting regular inspections and maintenance to identify and address potential hazards. Essentially, the law requires property owners to take reasonable steps to prevent injuries to those who enter their properties lawfully.


In the context of a premises liability case, a breach is a property owner’s failure to fulfill their duty of care. A breach occurs when the owner knows about a dangerous condition on their property but does nothing to fix it or warn visitors. For instance, suppose a hotel knows that a staircase railing is loose but fails to repair it or block off the stairs, and a guest falls and gets injured as a result. In that case, the courts would likely rule that the hotel owner or manager breached their duty of care. The breach aspect of a premises liability case focuses on proving that the property owner neglected their responsibility to provide a safe environment for visitors.


Causation links the property owner’s breach of duty to the injury that occurred. Proving this element requires showing that the injury would not have happened if the property owner had not neglected their duty to maintain a safe environment. For example, say someone slips on an unmarked wet floor in a supermarket and breaks their wrist. In that case, proving causation would require demonstrating that the fall and subsequent injury directly resulted from the supermarket’s failure to clean up the spill or warn customers of the slippery floor. Proving causation means connecting the dots between the property owner’s negligence and the harm the injured person suffered as a result.

Damages Suffered

Proving the final element, damages suffered, involves quantifying the harm the injured person sustained due to the property owner’s negligence. In a premises liability case, the term “damages” refers to the financial compensation an injured person is owed for losses and suffering they experience due to a property owner’s negligence. Damages can include compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other losses resulting from an injury.

For example, suppose a person suffers a severe allergic reaction after being exposed to hazardous chemicals at a beauty salon that failed to post warnings. In that case, the visitor could claim damages for the costs of medical treatment, any lost income during recovery, and compensation for the physical and emotional distress they experienced. Proving damages is essential for calculating how much compensation an injured person should receive for their premises liability case.

Proving the Elements of a Premises Liability Case

Successfully proving each element – duty, breach, causation, and damages – is essential for an injured party to recover compensation from a premises liability claim. These elements form the foundation of the legal argument against the property owner, highlighting their failure to maintain a safe environment and the direct impact of this failure on the injured person.

Explaining Georgia’s Comparative Negligence Rule

Sometimes, more than one person is at fault for a premises liability incident. In those situations, Georgia’s comparative negligence rule decides who pays for the damages. This rule looks at everyone’s actions to see how much each person contributed to the accident and determines how much money each person should pay or receive.

Here’s how it works: Imagine you’re at an outdoor party, where there’s a big, uncovered hole in the yard that the property owner forgot to warn guests about. Excited and moving quickly to greet a friend, you don’t notice the hole and end up falling in, breaking your leg. You end up with $10,000 in medical expenses and income losses as a result. You decide to seek compensation for your financial losses by suing the property owner for negligence. However, the property owner argues that you were also at fault for not paying attention to where you were walking, especially since it was daytime and the hole was easily visible.

Under Georgia’s comparative negligence law, you could still get money for your premises liability case even if the court agrees that you were partly at fault for your fall injury. But there’s a catch: your percentage of fault affects how much you get. Let’s say the court decides you were 20 percent at fault and the property owner was 80 percent at fault. In that case, the most you could get would be 80 percent of your total damages, or $8,000. However, if the court decides you’re 50 percent or more at fault, you wouldn’t be able to get any money for your injuries. This distinction is why working with a knowledgeable lawyer for your premises liability case is so important if a property owner insists you are at fault for your own injuries.

What Was the Cause of the Injury?

In premises liability cases, several factors related to the cause of injury can affect the property owner’s level of liability. These factors determine whether the property owner should have prevented the accident and, consequently, if they owe the injured person compensation.

Open and Obvious Hazards

When a hazard is open and obvious, it means that the danger is clear to anyone paying a reasonable amount of attention. For example, if a large hole in the middle of a field is easily visible in broad daylight, this might be considered an open and obvious hazard. In such cases, the property owner might argue that they are not liable for an injury caused by the hazard because it was so apparent that the injured person easily could have avoided it. However, this doesn’t automatically let the property owner off the hook. The court will consider whether the property owner had a duty to take additional steps to protect visitors, especially if it was foreseeable that someone might not notice the hazard despite its obvious nature.

Discovery of the Danger

Property owners are responsible for regularly inspecting their properties to identify and correct hazards that could harm visitors. However, a property owner might not be liable for an injury if they hadn’t discovered the hazard before the accident happened. Imagine a scenario where a loose railing on a deck had just started to wobble the day of an incident, and the property owner had no reasonable way of knowing about it yet. Then, a guest leaned on the railing, fell, and got injured. In that case, the property owner’s liability might be in question. The critical factor here is the concept of “reasonable” awareness. If the owner can convincingly argue that they had no reasonable opportunity to discover and fix the hazard before the accident occurred, their liability for the guest’s injury might be limited.

Ongoing Risks to Invitees

Ongoing risks to invitees involve situations where a property owner is aware of a continuous danger but fails to address it adequately. For instance, if a coffee shop has a stairway known to collect water and become slippery when it rains, and the owner neither fixes the issue nor warns customers, this constitutes an ongoing risk. In cases where the owner knows about a recurring problem and ignores it, their liability for any injuries resulting from that problem increases. The law expects property owners to take proactive measures to rectify known dangers that pose a continuous risk to visitors, especially invitees on the property for business purposes. However, in our example scenario, an injured patron might have to prove that the shop owner was aware of the ongoing risk to hold them liable in court.

