Establishing Constructive Knowledge in a Premises Liability Case
In Georgia, those who negligently maintain their property or fail to warn visitors of dangers that they know exist can be held liable for resulting injuries. For example, a store owner cannot knowingly allow customers to use stairs that have a broken railing and then avoid compensating someone who falls down the stairs as a result. However, even when property owners are not aware of dangers prior to an accident, they can be held accountable if they had constructive knowledge of the hazard, which means that they should have known of its existence. Slip and fall accidents can result in serious injuries that can be prohibitively expensive to treat, so if you were recently injured on someone else’s property, it is important to speak with an experienced Henry County personal injury attorney who can help you seek compensation for your medical bills.Establishing Liability
According to state law, property owners are required to exercise ordinary care in making their premises safe for visitors, which includes:
- Inspecting the premises to discover possible dangerous conditions of which they do not have actual knowledge; and
- Warning visitors of known dangers.
However, if a property is not unusually dangerous, an owner does not have a duty to continuously patrol the area looking for and removing possible hazards. This means that property owners are given a reasonable amount of time to inspect their premises and a reasonable amount of time to correct any hazardous conditions discovered during an inspection. If property owners fail to take these steps, they can be held liable for injuries caused by their failure to use ordinary care in keeping the property safe. To demonstrate that a property owner is liable, an injured party must provide evidence that:
- Prior to the accident, the property owner had notice of the hazard; or
- The owner should have had constructive knowledge that the hazard existed.
Finally, the plaintiff must demonstrate that he or she did not have knowledge of the hazard prior to the accident.Proving Constructive Knowledge
To establish that a property owner had constructive knowledge of a hazard or should have known that it existed, a plaintiff must be able to demonstrate that:
- The owner or an employee of the owner was in the immediate area of the hazard and could have easily seen and removed it prior to the accident, or
- The hazard had existed on the premises for enough time that, if the owner had been exercising ordinary care, it would have been discovered and removed.
Although whether the amount of time that a hazard existed is considered unreasonable depends on the particular circumstances of each case, courts have generally found that when a property owner can establish that an employee was in the immediate area of the fall no more than 10 to 15 minutes before the accident and did not see the hazard, he or she exercised reasonable care and cannot be held liable for the injuries.Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
To speak with an experienced Henry County personal injury attorney, please contact The Angell Law Firm at (770) 217-4954 today.