The Importance of Evidence

In premises liability cases, evidence is key to proving what happened and who is at fault. Strong evidence can show that a property owner knew or should have known about a danger but didn’t fix it, leading to your injuries. Without solid evidence, it’s tough to prove the owner’s liability and win your case. That’s why premises liability lawyers collect as much evidence as possible right after an accident. Fresh evidence can show clearly that a property owner didn’t do their job to keep their premises safe and that this negligence caused you harm. Below, we’ll take a closer look at some key aspects of gathering evidence for a premises liability case.

Gathering Documents

When your lawyer collects evidence for your premises liability cases, they will likely start by getting their hands on incident reports. These reports contain details about what happened, when, and where the accident occurred. Next, they might look for property maintenance records. These can show whether the property owner was trying to keep the place safe and fix problems regularly. Your lawyer will also gather medical records and bills to prove how much the injury affected you and how much you spent on treatment.

Another critical step involves collecting any emails or messages between you and the property owner. These communications can sometimes reveal that the owner knew about the hazard but didn’t take steps to fix it. Lastly, your lawyer might look for safety codes or regulations to show that the property owner didn’t follow necessary safety practices. Gathering these documents requires careful work and attention to detail, but it’s essential for building a solid case and proving the property owner’s negligence.

Filing a Police Report

If the police responded to the scene of the premises liability accident, they likely would have made and filed a report. This report can provide a neutral view of what happened and who was involved. Police reports often include details about the accident, statements from people who saw it happen, and sometimes, the police officer’s thoughts on who might be at fault.

Your lawyer can obtain copies of the police report by contacting the police department that made it. Police reports can be critical pieces of evidence because they can show what happened during an accident from an official, unbiased perspective. They are valuable tools for proving a property owner’s negligence in keeping their property safe and can strongly support your claim.

Retrieving Videos and Pictures

Video footage and photographic evidence are often critical in premises liability cases. Your lawyer might look for surveillance footage from any cameras that would have recorded the incident. This footage can clearly show what happened and prove that the property was unsafe. If the accident occurred at a business or on public property, there’s a good chance surveillance or traffic cameras were around to record it.

Your lawyer might also look for pictures taken right after the accident. These pictures can show things like the hazard that caused your injury, any warning signs that were or weren’t there, and your injuries themselves. Sometimes, your lawyer might ask people who saw the accident if they took any photos or videos on their phones. Getting these videos and pictures quickly is essential because footage can get deleted or recorded over.

Preserving Physical Evidence

Physical evidence includes things like the shoes and clothing you were wearing on the day of the accident. These items can show, for example, that you had on appropriate footwear and didn’t just trip because of high heels or slippery soles. If there was a broken railing or a sharp object that caused your injury, preserving that broken item might be necessary, too.

Your lawyer will likely advise you to keep these items as they were at the time of the incident without washing or altering them in any way. This way, they can use them later in court to make a stronger case. Sometimes, your lawyer might even take steps to secure larger pieces of evidence, like faulty pieces of playground equipment, if they’re central to your case. Physical evidence can paint a clear picture of the accident scene, making it easier for everyone to understand precisely what led to your injury.

Working with Experts

Working with experts is another key strategy your lawyer can use to strengthen your case. Experts can include safety professionals, medical doctors, and engineers. These experts can help by examining the evidence and explaining how the accident happened or how severe your injuries are. For example, a safety expert might examine photos of the accident scene and say whether the property owner followed safety rules as necessary.

Your lawyer might ask these experts to work on your case because their knowledge can help everyone understand complex issues. Their expert opinions can clarify why the property owner is at fault and how your injuries have impacted your life.

Statute of Limitations for Georgia Premises Liability Lawsuits

A statute of limitations is a law that specifies how long you have to take certain types of legal action, such as filing a premises liability lawsuit. Georgia’s statute of limitations says you generally have two years from the day of your accident to file a premises liability lawsuit. This time limit is critical because if you wait too long and miss the filing deadline, you won’t be able to sue the responsible party for your injuries. This would mean missing out on compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain from the injury. Each case must be separately analyzed to determine the exact Statute of Limitations end date.

Because of this strict filing deadline, you should contact a lawyer immediately if you get hurt on someone else’s property in Georgia. A lawyer will understand the importance of starting your claim quickly and meeting all the relevant deadlines. They can also handle all the claim paperwork and legal procedures on your behalf so you can focus on healing instead of worrying about case deadlines.

Young man sitting on the couch with a cast on

What Damages Can I Win?

The purpose of the damages (money) you get from a premises liability case is to help you recover financially and emotionally from the injury you suffered due to the property owner’s negligence. Depending on the specifics of your premises liability case, you could receive damages for the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Future medical costs
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Disfigurement
  • Permanent disability
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • Property damage costs
  • Loss of consortium
  • Legal fees and costs
  • Punitive damages (in cases of egregious negligence)

Wrongful Death from Premises Liability

If someone dies in a premises liability accident because of a property owner’s negligence in Georgia, their loved ones have the right to file a wrongful death claim. This type of claim seeks compensation for the loss of life that happened because the property owner didn’t keep their premises safe. Family members and/or the legal representative can demand money for the lost wages the person would have earned if they had lived, medical bills related to the accident, and reasonable funeral costs.

If someone you love died in a premises liability accident, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible. They will know how to show that the property owner’s lack of care led to your loved one’s death. They’ll gather evidence, talk to witnesses, and help your family through the legal process, all while keeping an eye on the relevant filing deadlines. This way, you can take the time you need to grieve while your lawyer works to hold the property owner responsible.

Contact Our Attorneys Today

Injured on someone else’s property and unsure about what to do next? Gautreaux Law is here to help. Get in touch with us today for a free initial consultation and discover how we can assist you in seeking the compensation you deserve.

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